It wasn't pretty, North Carolina coach John Bunting said, but the Tar Heels' 16-14 victory over Boston College was just what he was looking for.
The game started with a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by senior Wallace Wright, who first bobbled the ball before gaining control just in time to elude the first would-be tackler.
It continued with kicker Connor Barth snapping out of a season-long slump with three field goals and featured stellar defense and just enough offensive output by the Tar Heels (4-3, 3-2 ACC) for them to keep alive their bowl hopes.
Needing to win three of their last four games to become bowl eligible entering the day, the Tar Heels now need to win two of their last three with home games against Maryland and Duke the next two Saturdays and the season finale at Virginia Tech.
"It was a whole effort," said Bunting, who saw his Heels control the ball for just over 34 minutes. "It was a complete game played in all phases. We moved the ball today. The time of possession is really significant."
The game turned on a series of defensive plays by the Heels near the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter. North Carolina led 16-7, but BC had marched to a first down at the Carolina 14-yard line and seemed to be gaining momentum for the first time since its opening drive.
But a touchdown pass to WR Will Blackmon was nullified by an illegal receiver downfield penalty, making it first-and-15 at the 19. A screen pass was incomplete, and then Carolina DE Tommy Davis sacked QB Quinton Porter for a 12-yard loss on second down.
A false-start penalty on the first play of the fourth quarter backed the Eagles up to a third-and-27, and with DE Kyndraus Guy pressuring him, Porter threw incomplete. Instead of a touchdown or at least a field goal attempt, the Eagles were forced to punt.
The Tar Heels secured the victory when TE Justin Phillips recovered the BC's onside kickoff attempt after the Eagles scored their second touchdown with 44 seconds left.
GAME BALL GOES TO: WR Jesse Holley -- He had career highs in catches (8) and receiving yardage (125) and came up with several key third-down catches that allowed the Tar Heels to kill vital seconds near the end of their victory over Boston College. Holley has had at least four catches in each of his last four games.
KEEP AN EYE ON: PK Connor Barth -- The sophomore kicked three field goals, including a 44-yarder, signaling what may be an end to his season-long slump. He was only 3-of-11 on field goal attempts entering the game.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We got in the zone. Man, I got in the zone. 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. I just had a sense of urgency, and everything that was thrown to me, I said to myself, 'We're going come down with it.' Before you know it, we started to get stuff going." -- WR Jesse Holley.
LOOKING GOOD: The defense gave up a long drive to Boston College on its first series and then again on its last, but other than that kept the Eagles in check. The Tar Heels allowed the Eagles only 100 yards rushing and only 6-of-15 third-down conversions.
DE Tommy Davis had two sacks, giving North Carolina 21 for the season, most since the 2001 team notched 26.
KR Wallace Wright opened the game with a 90-yard kickoff return for North Carolina's only touchdown.
TB Ronnie McGill continues to give the offense more pop. He had 75 yards on 20 rushes and caught three passes for 20 more.
QB Matt Baker was 20-of-32 and was hurt by a couple of key drops, but he also threw one poor pass that was intercepted.
STILL NEEDS SOME WORK: The offense failed to produce a touchdown and averaged only 2.5 yards per rush. QB Matt Baker is more effective than his statistics might show. Other than WR Jesse Holley, the wide receivers aren't doing much to help their quarterback. The one bright spot for the offense: The Tar Heels were 9-of-18 on third-down conversions.
WR Jarwarski Pollock may be on the verge of becoming North Carolina's all-time leading receiver, but he is taking his time getting there. He had only one catch against BC and now is within two of the school record.
ROSTER REPORT: Sophomore CB Bryan Bethea made his first career start and was credited with seven tackles and a pass broken up. Freshman FB Nick Starcevic made his first career reception, a seven-yard screen pass in the second quarter.