RALEIGH – Without a chance to review the game film, North Carolina interim head coach Everett Withers said he couldn’t shed too much light on why his team was shutout 13-0 by in-state rival North Carolina State University on Saturday.
But running back Giovani Bernard didn’t need the game film to point out some things he thought led to offensive deficiency.
“I didn’t feel right going into the game,” he said. “I felt guys were just joking around, not taking this game seriously. I knew guys were just not really focusing. … Even the small things that really shut the offense down, I think it was just a matter of that.”
The Tar Heels’ first play from scrimmage was a 13-yard rush by Bernard, and redshirt sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner followed that with a 10-yard completion to Dwight Jones.
After that, UNC ran 27 plays for a combined nine yards to finish out the first half.
Chalk it up to a combination of defensive pressure by N.C. State’s front seven and, somewhat the result of good secondary play by the Wolfpack. But Bernard said N.C. State’s defense didn’t do anything UNC hadn’t seen before.
“It was really nothing that they were doing different. I think it was just a matter of our mindsets going into the game,” Bernard said. “You know, I think a lot of guys looked at their record and thought that, ‘OK, their record isn’t as good as ours, they’re not going to be as good as us.’
“Coming into a rivalry game like this, the record doesn’t really matter. I think it’s about heart, and the score showed they had more heart than us.”
And N.C. State’s record clearly didn’t matter Saturday. Offensive guard Jonathan Cooper said the Wolfpack was one of the best teams North Carolina played this season.
N.C. State’s intention was to stop North Carolina’s running game and put pressure on Renner, Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien said.
It did both.
Bernard picked up 47 yards on the ground — just enough to make him UNC’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 1997.
But as a team, the Tar Heels rushed for three yards after one rush and three Renner sacks combined for a loss of 47 yards.
And the passing game was even sloppier. Renner played about three quarters after missing some time in the first half with a left shoulder injury and then leaving at the end of the third quarter with concussion-like symptoms after being sacked for 12 yards.
But in that time, he went 9-for-17 for 76 yards and two interceptions.
“I think we hit (Renner) more than we’ve gotten to a quarterback all season,” O’Brien said.
Braden Hanson entered the game in Renner’s place and played slightly better, connecting on 7-of-13 passes for 86 yards and an interception.
The only spark of offense UNC had — a 75-yard touchdown pass to Jones — was called back on a holding call. Beyond that, UNC never made it in the red zone, let alone the end zone.
The last time this senior class scored on N.C. State was Nov. 20, 2010, and it’ll go down as the second consecutive senior class to go winless against the Wolfpack.
“I feel sorry for the seniors. Those guys never beat them,” UNC junior linebacker Kevin Reddick said.
“That’s kind of harsh. It’s going to be eating them for the rest of their lives, probably.”
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