With all the speed his 4-year-old legs could muster, Dwight Jones’ son sprinted out to greet his father on the field during the recognition of the seniors before North Carolina’s 37-21 win against Duke.
Each of the 17 seniors had members of their families waiting for them near the home sideline as they came out of the tunnel one by one. But one youngster couldn’t wait for his dad to get there, so he ran and jumped into Jones’ arms.
Jones went on to catch 10 passes — three of them for touchdowns — on Senior Day, but catching his oldest child might have been the snag with the most sentimental value.
“I asked him how many touchdowns he wanted me to score,” Jones said. “Every game he wants me to score some touchdowns for him and he gets mad when I don’t. I was fine to give him three touchdowns, so hopefully he’s going to be very happy.”
With 11 touchdowns this season, Jones hasn’t given his son many opportunities to be mad at him.
Not only did he score three times on Saturday, Jones’ final catch of the game was his 79th on the year — a new school record. Also, his career total of 2,086 receiving yards makes him one of just seven Tar Heels to eclipse that mark.
“We just wanted to give him a good Senior Day,” quarterback Bryn Renner said, “and try to work other people the ball but really Dwight is a special player. (He) set the record for receptions in a season. He’s a special player. It’s not hard to throw him the ball because he’s always going to catch it.”
Interim coach Everett Withers agreed that Jones was a special player to have on the team and said that his attitude and determination had become very evident in the waning weeks of the season.
“Every day we go in that locker room, Dwight’s the guy,” Withers said. “Dwight has become the guy in that locker room. He doesn’t say a whole lot but when Dwight talks there’s a lot of people in that locker room listening.”
But breaking records wasn’t just reserved for seniors as the Tar Heels bested Duke to keep the victory bell for the eighth straight time.
Freshman running back Giovani Bernard had the most productive day of his career with 165 yards on 30 carries. Bernard rushed for 1,222 yards this year, the most by a freshman in school history.
Bernard accounted for the one touchdown not scored by Jones as he gave the Tar Heels a 20-7 lead in the second quarter on a 48-yard run.
Both Bernard and Jones had more than 1,000 yards a piece before Saturday’s game, making UNC (7-5, 3-5 ACC) one of four schools in the country to have both a 1,000 yard rusher and receiver this year. The other three schools were No. 4 Oklahoma State, No. 22 Notre Dame and California.
That versatility, which was on display against the Blue Devils, is a cornerstone in North Carolina’s offensive scheme.
“That’s key for us, any time teams have to be aware of the run and the pass,” Renner said. “We can hand it to Gio and throw it to Dwight — it’s really something that we try to work on every day. We’re blessed to have both those guys.”
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