"As soon as it left my foot…," Barth said following the game (Audio). "I took a big chunk out of the ground…I sawed it off to the right. I didn't hit the good part of the ball, and it was real low and wide right.
The win put Maryland (5-4, 3-3 ACC) within just one of bowl-eligibility, while subjugating Carolina (4-5, 3-3) to a position where it must win out in order to reach the six-win plateau. The Tar Heels wrap up their home season versus Coastal Division doormat Duke next Saturday, but must now also win at eighth-ranked Virginia Tech the following week in order to salvage a 6-5 season.
"That's about as painful a loss as we've had around here in terms of being so close but so far," John Bunting said. "There are a lot of players down there who played their hearts out and gave everything they had to win the football game. One team had to go home a loser and it was us."
As it had in its previous two home games, which UNC had held ranked opponents' Virginia and Boston College to just 19 combined points, the Tar Heels were content to let their defense bleed out another close decision.
Still, someone forgot to tell Maryland it had already lost the game.
"This is a good football team we beat," Terps coach Ralph Friedgen said. "They play hard and they're tough and well coached. I feel very fortunate to come out here with a win."
Trailing 30-27 with only seconds to play, the UNC coaches opted to go ahead and kick a game-tying field goal on a 3rd-and-goal at the 7. Barth's 24-yarder with nine seconds left was true, and the sophomore who had struggled earlier in the season had already connected from 45 and 41 yards. Barth was hot, he had nailed three in a row in the previous game versus Boston College.
And yet he had missed eight of his previous 11 attempts prior, none had a direct effect on any of Carolina's four losses.
Until now. With what may have been the Tar Heels' season on the line, something went seriously wrong.
Just like that, a win over the Terps would have meant a seemingly easy route towards a second-straight post-season for the Tar Heels.
"It's the ACC; it's a bowl game every week," Jesse Holley said. "Nothing's like it. Week in and week out you see teams get knocked off. They had a lot on the line. They came over here. They came to win."
Granted, the game was by no means totally lost on the toe of Barth. Carolina succumbed to 524 yards of total offense by Maryland – the biggest number the UNC defense had given up all year. That includes the allowance of 451 yards in its embarrassing 69-14 loss to Louisville on Oct. 8.
"We gave up 500?" asked a surprised Kyndraus Guy. "We don't feel like we took a step back. It don't matter if its 500 yards or one yard. We still lost."
When Kareen Taylor walked in with a fourth quarter touchdown from 25 yards on his second career interception, the Tar Heels led 27-17. And based on its two previous home outings, enough points to salt away a key victory, while finally ending the Terps' three-game win streak in the series.
But Maryland, losers of two in a row, struck back quickly and with deadly accuracy. Terps' quarterback Scott Hollenbach completed touchdown passes of 67 and 80 yards on back-to-back possessions, and with 3:52 remaining, UNC again trailed by a field goal.
Despite throwing two crucial interceptions – Guy picked one off in the second quarter that led directly to a Carolina touchdown – Hollenbach completed 19 of 32 of his passes for 374 yards and three scores.
Meanwhile, Matt Baker was also efficient going 25-for-40 for 335 yards and a touchdown – a 19-yard strike to Mike Mason which pulled the Tar Heels ahead 20-17 in the third quarter.
Jesse Holley, six catches, 115 yards, again led the UNC receivers; but this time he had more help as six other Tar Heels made receptions.
Maryland's Lance Ball ran for 168 yards and tight end Vernon Davis had 139 receiving yards and a touchdown to lead the Terps.
"This game will hurt a lot and it should," Bunting said. "It will hurt the players. It will hurt the coaches. But, we'll find a way to get over this and get back to work Monday."