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The Daily Tar Heel

Bernard ends N.C. State's streak

The Tar Heels beat N.C. State 43-35

Giovani Bernard heads down field during the first half. Bernard scored two touchdowns for the Tar Heels.
Giovani Bernard heads down field during the first half. Bernard scored two touchdowns for the Tar Heels.

After five consecutive losses, the streak is finally over.

With one thunderous punt return in the final 30 seconds of the game with N.C. State, Giovani Bernard broke the tie to give the North Carolina football team a 43-35 win.

“I was crying,” Bernard said. “As soon as the punt return happened I started crying on the way to the endzone. Walking into the locker room after, I saw guys crying. It was different from last year and the years before when guys were crying because of sadness. This year you could tell they were happy, tears of joy. It was just an amazing feeling.”

The Wolfpack (5-3, 2-2) was forced to punt the ball back to the Tar Heels with thirty seconds on the clock after the North Carolina defense forced a crucial three and out. UNC had tied the game at 35 on the previous possession with a 34-yard field goal from Casey Barth.

Bernard, who was dealing with an injury to his right ankle, waived off the back-up returner Roy Smith and took it himself. He caught the punt on the 26-yard-line and made his move towards the N.C. State sideline.

“To my right, that’s where the players were supposed to go, I saw all dark blue jerseys so I knew I had a wall coming back at me,” Bernard said. “I saw one of my guys and I just started yelling, ‘Go, go, go, go, go.’ He was able to block the punter and I was able to outrun the last guy. I still can’t believe it, I’m still shaking right now. After that I started crying, I couldn’t hold my emotions back.”

North Carolina jumped out early on the Wolfpack and held a 15-0 lead in the first quarter after a couple of trick plays opened up the field for the Tar Heels. The second UNC touchdown was a 45-yard run from Erik Highsmith on a reverse play.

Bernard had two rushing touchdowns in the first quarter as well and after the first 15 minutes, UNC held a 25-14 lead. But the Wolfpack was already putting together its charge.

N.C. State’s defense kept the Tar Heels scoreless throughout both the second and third quarters and allowed their quarterback Mike Glennon to string together four unanswered touchdowns. On the day Glennon threw for 467 yards on 29 completions in 52 attempts.

“We talked about during the week that it didn’t matter what happened in the first couple plays of the game,” Fedora said, “doesn’t matter what happens in the second quarter or the third quarter. It was going to come down to the last possession. We really believe that and the kids bought into that…that’s the reason we won this football game because they believed that.”

When it mattered most, in the final ten minutes of the ballgame, the Tar Heels outscored N.C. State 18-0 with the help of two nine-play drives and Bernard’s return. And while Glennon put up the bigger numbers and dropped a couple of long bombs on the UNC secondary, Renner had the more efficient day.

The redshirt junior quarterback went 30-for-47 for 358 yards. His most lethal target, not surprisingly was Bernard. The tailback hauled in eight catches for 95 yards in addition to his 135 rushing yards. With the punt return, he finished with more than 300 all-purpose yards.

“I don’t even have the words to describe how good a player he is,” Renner said of his tailback and roommate. “As a team, we’re very blessed to have him on our team. He’s been doing it all year and he’s very humble. Honestly, the play he just made is unbelievable. Unbelievable.”

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