Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - T.J. Yates led 18th-ranked North Carolina to a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns and nearly a third on the final play of the game, but it wasn't enough for the short-handed Tar Heels, as No. 21 LSU barely held on for a 30-24 win at the Georgia Dome.
The Heels were without 13 players for the season-opener. Seven of those were for violations of school or NCAA rules and six others were kept out while the investigation continues into possible violations of North Carolina law involving sports agents.
Yates had over 400 yards passing, with over half of that being reeled in by Jheranie Boyd, but the Tigers (1-0) were able to thwart final pass to the end zone.
It all seemed lost for the Tar Heels (0-1) after Yates was sacked from the blind side by Tyrann Mathieu, and the Tigers recovered at the UNC 39 with 1 1/2 minutes left. But Stevan Ridley fumbled the ball away on third down, giving UNC life again.
Boyd made a key 21-yard catch, and Yates followed that with a 20-yarder to the sideline for Joshua Adams. A nine-yard connection to senior tight end Zack Pianalto put the ball at the six with six seconds left. The two tried hooking up again in the back of the end zone, but Pianalto couldn't hold on.
That gave Yates a last try with two seconds left. He looked for Pianalto over the middle, just over the goal line, but the pass fell incomplete as linebacker Stefoin Francois impeded the tight end's progress with his left hand. Yates motioned for a penalty flag, but none came and LSU coach Les Miles breathed a sigh of relief.