Jackson atoned on the third play of the fourth quarter, however. With Carolina already up 17-14 and facing third-and-one at the Vol 36-yard line, Tar Heels quarterback T.J. Yates faked a handoff and threw for the end zone. Jackson foiled the strategy, however, by reacting quickly, then leaping high to outbattle Carolina's Erik Highsmith and make a spectacular touchdown-saving interception.
"It was an incredible play," Tennessee head man Derek Dooley said afterward. "He's the only guy on our team that could make a play like that. It was just an incredible play. They took a play-action shot on third-and-one. There's not many guys out there that can make that kind of play."
Jackson had one more dramatic play remaining in his performance, however. With Carolina down 20-17 and just 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Yates found Todd Harrelson with a 28-yard pass. Jackson launched himself like a missile and blasted Harrelson to the turf near the UNC sidelines. Jackson was flagged for a personal foul, and the 15-yard penalty advanced the ball to Tennessee's 37-yard line. Three plays later, the Tar Heels booted a field goal to force the game into overtime.
Whether Jackson's hit was inside or outside the rules continues to be the subject of considerable debate. For what it's worth, Dooley thought the blow was clean.
"They hit a seam shot and we get a penalty for helmet to the back," the Vol coach said. "I didn't quite understand that but I guess that's the rule. Next thing you know, they're in field-goal range."
LATE LAPSES PROVE LETHAL
After allowing Draughn to score from 58 yards out on North Carolina's third scrimmage play, Tennessee's defense knuckled down and played exceptionally well for the next 3 1/2 quarters.
Once the Vols took a 20-17 lead with 5:16 to play, however, the Big Orange defense suffered several lapses.
Carolina's second play of the ensuing possession produced a 25-yard gain on a pass-run hookup from Yates to Draughn. The Vols dodged a bullet, however, when an illegal-shift penalty nullified the play.
Tennessee got another huge break moments later, with Carolina facing a fourth-and-20 at its 44-yard line and 1:42 remaining. Yates hit Dwight Jones with a 22-yard pass that would've provided a first-and-10 at the Vol 34-yard line except that Jones dropped the ball.
The reprieve was short-lived, however. After a three-and-out by the Vol offense, Carolina got the ball back at its 20-yard line with just 31 seconds remaining.
As noted earlier, the Tar Heels first play was a 28-yard pass from Yates to Harrelson. Coupled with the 15-yard penalty against Jackson, the 43-yard advance flipped field position. Yates then hit Jones with a 12-yard pass that put the Heels in field-goal position at the UT 25-yard line. Two snaps and one controversial replay review later, Carolina had a 39-yard field goal and a 20-all tie.
Tennessee's defense was guilty of yet another error at this point - end Gerald Williams angrily throwing his helmet. This incurred an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty that was assessed in overtime, giving Carolina the ball at UT's 12 1/2-yard line instead of the 25. The Heels scored in just four plays to go up 27-20.
Tennessee's offense tied the score on its possession but threw an interception to open the second overtime. A demoralized UT defense then allowed Draughn to bolt 16 yards on the opening play of UNC's double-overtime possession, setting up the Tar Heels' game-winning 23-yard field goal.
As Dooley noted: "Any time the result doesn't go your way, the first thing you should do is say: What could we have done differently to change the outcome? There were a lot of things there."
THE CRYING GAME
Several Vols were unable to fight back tears as they left the locker room following the heartbreaking setback. One of the most teary-eyed was Gerald Williams, whose unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty following Carolina's game-tying field goal put Tennessee in a real bind at the start of overtime.
"Our guy lost his cool and threw the helmet," Dooley said. "The game wasn't over, so it's a penalty. What can I say? We've got to keep our cool."
Because he could empathize with Williams' frustration, Luke Stocker defended his teammate.
"Everyone wanted to throw their helmet at that point," the senior tight end said. "Everyone understands that he shouldn't have done it but no blame goes on Gerald for that. We had plenty of opportunities to win the game besides that. Emotions were running high. When guys are playing with that much passion, things like that happen."
BIG FINISH FOR REVEIZ
Senior linebacker Nick Reveiz notched his sixth double-digit tackling performance of 2010 in the Music City Bowl, posting 11 solos and 3 assists to match his season high of 14 total stops.
Reveiz also had 14 stops vs. Florida in Game 3 and vs. UAB in Game 4. He had 11-tackle efforts in Game 5 at LSU and Game 7 vs. Alabama. His other double-digit effort was a 10-tackle performance in Game 2 vs. Oregon.
Reveiz finished the season with a team-high 110 stops. Fellow linebacker Herman Lathers registered 7 stops in the bowl game and finished a distant second with 75 tackles on the season.