North Carolina 31, Wake Forest 24
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP)—Darian Durant threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Jesse Holley in the final minute, helping North Carolina stay on track for a bowl game with a 31-24 victory over Wake Forest on Saturday.
After the Demon Deacons rallied from two touchdowns down to tie it, the Tar Heels (5-5, 4-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) began the winning drive on their own 44. Three plays gained 11 yards, then Durant rolled to his right and spotted Holley behind safety Josh Gattis.
He lofted a perfect spiral that Holley caught in the end zone, giving North Carolina its second dramatic victory in three games. Two weeks ago, Durant led a late drive to set up a field goal that beat then-No. 4 Miami.
Gerald Sensabaugh sealed Saturday’s win with an interception with 9 seconds left.
Durant finished 18-of-36 for 225 yards and two TDs, and he ran 3 yards for a go-ahead score in the third quarter. Chad Scott also ran for a touchdown for the Tar Heels, who finish the season against woeful Duke.
The Deacons (4-5, 1-5) have to win the final two games to qualify for a bowl, including a trip next week to Miami. Their five losses are by a total of 30 points, including two in overtime, and this one came in front of a school-record crowd of 37,623.
Chris Barclay rushed for 138 yards and two touchdowns for Wake Forest, including one that capped a 76-yard drive to tie the game at 24 with 7:20 left.
The Tar Heels played most of the game without leading receiver Jarwarski Pollock, who left early in the second quarter after a jarring hit. He briefly appeared to be unconscious, and Holley frantically waved at the sidelines for the training staff.
Pollock eventually got up and jogged off under his own power.
North Carolina, which ranked 116th in the country in total defense coming in, gave up a season-low 335 yards—about 145 less than its average. Wake Forest quarterbacks Ben Mauk and Cory Randolph rotated throughout and combined to complete 12 of 29 passes for 109 yards.
The Tar Heels led 10-3 at the half, but the Deacons tied it on Marcus McGruder’s 12-yard interception return for a touchdown. Durant bounced back to lead a grinding 11-play drive, and he went the last 3 yards himself with the help of center Jason Brown.
Durant rolled to his right, and headed toward the goal line when he couldn’t find an open receiver. He was hit by a couple of defenders at the 4, but Brown joined the pile and shoved his quarterback into the end zone for a 17-10 lead.
A 2-yard TD pass from Durant to Justin Phillips made it 24-10.