Saturday, October 27, 2012
Gio Bernard lifts Heels to win over NCSU
By Heather Dinich
The hex is over.
Giovani Bernard's campaign for ACC Player of the Year, though, is just beginning.
In Saturday's 43-35 win over rival NC State, Bernard changed the game and the ACC race with one highlight reel play. With 13 seconds left on the clock and the game tied at 35, Bernard made his case for frontrunner for ACC Player of the Year when he returned a punt 73 yards for what would be the game-winning touchdown. Bernard got a few key blocks from his teammates, freeing him up down the sideline, but his vision and speed took advantage of the holes. The score snapped a five-game losing streak to the Wolfpack, and significantly hurt NC State's chances of playing for the ACC title.
Despite NC State's improbable upset of Florida State on Oct. 6, the Wolfpack have now fallen behind in the Atlantic Division standings with two losses. Florida State and Clemson remain the teams to beat as long as they can hang on to one-loss seasons. NC State still has to face Clemson on Nov. 17. NC State couldn't overcome four turnovers and at least seven drops, but in the end it was Bernard that was the difference with the game on the line.
North Carolina has relished the role of spoiler this season, and Bernard helped the Tar Heels do it again with 135 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He also had eight catches for 95 yards, despite taking several hard hits in the game.
The Tar Heels can't play in the postseason, but they can win individual awards, and right now, Bernard should be leading that race.