"We had momentum and gave it back," UNC coach John Bunting said. "As Bill Dooley would say, ‘This one is going to leave a bad taste in my mouth."
Carolina (6-6) was up 24-21 late in the third quarter, but gave back the lead 44 seconds into the final period on 1-yard touchdown run by Andre Callender. Still, freshman kicker Ryan Ohliger's missed the extra point, and the Tar Heels remained within a field goal.
Then with 10:43 left to play, Tommy Davis sacked senior Boston College quarterback and bowl-MVP Paul Peterson on a 3rd and 1 at the UNC 20. Another Eagles' touchdown at that point would have broken the Tar Heels' backs.
But when play resumed, Boston College shocked the Tar Heels. Lined up for a field goal, Ohliger, who averaged over 200 yards per game as a tailback in high school, took the snap, broke a tackle attempt by Tommy Richardson, then ran 21 yards for a touchdown.
"I saw the man pulling in front of me and I thought I got held by him," Richardson said. "But I've still got to make the tackle out there."
Boston College coach Tom O'Brien said there was never any doubt he would call for the fake, a play the Eagles practiced every week of the season.
"It was the perfect situation for it," O'Brien said. "He couldn't kick it anyway, so we might as well run it."
Ohliger, who missed a field goal and an extra point earlier, then gave way to backup kicker Mike McCarthy who came in to convert the point after touchdown.
"We fired him after that," O'Brien said on pulling Ohliger after his touchdown run.
Boston College (9-3) led 34-24 and the Tar Heels were basically done, especially when Derrele Mitchell dropped what would have been a 46-yard touchdown reception on Carolina's next possession.
Peterson, who passed for 236 yards and two touchdowns without an interception, would not get up from Davis' hit. And after a long delay, Peterson was wheeled off the field on a stretcher with a broken ankle.
"The UNC players were great," Peterson said. "They came up and consoled me, gave me high fives and told me that it was going to be all right. They are a classy bunch of guys."
Time after time, Peterson was able to sell the run on the fake handoff, and then roll out and find an open receiver up field – a maneuver the Tar Heels were rarely able to successfully contain.
"That was an incredible performance by their quarterback," Bunting said. "Up until the fourth quarter we stopped the run, but we left the bootlegs out on the edge too many times."
New Carolina looked a lot like the old in the first half. The Tar Heels offense moved the ball well, but Boston College scored touchdowns on each of its first two possessions to quickly convert UNC into the chaser.
The Eagles were 5-for-5 on third downs and took an early 14-7 lead, but the Tar Heels forced a three-and-out to start the second quarter.
To that point, an impressive special teams tackle by Trimaine Goddard and Ronnie McGill's 12-yard touchdown reception were the only events that really seemed to energize the multitudes of UNC fans on hand.
Despite throwing the 65th touchdown pass of his career, Durant was not sharp early as he failed to connect on five consecutive passing attempts during one first half stretch.
But the game's first momentum shift went to the Tar Heels, when Richardson recovered a fumble at BC's 23-yard line.
And on 3rd and 9, Jesse Holley survived a bone-jarring hit to haul in a 17-yard reception giving UNC 1st and goal at the 6-yard line. Then, three plays later, Durant avoided pass rushers and lofted a perfect toss to Wallace Wright, who leaped up and came down with the ball and one foot in the back corner of the end zone.
Connor Barth's point after touchdown had tied the score, but perhaps more importantly, the Tar Heels appeared to be figuring out BC's offense.
Peterson, who completed 18 of his 23 first half passing attempts, would engineer another sustained Eagles drive setting up 1st and goal at the UNC 5. But Jonas Seawright, who blocked three field goals in 2003, got a piece of Ohliger's and Carolina regained possession.
Durant then led UNC on a five-play 80-yard drive capped off by a 51-yard scoring pass to Mitchell. Durant had his eighth career three-touchdown game – tying Chris Keldorf for a UNC bowl record, and the Tar Heels were ahead 21-14 with 1:44 left in the half.
But the Eagles got the ball back on their own 49 and scored eight plays later on a 1-yard pass from Peterson to tight end David Kashetta. The score was tied at intermission, 21-21, and Carolina's momentum was gone.
"That was definitely big," said BC defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka, who is certain to be a future NFL draft pick. "You always want the momentum going into the locker room. As a defensive player, we have a tremendous amount of confidence in our offense."
In the final game of his collegiate career, Durant completed 23 of 41 passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran his number of UNC records to 51 – most TD passes in bowl game, most pass completions in a bowl game and most pass attempts in a bowl game.
"It's tough, and at the same time I've enjoyed it," Durant said of his Carolina tenure coming to a close. "I've enjoyed the offensive line, my teammates, and stuff like that. I am just trying to join my teammates for the last time and not think about the loss."