Best Games Of 2012-13: No. 2
Continuing today with entry No. 2, GoHeels.com is counting down the top 25 games of 2012-13 until we get to No. 1. To catch up on the previous great moments of the Tar Heel year, click here for entries 3-25.
No. 2: Carolina 43, NC State 35 - Football, Oct. 27, 2012
Imagine for a moment that Giovani Bernard hadn't gotten the chance to return a punt late in the game against NC State on Oct. 27. Imagine the game had instead gone to overtime, where someone - perhaps Bernard - would go on to make a different game-winning play. It would have been just the eighth overtime game in Carolina history, and the second against NC State. The 37-34 overtime classic against the Wolfpack in Charlotte in 1998 was the first UNC game to go beyond 60 minutes after ties were eliminated in 1995.
Even without perhaps the most electrifying play in Tar Heel football history, the 2012 Carolina-State game would have been among the best in the series.
Carolina, mired in a five-game losing streak to its most bitter rival, opened the game in spectacular fashion. After a holding penalty on the opening kickoff pinned UNC on its own 15, the Tar Heels marched 85 yards on just six plays to take a 7-0 lead 101 seconds into the game.
Two plays after forcing a State punt, Erik Highsmith took an end-around 45 yards for a score, Tommy Hibbard hit Jack Tabb for a 2-point conversion, and Carolina was up 15-0 with 11 minutes left in the first quarter.
The Wolfpack answered with a touchdown of their own, but a Casey Barth field goal and a Bernard 1-yard touchdown run - a score that was set up by a Jabari Price forced fumble - made it 25-7 before the end of the first quarter.
But the NC State offense kept coming, and just as suddenly as the Tar Heels had raced out to a three-score lead, the Wolfpack jumped ahead 28-25 going into halftime.
After the fireworks of the opening 30 minutes, the third quarter was a war of attrition with both teams trading punts and turnovers before State scored on a 55-yard pass play late in the stanza to take a 10-point lead.
Carolina was forced to punt on its first possession of the fourth quarter and for a moment the game looked to be slipping away. But the Tar Heel defense stood strong, and forced a key three-and-out to get the ball back with 13:28 to play in regulation. Bernard would touch the ball on four of the next six plays to get UNC into the red zone before Bryn Renner hooked up with Sean Tapley for a 3-yard scoring strike that cut the deficit to three.
With Kevin Reddick and Sylvester Williams starting to wreak havoc in the NC State backfield, the Wolfpack could only must a pair of first downs over its next two possessions, giving Carolina a chance to tie or take the lead with a late score.
UNC took over on its own 22 with 4:31 to play and quickly flipped the field thanks to a pair of long runs by Bernard. Renner hit Eric Ebron for an 11-yard gain to set up first-and-goal, but the Tar Heels were forced to settle for a 34-yard Barth field goal to tie the game with 1:24 left.
Crucially, Barth booted the ensuing kickoff into the end zone, setting up NC State to start its final drive from its own 25. Reddick, who'd already sacked Mike Glennon once in the quarter and had just missed another on the same drive, made the defensive play of the game on first down, bringing down the Wolfpack quarterback for a 7-yard loss.
On second-and-17, State rushed for four yards and Carolina used its second timeout with 35 seconds remaining. Tony Creecy got the ball again on third down for a short gain, and again Carolina called timeout, this time with 30 seconds left.
So even without what would come next, the 2012 Carolina-State game was nothing short of a classic shootout between two old rivals. An overtime finish would have probably put it among the top 10 games in the history of the series.
But what did happen next would launch the game and the player into the pantheon of all-time Carolina greats regardless of sport or season.
By now you've seen the replay and heard Jones Angell's call dozens, maybe hundreds of times. You've read about how Bernard subbed himself into the game to get a shot at a return, something Renner likened to Babe Ruth and Michael Jordan.
Carolina would go on to win a share of the ACC Coastal Division title and Bernard would be the first running back taken in April's NFL Draft after a pair of his teammates - Williams and consensus All-America guard Jonathan Cooper - were both first-rounders. But no moment from the 2012 season, and perhaps no moment from the 125-year history of Carolina football, can match those 11 seconds of Gio magic.
No. 3: Carolina 12, FAU 11 (13 inn.) - Baseball, June 3-4, 2013
No. 4: Carolina 18, Duke 17 - Men's Lacrosse, April 26, 2013
No. 5: Carolina 2, NC State 1 (18 inn.) - Baseball, May 25-26, 2013
No. 6: Carolina 2, BYU 1 (2OT) - Women's Soccer, Nov. 23, 2012
No. 7: Carolina 76, NC State 65 - Men's Basketball, Feb. 23, 2013
No. 8: Carolina 64, Miami 62 - Women's Basketball, Jan. 27, 2013
No. 9: Carolina 6, Syracuse 1 - Field Hockey, Nov. 16, 2012
No. 10: Carolina 1, Stanford 0 (OT) - Women's Soccer, Nov. 30, 2012
No. 11: Carolina 3, Florida State 1 - Volleyball, Nov. 3, 2012
No. 12: Carolina 3, Wisconsin 2 (8 inn.) - Softball, May 16, 2013
No. 13: Carolina 2, Duke 1 (OT) - Men's Soccer, Sept. 28, 2012
No. 14: Carolina 79, Maryland 76 - Men's Basketball, March 16, 2013
No. 15: Carolina 10, Maryland 8 - Men's Lacrosse, March 23, 2013
No. 16: Carolina 72, Maryland 65 - Women's Basketball, March 9, 2013
No. 17: Carolina 4, Maryland 3 (OT) - Field Hockey, Oct. 20, 2012
No. 18: Carolina 11, Northwestern 8 - Women's Lacrosse, Feb. 22, 2013
No. 19: Carolina 4, USC 3 - Women's Tennis, Feb. 9, 2013
No. 20: Carolina 3, California 1 - Volleyball, Nov. 29, 2012
No. 21: Carolina 11, Johns Hopkins 10 (OT), Men's Lacrosse, March 30, 2013
No. 22: Carolina 1, Fairleigh Dickinson 0 (OT) - Men's Soccer, Nov. 25, 2012
No. 23: Peacock Smashes NCAA Record - Swimming and Diving, Dec. 2, 2012
No. 24: UNC's Big Day at ACCs - Track and Field, April 19, 2013
No. 25: Carolina 30, NC State 6 - Wrestling, Feb. 1, 2013