Giovani Bernard attains legendary status
Posted October 28, 2012
Updated October 30, 2012
With the NC State Wolfpack facing a 3rd and 13 from their own 22-yard line, North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora walked over to Roy Smith, a sophomore wide receiver who also returns punts for the Tar Heels. Fedora leaned in, as though to whisper some words of encouragement to Smith, but instead must have told the kid to take a load off. It had to go something like, "hey Roy, we're going to force these guys to punt, and when we do, we're going to let Gio try and win it for us right here."
Well, they did.
And, so did Giovani Bernard.
Bernard trotted out onto the field, set up near the 35-yard line and awaited the Will Baumann punt. At that moment, Bernard had returned 11 punts on the season for an impressive 176 yards and a touchdown. At that moment it was hard to believe that NC State would give the most dangerous -- and the best -- player in the Atlantic Coast Conference a chance to make something happen. At that moment, with the Pack apparently content with overtime, it was hard to imagine a kick anywhere near the player with more than 900 yards from scrimmage in the last four games AND a 16-yard average this season on punt returns.
Use your imagination.
Bernard caught the punt, backpedaling near the 25-yard line, right at the ACC logo in front of the Tar Heels bench and rolled to the right. From there, all that was left was the real estate. Carolina's punt return team blocked it beautifully, and Gio streaked down the right sideline and into the annals of this century-old rivalry with a 73-yard, game-winning, losing streak-snapping touchdown.
The play really sums up everything you need to know about Bernard. Every single time he touches the ball you get the feeling that it could end with cannon fire. The only thing really surprising about Bernard's touchdown was that he ever had the chance to do it.
Team of the Week
(No Stephen A. hi-jinx here, kids)
North Carolina was in full meltdown mode. Fresh off allowing Duke to drive the length of the field in the final minutes a week prior, the Heels were staring at a 10-point deficit with about 12 minutes to go. Keep in mind, that this was a game in which the Tar Heels led 25-7 in the 1st quarter. Maybe someone whispered that to the offense, because the 9-play 74 yard drive for the touchdown brought the lead down to just a field goal and helped Carolina regain their equilibrium. The rest, well you know how it ended. Cannons blasting.
Player of the Week
With apologies to the school record for single-game touchdown passes for Clemson QB Tahj Boyd, and the 200+ yard receiving night for the Tigers' Sammy Watkins. Giovani Bernard, the soon-to-be ACC player of the year, blew up for 304 all-purpose yards in the Heels 43-35 win over NC State. 135 and a pair of touchdowns on the ground, 95 on eight catches and then there was the punt return. Have you heard about Bernard's punt return? I think it might be available on You Tube.
Unsung player of the Week
It's been a tough year for the North Carolina defense. Kevin Reddick, the Heels' senior linebacker who is a legitimate NFL prospect, has not taken to the new scheme very well and his draft stock has suffered. But, when his team needed him the most, Reddick delivered. Two huge 4th quarter sacks, the second coming on the first play of NC State's final drive which ultimately led to Bernard's heroics. That's worth some recognition, if you ask me.
Moment of the Week
You probably didn't even see it. In fact, it didn't even happen in the ACC. South Carolina tailback Marcus Lattimore suffered a gruesome leg injury in the Gamecocks win over Tennessee. It's actually his second serious injury in college and brings into serious doubt whether he'll be able to have an NFL career. As I was watching the medical personnel cart Lattimore off the field and into a waiting ambulance I couldn't help but think about Giovani Bernard's future. Now, don't accuse me of saying that an education isn't important, but if Gio Bernard isn't in the 2013 NFL draft, I'm going to find him and fight him.
Top to Bottom of the Week
1-Florida State (8-1)…You expected something other than a 6-touchdown win over Duke?
2-Clemson (7-1)…You expected something other than a 4-touchdown win over Wake?
3-North Carolina (6-3)…Wait, how did this team lose to Duke and Wake again?
4-Duke (6-3)…Yeah, well, they're still bowl eligible.
5-NC State (5-3)…The lucky bounce off the College Park upright apparently came with a price.
6-Miami (4-4)…The Hurricanes slept in advance of their Thursday game with Virginia Tech.
7-Virginia Tech (4-4)…The Hokies slept in advance of their Thursday game with Miami.
8-Maryland (4-4)…Should tell you everything about the ACC that the team who gave BC their first 1-A win is 8th.
9-Wake Forest (4-4)…Got thumped by Clemson, but it wasn't as bad as Georgia Tech.
10-Georgia Tech (3-5)…I thought the defense was supposed to improve with Grumpy Al Groh gone.
11-Boston College (2-6)…Finally beat a team from the lower 48. Never mind, Maine IS in the continental US.
12-Virginia (2-6)…Nearly lost again, but the Bye missed 4 field goals.
Three to watch….of the Week
3-Clemson at Duke, 7:30/ESPN2…Blue Devils need the bye week, instead get Sammy Watkins at Wallace Wade.
2-Georgia Tech at Maryland, 12:30/laptop…Let's face it, this isn't a great week.
1-Virginia Tech at Miami, 7:30/ESPN (Thurs)…Oh I believe in yesterday. Suddenly, they're not half the teams they used to be.