Dec. 28, 2013 @ 06:53 PM

A season that once appeared lost ended in joyous fashion for North Carolina on Saturday at Bank of America Stadium.

The Tar Heels lost five of their first six games this season, but rallied with one loss in their final seven games, capping the run with a resounding 39-17 win over the Cincinnati Bearcats (9-4) in the Belk Bowl

The win allowed the Tar Heels (7-6) to finish with a winning record, something that looked nearly impossible when they were 1-5 on Oct. 17.

This is the second bowl win for UNC since 2001. The Tar Heels beat Tennessee in the 2010 Music City Bowl, but their previous bowl win came at the 2001 Peach Bowl in Atlanta.

Ironically, the 2001 UNC team started the season with three consecutive losses before rallying to finish strong to make and win a bowl game.

UNC’s Ryan Switzer won the Jerry Richardson Most Valuable Player Award as the game’s top player. The Tar Heels freshman returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown, his NCAA record-tying fifth punt return for a score this season.

The win was the first in four appearances in Charlotte’s bowl game for UNC. The Tar Heels lost bowl games at Bank of America Stadium in 2004, 2008 and 2009.