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December 25, 2013
Bowl Special: A Look at the past
After starting 1-5 on the season, North Carolina was able to reach their goal of returning to a bowl game after being banned last season from postseason play.
First off, let's take a look back and remember some of North Carolina's other bowl games since 2000.
In all UNC played in six postseason bowls from 2001 through 2011, as the Tar Heels traveled to Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville, and Shreveport throughout the past dozen years, with Charlotte being the location of three bowl appearances for the Tar Heels from 2004 to 2009.
Even though the Tar Heels have struggled with a 2-4 record since 2000 and having lost three straight at Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium, the Tar Heels will look to bounce back against the Bearcats in Charlotte on Saturday.
Peach Bowl (Dec. 31, 2001): UNC 16 - Auburn 10
After North Carolina started the season 0-3 in 2001 amidst a brutal early-season schedule that included road games at Oklahoma, Texas, and eventual ACC champion Maryland, the Tar Heels, led by Ronald Curry and Darian Durant, was able to finish off the season 8-5 and reached the school's first post season game since 1998.
The defense for the Tar Heels, led by Julius Peppers stifled Auburn's offense all night, limiting the Tigers to only 176 yards and 31 rushing yards in the game.
The Tar Heels jumped out to a 16-0 lead at the end of the third quarter before the Tigers were able to reel off 10 points in the fourth quarter.
Willie Parker had 131 yards on the ground while Curry had added another 67 yards rushing, while the Tar Heels had 114 yards passing on the afternoon. Jason Campbell was a freshman for the Tigers and led the team with 74 yards passing in the game.
"They're a good football team. They made the plays and we didn't," Tigers coach Tommy Tuberville said. "They know what they're doing on defense; they have been winning with defense all year. If you can't run the football, you can't win. Offensively, we didn't execute at all. We just didn't make any plays."
Tuberville will get his chance to even the score with UNC on Saturday with his new team, the Bearcats.
Continental Tire Bowl (Dec. 24, 2004): Boston College 37 - UNC 24
Oh, how this game looks so familiar to the game that is going to be played on Saturday, which happens to be in the same stadium.
Boston College came in, with Tom O'Brien still on the sideline for the Eagles, at 8-3 on the season, while the Tar Heels had struggled early on in the year but was able to finish out the season strong with a 6-5 record.
Then known as the Continental Tire Bowl, it was a battle of future ACC opponents, making it an even more intriguing battle.
Darian Durant led the way for the Tar Heels that season and he had a great game against the Eagles, completing 23 of 41 passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns, while running for 105 yards in the game.
The Tar Heels and Eagles went back and forth in the first half, with the Tar Heels leading 24-21 going into the fourth quarter. But then the Eagles took over, scoring 16 unanswered points behind Andre Callender and quarterback Paul Peterson to take home the win.
2004 was also the start of Matt Ryan's career at Boston College, as he was a freshman that year.
Meineke Car Care Bowl (Dec. 27, 2008): West Virginia 31 - UNC 30
The Tar Heels had one of their best seasons in quite a while, coming into the bowl game with an 8-4 record under Butch Davis.
After defeating Duke and receiving word that the Tar Heels would face the Mountaineers, a dynamic offense at the time behind quarterback Pat White, UNC knew that they would be in for a battle.
Little did they know White would have one of his best games against the Tar Heels.
After the Mountaineers and Tar Heels went back and forth in the first half, UNC took the lead 30-24 on a 4-yard touchdown run by T.J. Yates.
But White brought West Virginia back one more time, hitting Alric Arnett for a 20 yard touchdown, giving the Mountaineers a one point lead in the fourth.
UNC had a chance but Yates was intercepted late in the game to seal the deal for West Virginia, making White the first major college quarterback in history to go a perfect four-for-four in bowl games in his collegiate career.
Hakeem Nicks had a monster game at wide receiver in UNC, as he caught eight passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns in what turned out to be his final game as a Tar Heel.
Meineke Car Care Bowl Dec. 26, 2009: Pittsburgh 19 - UNC 17
In yet another Charlotte bowl game against yet another future Atlantic Coast Conference foe, the 8-4 Tar Heels were looking to change their luck in Charlotte against a Pittsburgh team that was 9-3 on the season heading into what was then referred to as the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
The Tar Heels were geared up to slow down Pitt running back Dion Lewis but Lewis was able to rack up 159 yards on the ground against a Tar Heel defense that was one of the strongest ever in school history.
The UNC defense came in ranked sixth overall and ninth against the run, but couldn't contain Lewis in what would be a low scoring game.
Pittsburgh kicker Dan Hutchins become a key figure for the Panthers, hitting four different field goals, including the game winner with 52 seconds to go in the fourth quarter, to seal the deal for the Panthers in defeating the Tar Heels 19-17 and sending UNC to 0-3 .
Music City Bowl (Dec. 31, 2010): UNC 30 - Tennessee 27 (2OT)
For the third year in a row the Tar Heels were heading to a bowl game but weren't heading to Charlotte this time around.
After arguably the tumultuous regular season in UNC history, with numerous key contributors suspended or rendered permanently ineligible, the Tar Heels headed to the Music City bowl in Nashville, where they would be playing the Volunteers in their backyard.
The two teams put on an offensive show in the first two quarters, with UNC holding a slight 17-14 lead going into halftime.
Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray took the lead for the Vols back in the fourth with a 8 yard touchdown pass to Justin Hunter, but the Tar Heels blocked the extra point to keep it within a field goal.
Then the madness started to begin.
The officials reviewed what was the final play of regulation and decided to penalize the Tar Heels for having more than 11 guys on the field and saying that T.J. Yates had spiked the ball with one second left on the clock.
The following year a new rule was instituted, declaring a 10-second runoff that would have ended the game, but the Tar Heels were beneficiaries of good fortune at the expense of an angry mob of Tennessee supporters, who threw bottles and other debris onto the field.
The ruling on the Yates snap allowed Casey Barth to run out and kick what was a game tying 39 yard field goal to force overtime.
After the two teams had exchanged touchdowns in the first overtime, Quan Sturdviant helped secure the win for North Carolina with an interception on Tennessee's second overtime possession, and Barth nailed a 23 yard field goal for what turned out to be Davis's only bowl victory in his final game as head coach at UNC.
Both UNC and Tennessee put up over 330 yards in the game. The Tar Heels put up 234 yards through the air and ran for 151 yards on the ground.
Independence Bowl (Dec. 26, 2011): Missouri 41 - UNC 24
This was the last bowl game before the Tar Heels were banned from participating in a bowl game the next season, and a lot of UNC fans would have been just fine if the Tar Heels would have stayed home, sparing them what was a bloodletting by Big Twelve (now SEC) stalwart Missouri.
The Tar Heels were hoping for the season to be a special one after starting the season 5-1 early on under the leadership of interim head coach Everett Withers, who took over the program a week before training camp after former Chancellor Holden Thorp fired Davis in late July.
But the Tar Heels struggled down the stretch and finished the regular season 7-5, earning the Independence berth.
Unlike other recent UNC bowl games, which were mostly all close, Missouri picked apart the Tar Heels in the first two quarters, racking up four touchdowns against Carolina's banged-up and going-through-the-motions defense to lead 31-10 at halftime.
North Carolina got on the board first with a 22 yard touchdown pass to Dwight Jones, but the Tigers easily rolled after that.
In the end the Tigers were just too much and had too much speed with their run game, as quarterback James Franklin had 142 yards rushing while Kendial Lawrence had 108 yards on the ground.
In all, the Tigers racked up 513 yards, with 337 of them coming on the ground.
Bryn Renner did all he could do, as he racked up 317 yards in the air and had three touchdowns on the afternoon, but the run game was only able to manage 36 yards against the Tigers' resistance.
The Tar Heels finished 2011 losers of five of their last seven final games to finish with a 7-6 record, in what eventually would be Withers last game at UNC. Shortly thereafter he secured the job at Ohio State as defensive coordinator and the remainder of UNC's coaching staff under Davis was dismantled.
And now, with a new regime and almost entirely new players, save a handful of seniors, the Tar Heels return to the postseason looking for the school's first bowl victory since that Peach Bowl triumph over Auburn back in '01.