College football Oregon North Carolina
The U.S. Navy Leap Frogs land with the American flag before the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl between the Oregon Ducks and the North Carolina Tar Heels on Dec. 28 at Petco Park. (Photo by Justin Fine/Icon Sportswire)

Oregon, on the verge of being upset, rebounded with less than a minute to play Wednesday, defeating North Carolina 28-27 in a thrilling first Holiday Bowl at Petco Park.

The No. 15 Ducks (10-3) scored on a pass from quarterback Bo Nix to Chase Cota to tie it up at 27 with 19 seconds on the clock before 36,242 at Petco. Camden Lewis’ kick hit the left upright on the point-after attempt, but it was good enough to give Oregon the slight edge.

North Carolina (9-5), which had led since late in the second quarter while holding Oregon scoreless on five straight possessions, had no time outs left and could not beat the clock. On their final play, quarterback Drake Maye heaved a long pass from the Oregon 41 that fell harmlessly in the end zone as time expired.

So in a game billed as a matchup of two top college QBs – Maye and Nix are tied for second in the Power 5 with 42 total touchdowns – Oregon’s star prevailed.

Nix told Fox Sports he was in a position to bring his team back “because our defense stopped them and held them up pretty big.”

For a stretch, though, North Carolina scored 17 unanswered points, including a touchdown that stunned Oregon in the waning moments of the first half.

With the game tied at 14, Nix threw a pass that intended target Terrance Ferguson could only get a hand on. The ball then bounced off Tar Heel Cedric Gray’s calf, dropping down to be tipped off the foot of fellow linebacker Power Echols.

He reached down to snag it, returning it 40 yards, and on the next play, from the Oregon 49-yard line, Maye connected with Kobe Paysour, who ran the ball 28 yards for a touchdown that gave North Carolina a 21-14 lead with 26 seconds left in the half.

Neither team was hot coming in. The Ducks lost two of their final three games, including a 38-34 defeat by rival Oregon State in their regular-season finale Nov. 26. North Carolina lost three straight, including a 39-10 loss to Clemson Dec. 3.

Oregon also left a famous alum happy. Justin Herbert, the Chargers quarterback, was on the sideline to cheer on his alma mater and brother Patrick, a Duck tight end.

Staff and wire reports


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Ellen Bullock