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NC State recovers onsides kick to beat UNC, keep ACC Championship hopes alive

It was a classic in Raleigh for a rivalry game that usually doesn’t come with title stakes, but it did this year.

North Carolina State Wolfpack defensive tackle Cory Durden gestures at the North Carolina Tar Heels bench after a fourth down stop during the first half at Carter-Finley Stadium. Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 20 North Carolina State Wolfpack were down 30-21 to the rival North Carolina Tar Heels with 1:45 remaining at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh on Friday night.

They won 34-30 in one of the most dramatic comebacks you will ever see.

UNC’s Grayson Atkins made a 50-yard field goal with 2:12 to play to give the Heels a nine-point lead. But then a good kickoff return put the Wolfpack near midfield, and on second down quarterback Devin Leary found Emeka Emezie for a 64-yard touchdown pass in a situation where the only thing the Tar Heels can’t do is give up a touchdown.

Letting Emezie get behind the defense was a cardinal sin, but if the Tar Heels recovered the forthcoming onsides kick, it wouldn’t matter with 1:35 remaining and NCSU having only one timeout.

NARRATOR: It mattered.

It was a heckuva play from kicker Christopher Dunn, and it set up this throw for the Wolfpack to improbably score 13 points in 26 seconds of game time.

Beating your rival is always good. But beating your rival to keep your conference championship hopes alive is even better. If Boston College beats Wake Forest tomorrow, the Wolfpack will win the Atlantic Division and head to Charlotte for the ACC Championship game against Pitt next week.

As good as the win was, it wasn’t an upset: The Wolfpack closed as 6.5-point favorites at DraftKings Sportsbook, while the total was 63. The ending turned out to be a real bad beat if you happened to be on the under.