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Rally puts Wolfpack on verge of title

T.J. Graham eludes a last-ditch dive by Tar Heels punter C.J. Feagles on an 87-yard punt return that put the Wolfpack up.

Associated Press

T.J. Graham eludes a last-ditch dive by Tar Heels punter C.J. Feagles on an 87-yard punt return that put the Wolfpack up.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — An improbable touchdown. A long punt return for a score. And a key stop on a 2-point conversion.

Yes, Russell Wilson and North Carolina State did it to North Carolina again.

Owen Spencer caught a tipped ball in the end zone for a touchdown and T.J. Graham returned a punt 87 yards for another score to help the Wolfpack rally past the Tar Heels 29-25 on Saturday.

Wilson threw two touchdowns for the Wolfpack, including the 2-yard score on the tipped ball to Spencer late in the third quarter. N.C. State put itself in position to claim the Atlantic Division title and reach the ACC championship game by winning next week at Maryland.

Tom O'Brien's Wolfpack also improved to 4-0 against Butch Davis' Tar Heels since the coaches took over their programs before the 2007 season.

"It's great, especially for this football team," O'Brien said. "To start the year, we were dead and gone. Nobody expected us to be anywhere. We've misstepped a couple of times, but it wasn't because of a lack of effort. They understand that if they keep putting the effort forth, we — collective we, coaches and players — will find a way to get this thing done."

That was especially true Saturday, when the Tar Heels had a 19-10 lead before Spencer and Graham scored touchdowns in a shocking reversal of momentum.

First, with his team facing fourth and goal, O'Brien passed on a short field goal to make it a one-possession game and went for the touchdown. It appeared to be a mistake when Wilson found himself scrambling under pressure and lofting a desperate pass into a crowd in the back right corner of the end zone.

Safety Da'Norris Searcy and receiver Darrell Davis appeared to tip the ball, which landed in Spencer's arms as he fell.

"It was a prayer," O'Brien said, "and it was answered."

Searcy said he was just trying to knock the ball down.

"When I reached up, I saw (Davis') hands closing and I just knocked it away from him," he said.

Officials signaled for a touchdown, a call which stood after a replay review.

"It was kind of like slow motion a little bit," Spencer said. "But I wound up getting my hands underneath it and grabbing it. Nobody could tell me different. That was a touchdown."

The Tar Heels were left to shake off the shock.

"I really felt if that got overturned, it was our ball and they would've packed it in," UNC safety Deunta Williams said.

A few plays later, Graham sprinted down the sideline for the 87-yard punt return and a 24-19 lead with 14:07 left.

That lead held, though T.J. Yates did everything he could to keep the Tar Heels in it. He directed a touchdown drive with about a minute left, but his desperate heave into traffic for the tying 2-point conversion — in the same area where Spencer came up with the TD catch — fell incomplete.

GA. TECH 30, DUKE 20: Mario Butler returned an interception 85 yards for a touchdown, Tevin Washington threw a 79-yard score to Stephen Hill and the host Yellow Jackets ensured eligibility for their 14th straight bowl appearance.

Georgia Tech trailed 13-6 after a sloppy, listless first half and was still down when the Blue Devils drove deep into its territory midway through the third quarter. But backup quarterback Brandon Connette, in the game for his running skills, telegraphed his only pass attempt of the day.

Butler stepped in front of the short throw into the flats, cut back the other way around the Duke 40, picked up a late block and tumbled into the end zone.

After the Blue Devils cut it to 23-20, Washington heaved up a pass on third and 9 from his 21. The 6-foot-5 Hill reached over shorter cornerback Ross Cockrell to snatch away the ball then sprinted down the sideline.

CLEMSON 30, WAKE 10: Kyle Parker had two touchdown passes and completed all but two of his throws, and the Tigers sent the Demon Deacons to their ninth straight loss.

Parker finished 15-of-17 for 194 yards in just over 2½ quarters with TDs covering 40 yards to Jaron Brown and 2 yards to DeAndre Hopkins. His passer rating of 222.9 was the best by a Clemson quarterback in an ACC game since 2002.

"I made the plays that were there, and didn't make many bad decisions," Parker said. "Anytime you can walk away from a game like that, you're doing pretty good."

That helped the Tigers win their first road game of the season and reach six wins for the 12th straight year.

BC 17, UVA 13: Montel Harris carried 24 times for 114 yards, including a go-ahead 4-yard score late in the third quarter, to make the host Eagles bowl eligible for the 12th straight season.

Boston College won its fourth straight game. The Cavaliers have lost six of eight and have dropped 12 consecutive games in November.

The win may have been costly for the Eagles, who lost Harris to a left knee injury a few plays after his go-ahead score. He was taken for an MRI exam, but the results were not available.

"I say every week Montel works hard and he's a good back," BC coach Frank Spaziani said. "You have to have him exactly right or he slips through there."

When Harris left, Andrew Williams took his place and carried 12 times for 108 yards.

N.C. State 29

UNC 25

Rally puts Wolfpack on verge of title 11/20/10 [Last modified: Saturday, November 20, 2010 8:05pm]

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