Devon Achane had two late touchdown runs, including a 76-yarder with 3:44 left that put Texas A&M ahead to stay, and the fifth-ranked Aggies beat No. 14 North Carolina 41-27 in the Orange Bowl on Saturday night to cap a winless bowl season for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Kellen Mond passed for 232 yards and ran for a score for the Aggies (9-1), who were in the Orange Bowl for the first time since 1944. Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher improved to 3-0 in Orange Bowls, winning two previous ones at Florida State.
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Achane’s go-ahead score came on a play where he darted left, nearly tripped over one of his own blockers, broke a tackle and then got loose down the sideline. The Aggies got a fourth-down stop on the ensuing possession, and Achane sealed the win on a 1-yard run with 1:34 left.
Sam Howell passed for 234 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to Josh Downs, for the Tar Heels (8-4). North Carolina was without leading rushers Javonte Williams and Michael Carter, leading receiver Dyami Brown and top tackler Chazz Surratt — all of whom opted out of the bowl game.
It was a tough end to the season for the ACC, which sent two teams to the four-team College Football Playoff, yet still had a winless postseason by a combined 223-152 count. N.C. State lost 23-21 to Kentucky,
Miami lost 37-34 to Oklahoma State, and the four other games — including losses by Notre Dame and Clemson in the CFP semifinals on Friday — were all decided by two touchdowns or more.
None of the other current Power 5 conferences has ever come close to going 0-6 in a bowl season. The last winless ACC bowl season was 1983, when the conference went 0-2.
Howell tied North Carolina’s career TD passing record of 68 with his three scoring throws, all of which gave the Tar Heels leads.
The first saw Dazz Newsome make a diving 28-yard grab with 4:56 left in the half to put the Tar Heels ahead 13-10. The next was a 10-yarder to Downs with 8:01 left in the third for a 20-17 lead, a drive extended when Texas A&M had an interception in the end zone waved off by penalty. And the third was a 75-yarder to Downs early in the fourth, when Howell saw him break free, point to him and let the ball fly.
Every time, though, Texas A&M answered.
A 3-yard run by Isaiah Spiller with 20 seconds left in the half sent the Aggies into the locker room up 17-13, and a chip-shot field goal by Seth Small tied the game at 20 with 14:02 remaining. Mond had a 4-yard scoring run with 10:11 left.
The rest was up to Achane, and the Aggies ended their season on an eight-game win streak.
Texas A&M: Mond’s rushing score was the 93rd touchdown he was responsible for at Texas A&M, tying Johnny Manziel’s school record. Achane finished with 140 yards rushing, a stellar end to his freshman season.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels gave up 24 points in the fourth quarter, after allowing just 17 points in the first 45 minutes. It was a difficult end for a defense that forced five three-and-outs.
At worst, Texas A&M should remain No. 5 and match its best AP poll finish since finishing No. 1 in 1939 (joining No. 5 rankings to end the 1956 and 2012 seasons). North Carolina still could finish ranked for only the fourth time in the last 27 seasons.
Of the 25 bowl games played so far, the ACC and Conference USA have had the losing team in 48% of them. Like the ACC, C-USA also went 0-6 this bowl season.
Texas A&M: Scheduled to open 2021 against Kent State on Sept. 4.
North Carolina: An ACC opponent likely awaits in Week 1 next season. The Tar Heels’ first non-ACC game is currently set for Sept. 11 against Georgia State.