After a two-year hiatus, the Holiday Bowl is back. A game known for wild plays lived up to its billing on Wednesday.
No. 15 Oregon and North Carolina took the field with two of the game's best quarterbacks in Bo Nix and Drake Maye. The Tar Heels caught a big break to close the first half when a Nix mistake turned into a worst-case scenario for Oregon. But Oregon rallied for a dramatic 28-27 win with a touchdown and extra point that bounced off the upright and in in the game's final seconds.
With 35 seconds left in the first half of a 14-14 game, Nix looked over the middle to tight end Terrance Ferguson deep in North Carolina territory. The pass was just a bit behind Ferguson. Unfortunately for the Ducks, it did not fall incomplete.
Instead, it bounced off the leg of UNC linebacker Cedric Gray, then off the toe of Carolina linebacker Power Echols. The ball then hung up in the air just long enough for Echols to secure one of the wildest interceptions you'll ever see.
He returned the ball 40 yards to the Oregon 49-yard line.
Officials reviewed the play, presumably to determine if there was an illegal intentional kick. They deemed that there was not, and North Carolina took over possession near midfield. One play later, Maye made the Ducks pay.
The redshirt freshman threw a dart to a streaking Kobe Paysour over the middle of the field. The 6-1 receiver did the rest of the work, sprinting to the end zone to give UNC a 21-14 lead headed into the break.
The touchdown was Maye's third of the half. But it wasn't enough for UNC to win. North Carolina didn't score another touchdown, and Oregon rallied for a game-winning score after forcing a UNC field goal with 2:29 remaining.
Nix led an eight play, 76-yard drive that ended with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Chase Cota with 19 seconds remaining. The game-winning score arrived on fourth-and-2 and was close enough for officials to review if Cota crossed the goal line after securing the catch.
They upheld the score upon review, setting up even more unexpected drama. Oregon kicker Camden Lewis bounced the extra point hard off the left upright. But it took an Oregon bounce hard right and through the uprights to secure a 28-27 Ducks lead.
North Carolina took over with 19 seconds remaining and drove the ball past midfield before stopping the clock with 1 second remaining. But Maye's 41-yard Hail Mary fell incomplete, and the Ducks hang on for the win.
Welcome back, indeed to the Holiday Bowl.