In the second quarter, San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey had scored on a 12-yard touchdown run to give the Aztecs their first lead of the night. Scott had missed a tackle on the play and was forced to watch as Pumphrey waltzed into the end zone.
Scott said the play was running through his head as both teams lined up at the 3-yard line in the fourth quarter.
“It was time for me to redeem myself,” Scott said. “I’m the senior in the secondary, and I’m one of the leaders of the team. So I knew I needed to come play and make sure the play wasn’t made on me.”
Kaehler received the snap as the game clock struck 19 seconds, and the Tar Heels chances of blowing the lead became more of a reality to the fans in Kenan Memorial Stadium.
Kaehler dropped back, as the fans held onto their seats — hoping this wasn’t like the Miami game all over again.
As he looked to his left, Kaehler was suddenly under duress as the UNC defensive line broke through. He pulled back and fired toward the left corner of the end zone.
The ball spun through the air, but before it could reach Kaehler’s receiver, Scott swooped in, snatched the ball out of thin air and dragged the tips of his toes in bounds for the game-winning interception.
Scott leapt to his feet and sprinted across the field — all the way to the opposite end zone — with his right arm waving in the air.
And in a game where neither the UNC offense nor defense managed much success, it was the final three yards the UNC defense didn’t give up that sealed the deal.
“We played pretty bad this game, I want to say, as a team,” Scott said. “We really weren’t energized. When we came to play, it showed. I feel like at the last drive we were energized, we were ready to play, but we just needed that one play to spark us. It just actually happened to be the last play.”
For three quarters, UNC’s potent offense appeared anything but — mustering a measly 211 yards on 51 plays. But a fourth-quarter outbreak had energized the crowd and the Tar Heels.
After the Aztecs seized a 24-14 lead on a 49-yard field goal with 14 minutes and three seconds remaining in the game, the Tar Heels started their drive at their own 9-yard line following a holding penalty on the kickoff return.
On the first play, quarterback Marquise Williams faked the handoff and watched as the San Diego State defense committed to the run. His eyes looked up and blazing down the Aztecs’ sideline was sophomore wide receiver Mack Hollins.
Williams pulled back and fired a bomb to Hollins — resulting in a 91-yard touchdown that shrunk the UNC deficit to three points. Hollins said he knew he was gone as soon as his eyes locked with those of the cornerback trying to cover him.
“As soon as I ran and saw the corners' eyes look up, his eyes got big, and I knew he was trying to catch me, I knew the ball was coming,” Hollins said. “So I just got into another gear, looked up and the ball was right in stride. So I caught it, got racing with him and I won.”
Williams’ deep ball sparked the UNC offense heading into its next drive.
After the UNC defense allowed another field goal to give the Aztecs a 27-21 lead, the Tar Heel offense went 80 yards on eight plays in two minutes and 24 seconds to take the lead on a 2-yard touchdown run by freshman Elijah Hood, the first of his career.
Williams, who was 6-for-6 for 155 yards in the fourth quarter, said the touchdown by Hollins gave the offense the edge it needed.
“You see all energy around the fans — everybody’s excited, and the offense is excited,” Williams said. “And we knew that this thing is not over.”
The Tar Heels struggled mightily on both sides of the ball throughout the night, but the team saved its best for last.
Coach Larry Fedora said his team was resilient despite not playing at a high level for most of the night, and it was that resiliency that got the team the win.
“We made enough mistakes to lose the game, but we made enough plays to win the game,” Fedora said. “That’s all it boiled down to. Our guys made plays when we had to make plays. So I give our team credit for how they persevered throughout the entire game.”