San Diego, CA—-No. 15 Oregon beat North Carolina 28-27 in the Holiday Bowl on Wednesday night at Petco Park.
North Carolina (9-5) got the ball to the Oregon 42-yard line with one second left before Drake Maye’s hail mary pass into the end zone fell incomplete.
“Very disappointed that we didn’t win, but we’ve got to make a play here or there, and they’re a great football team,” said North Carolina coach Mack Brown, who brought Texas to the Holiday Bowl five times between 2000 and 2011. “Nobody gave us a chance in the game and we had a chance with one second left. That’s all we could ask for in this situation.”
Oregon finished 10-3, Bo Nix came up huge late in the fourth quarter after being slowed up much of the second half. He threw a 6-yard TD pass to Troy Franklin with 6:58 left in the game to get the Ducks to 24-21. But the Ducks made just a few more plays in the final frame.
Nix was 23 of 30 for 205 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception.
The first half was a battle between Irving for the Ducks and North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye. Mar’keise Irving had 117 yards and had both Oregon touchdowns in the first half, while Maye had 188 yards of total offense and three touchdown passes.The Tar Heels took a 21-14 lead to the break.
The Holiday Bowl emerged from a two-year pandemic hiatus with a new location but the same reputation for thrilling finishes.
Oregon were playing without three defensive starters who had opted out of the bowl game to prepare for the NFL draft, plus a handful of other regulars who entered the transfer portal. The team’s two leading tacklers Wednesday ended up being Keith Brown and Mase Funa with seven apiece
UNC took a 27-21 lead with 2:34 left in the game on Noah Burnette’s 44-yard field goal, his second of the quarter.
After Oregon’s defense forced the Tar Heels to settle for another field goal, Nix went 5-of-6 passing for 56 yards on the game-winning touchdown drive.
The last completion was to Chase Cota, on a play Nix suggested during a timeout. It was score-or-go-home for Oregon, who were facing fourth-down-and-the-game. Cota came up big, scoring the game-winning touchdown in the Holiday Bowl 28 years after his father, Chad, was the MVP of Oregon’s historic Rose Bowl team in 1994.
“It was too perfect — too perfect of an ending,” Cota said. “For it to be the last second, for us offensively to come through, I’ll never forget it.”
Cota caught the ball at about the one yard line and got it across the goal line as he was being tackled by Don Chapman. The play was upheld on review. Lewis then clanked in the PAT.
Nix called it “just one of our favorite plays” that the team practices a lot.
“It’s an option route and there’s a lot of different angles, so it’s hard to stop,” Nix said. “That’s what I want to call because we have the most reps at it and I know exactly where each guy is going to be, and Chase did a good job getting over across the field in man coverage and hooking the ball in and catching it and getting in the end zone. Extremely proud of Chase, he deserved that one.”
Oregon finished the game by knocking down a Hail Mary attempt from midfield, and finished off Lanning’s first season as head coach with 10 victories and a bowl victory.