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Aggies stick it to Tar Heels in Orange Bowl victory

It was closer than many anticipated, but in the end the No. 5 Aggies finish a one-loss season with a major bowl victory.

Texas A&M Aggies running back Devon Achane runs past North Carolina Tar Heels defensive back Cam’Ron Kelly for a 76-yard touchdown during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium.  Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 5 Texas A&M Aggies picked up the first New Year’s Six bowl victory with a 41-27 win over a shorthanded No. 13 North Carolina Tar Heels in the 2021 Orange Bowl on Saturday night in Miami Gardens, Florida.

The Aggies closed as 10-point favorites at DraftKings Sportsbook, and the total of 65.5 came through on a touchdown by running back Devon Achane, capping off a huge day from one-yard out with 1:34 remaining to give the over-bettor public a victory.

The star for Texas A&M (10-1) was Achane, who rushed for 12 carries and 140 yards with two touchdowns. His backfield mate Isaiah Spiller added 11 carries for 50 yards and a score as well. Quarterback Kellen Mond is likely off to the NFL with a big win in his last game, going 16-26 for 232 yard, adding 36 yards and a touchdown.

UNC (8-4) quarterback Sam Howell was 18-31 for 234 yards and three touchdowns with an interception, and despite missing multiple pass catchers still was able to be effective. Senior Dazz Newsome (six catches, 68 yards, 1 TD) and freshman Josh Downs (four catches, 91 yards, 2 TD) stepped into the void at wide receiver admirably, but the offense managed just 5.0 yards per play and a mere 2.6 yards per rush.

The win will have people continuing to question whether a three-loss UNC should have been included in the New Year’s Six, but the shorthanded roster made this a tough game to evaluate. UNC returns plenty of talent for next season, and should be in the mix in the Coastal (re: non-Clemson) Division of the league.

But the folks at the Orange Bowl might want to work on their marketing to folks in the Sunshine State posthaste: