CHAPEL HILL – After watching his quarterback, Bryn Renner, throw him a lead block 20 yards down field, North Carolina running back Giovanni Bernard said he probably owes his roommate dinner.
More than likely, Bernard would be willing to buy his offensive line a meal or two after Saturday.
But the way Bernard ran against Virginia Tech, those six players might want to treat him to an expensive surf and turf – like lobster and kobe beef.
Bernard ran for a career-high 262 yards as North Carolina knocked off Virginia Tech, 48-34, at Kenan Stadium. It was the first time the Tar Heels have beaten the Hokies at home since 1938, and the first Atlantic Coast
Conference win in Larry Fedora’s coaching career.
“It just shows everybody that I can do what I know I can do,” said Bernard, who didn’t know his rushing total until after the game.
And a win against Virginia Tech (3-3, 1-1 ACC), which lost an ACC game in the state of North Carolina for the first time in school history, shows many people what the Tar Heels (3-3, 1-1) can do.
“This is a great measuring stick for us,” Fedora said. “This is Virginia Tech. They’ve dominated the Coastal Division. We needed to go out and play a complete game.”
But the way things started, North Carolina was proving that it didn’t belong. Bernard rushed for minus-3 yards in the first quarter, and the Tar Heels, who finished with the most single-game points in series history with Virginia Tech, were penalized for 40 yards before gaining a yard on offense.
After three drives, North Carolina had no yards of total offense.
“We made plays when we had to make plays,” Fedora said. “... What our guys did, they never blinked in the face of adversity.”
Bernard, who set the highest mark in school history with his 11.4 yards per carry Saturday, gained his first yard on the Tar Heels’ fourth drive.
On the fifth drive, Fedora turned to his running back and asked him to pick up six inches on fourth-and-short.
Bernard promised him more. Six yards after taking the handoff from Renner, Bernard was alone. Sixty-two yards later, he was in the end zone with his teammates.
“That’s Gio,” Fedora said. “... I don’t think he ever worried about it. I worry about it a lot more than he does.”
At one point midway through the game, Bernard had nine carries of at least 10 yards on 11 consecutive touches.
Bernard, who became the first North Carolina running back to rush for more than 200 yards since 2003, finished with the sixth-highest single-game total in school history and the most ever against Virginia Tech for any team.
“He’s going to make some plays,” Fedora said. “He’s going to make a lot of plays. ... If you don’t get on him right now, he (has) got a chance to take it the distance.”
Bernard wasn’t the only one making a statement. North Carolina, which allowed its first touchdown at home this season, did so as a team.
“We just had so many playmakers out there (Saturday),” Bernard said. “It’s tough to stop that many playmakers out there. It’s tough for a team to slow down so many playmakers, and that’s what we have.”
The Tar Heels scored the most points on Virginia Tech by any team since 2007. Sean Tapley’s first career kickoff return touchdown in the first quarter also was the first on the Hokies since 1993 – a span of 237 consecutive games.
North Carolina finished with 337 rushing yards, the third-most ever allowed by Virginia Tech, and gained more than 500 yards of total offense for the second consecutive game.
The Tar Heels scored at least 45 points in back-to-back games for the first time since 1993.
“We just have to keep continuing to do what we do,” Bernard said.
Justin Hite can be reached at 407-9951 or firstname.lastname@example.org