CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- The kick came low and short, bouncing
to Wallace Wright at his own 10-yard line. With defenders racing
toward him, he nervously bobbled the ball a couple of times before
finally gaining control.
Then he started running.
"My whole mentality was to pick up the ball and go, find
somewhere to go," Wright said. "Protect the ball first, then get
up-field and get whatever yards I can get."
He got them all.
Wright returned that opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown,
Connor Barth broke out of a season-long slump with three field
goals and North Carolina held off No. 19 Boston College 16-14
Jesse Holley set career highs with eight catches for 125 yards
for the Tar Heels (4-4, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who got
their second consecutive upset at home. Two weeks ago, they beat
then-No. 23 Virginia 7-5, and their defense was every bit as stingy
in this one.
"Well, that may not have been as pretty as some people would
like it to be," North Carolina coach John Bunting said, "but it
certainly is what I have been looking for in terms of having a
complete game. It was a whole effort."
After the Eagles (6-3, 3-3) drove 63 yards on their opening
drive to tie it 7-7, they gained only 274 the rest of the way.
Coach Tom O'Brien went to backup quarterback Matt Ryan in the
fourth quarter, and he made the final margin much closer with a
10-yard touchdown pass to Larry Lester in the final minute.
But North Carolina tight end Justin Phillips recovered the
ensuing onside kick to hand BC its second loss in a row. The first
came about 10 days ago at Virginia Tech and dropped the Eagles out
of contention for the Atlantic Division title, and this one means
they are left fighting for bowl positioning down the stretch in the
Quinton Porter was 16-for-26 for 144 yards before giving way to
Ryan, and leading rusher L.V. Whitworth was held to 58 yards.
"You've got to give it to them, obviously they addressed it all
after that first drive," Porter said. "I thought we'd get into a
rhythm and get it going."
Wright set the tone early, even though his return hardly was a
thing of beauty. He appeared hemmed in deep in his own territory
before breaking a tackle, then picked up a nice block from Brandon
Tate to reach open space along the sideline.
It was the second time this season North Carolina scored on the
opening kickoff, with Tate going 100 yards for a TD against Utah.
"It's the best feeling in the world," Wright said. "I've been
waiting for years for that to happen. It couldn't have been a
Barth did his part, too. The sophomore came in 3-for-11 in 2005
-- with misses on his previous three kicks -- but was perfect against
the Eagles. His 20-yarder late in the first quarter gave the Tar
Heels the lead for good, and he added one from 44 yards in the
third quarter to stretch the margin to 13 points.
"Everyone has so much support for me, especially my teammates,
just keeping me up, telling me how much confidence they have in
me," Barth said. "And it's just awesome to have teammates like
that. That's what's helped me so much."
That proved to be more than enough to hold off BC, particularly
with a plodding-yet-consisent offense providing just enough for an
edge in field position. Matt Baker was 20-for-32 for 211 yards and
one interception, while Ronnie McGill gained a bruising 75 yards on
"We had them on their heels," Baker said. "We tried to keep
the ball, I thought they looked a little tired. So we just kept
pounding the ball."
And Holley continued his impressive season. Early in the fourth
quarter, the Tar Heels took over on their own 9 when Holley was at
his best. He reached behind him to rip a pass out of the hands of
linebacker Tyronne Pruitt that went for 17 yards on third-and-10,
then later put North Carolina in field goal range with a dazzling,
leaping catch over DeJuan Tribble.
The 29-yard gain put North Carolina on BC's 30, and although
Baker threw his lone interception on the next play, the Eagles were
out of chances.
"Man, I got in the zone," Holley said. "It just was like
nothing else mattered. I didn't care what coverage they were in. I
didn't care who was draped over me, where the ball was thrown."
O'Brien wouldn't commit to a starting quarterback next week
against North Carolina State, and by now, Porter and Ryan both
probably should be ready. Each has played in seven of the eight
"Whatever happens next week, happens," Ryan said. "I'm just
disappointed that we lost."