No. 20 NC State kept its hopes of winning the ACC Atlantic division alive on Friday night, rallying to knock off North Carolina 34-30 in miraculous fashion. The Wolfpack came back from a 30-21 deficit in the final 2:12 with the help of two touchdowns in 26 seconds, an onside kick and an interception on a last-second heave to the end zone from the Tar Heels to improve to 9-3 (6-3 ACC).
The comeback was nothing short of improbable, as NC State became the first team to win a game this season when trailing by nine points with less than 2:30 to play in regulation, per ESPN Stats & Info.
The win breaks NC State's two-game losing streak in the rivalry series and means it will be closely watching Wake Forest's game with Boston College on Saturday. If the Demon Deacons falter on the road against the Eagles, then NC State will represent the Atlantic Division in the ACC title game against Pittsburgh next week. If Wake Forest wins, it will represent the division against the Panthers.
Either way, No. 23 Clemson has been eliminated from the ACC Atlantic race, ending a streak of six straight conference title game appearances (and wins) for the Tigers. And for the first time in a decade, neither Clemson nor Florida State will represent the Atlantic in the conference title.
The possibility of an NC State win seemed far-fetched when UNC's Grayson Atkins drilled a 50-yard field goal with 2:12 remaining to put his team ahead by nine. But NC State quarterback Devin Leary promptly found star receiver Emeka Emezie for a 64-yard touchdown to get the Wolfpack within 30-28.
From there, a perfectly executed onside kick returned possession to NC State with 1:33 still remaining. Another touchdown connection between Leary and Emezie -- this one covering 24 yards -- gave NC State the lead with 1:09 remaining.
GIVE ME ALL OF YOUR FOUTH QUARTER TOUCHDOWNS!!!— NC State Football (@PackFootball) November 27, 2021
WOW @Emekaemezie, for the WINNNNNNNNN!!!#HTT pic.twitter.com/LbQMhlF6la
UNC had 1:09 on the clock when it took over possession and drove to the NC State 30. But Sam Howell's final throw was intercepted in the end zone with no time left on the clock, and the Wolfpack fans rushed the field in celebration. With one more win -- either in the ACC title game or a bowl game -- NC State will have reached 10 victories for the first time since 2002.