EL PASO — John Mackovic saw his hopes of rekindling the Texas Longhorns' winning bowl tradition in the hands of Priest Holmes. And at the end, Mackovic was smiling.
Holmes concluded a four-touchdown performance with a somersaulting five-yard run that gave Texas (8-4) a 35-31 victory over No. 19-ranked North Carolina (8-4) Friday in the Sun Bowl.
"He was up there in the stratosphere," Mackovic said of the final scoring run, which capped Texas' comeback from a 31-21 deficit.
When Holmes came down in the end zone, the Texas coach had his first bowl victory with the Longhorns.
Texas, making its 35th bowl appearance, got victory No. 17. But this was the Longhorns' first bowl game since 1991 and only their third in the last nine years. "We're happy to have a new trophy for our case," Mackovic said.
Holmes, voted the game's MVP, turned in his best performance of the year as he rushed 27 times for 161 yards against a defense that had been giving up an average of 115.2 yards on the ground.
With less than two minutes remaining, Holmes launched into the air at about the four, was hit by Tar Heel defenders but tumbled head over heels into the end zone.
"I didn't know where I was when I jumped," said Holmes, who tied Thurman Thomas' 1987 record for most rushing touchdowns in a Sun Bowl game.
The Longhorns gained 229 yards on the ground, and James Brown passed for 196 yards, completing 15 of 31 with one interception.