Talking points: Bernard breaks streak for Heels
Posted October 27, 2012
Updated October 28, 2012
1. Five straight years of futility against NC State? Gone thanks to Giovani Bernard, who etched his name into rivalry lore with a phenomenal game-winning 74-yard punt return for North Carolina.
Bernard stepped up to the moment after telling Roy Smith, who was initially in position to receive the punt, "let me try to see what I can do on this one." He fielded Will Baumann's punt, got some key blocks, found his final gear and never looked back.
2. Bernard was by far North Carolina's best player Saturday afternoon, finishing with 135 rushing yards on 23 carries and two rushing touchdowns. He also had eight catches for 95 yards. Bernard has racked up 1,498 all-purpose yards and 15 touchdowns in just seven games this season, which puts him in serious contention for ACC Player of the Year.
3. Had Bernard not won the game with his punt return, NC State quarterback Mike Glennon would be getting showered with most of the post-game praise. The fifth-year senior put up Tecmo Bowl-like numbers against the Tar Heels, completing 30 of 52 passes for 469 yards and a school record-tying 5 touchdowns.
Glennon was ultimately undone by his wide receivers, who dropped anywhere between 8 to 10 balls throughout the game. Many of those potential catches could have at least extended drives or broken for possible red zone opportunities. Darien Rankin's interception in the 2nd quarter was a direct result of Rashard Smith not being able to hold on to the ball.
4. Because Glennon was cooking for most of the game, NC State coach Tom O'Brien will be second guessed for going conservative on the Wolfpack's final drive.
Tied at 35 with 1:24 left in the game, Glennon was sacked by Kevin Reddick and NC State faced a 2nd-and-17 on their own 18 yard line. Rather than continue their 2-minute offense to set up a potential game-winning field goal, NC State ran Tony Creecy twice in an effort to burn some clock. The Wolfpack punted with 30 seconds to go and then that whole Bernard thing happened.
Cue the meltdown.
The decision to play for overtime will be viewed as a classic case of playing not to lose, but there was some logic in the choice if one were inclined to defend it. NC State lacked the offensive rhythm from previous quarters. Much of that had to do with North Carolina adjusting defensively. The Tar Heels finally put pressure on Glennon, sacking him earlier in the quarter and hurrying a few throws. So the last thing O'Brien wanted was a punt out of the end zone or worse -- another turnover.
But look at the stark contrast to go conservative at the end when the coaching staff felt the need to keep it aggressive in the previous drive. NC State had notched a first down after three straight rushing attempts by Shadrach Thorton, but got away from the run on subsequent plays. Glennon threw three straight incompletions before Baumann punted the ball back to North Carolina with 4:44 left in the game.
Then there was the punt itself. O'Brien said after the game the intent was to boot it high and force a fair catch, but arm-chair coaches with the benefit of hindsight are screaming Baumann should have been instructed to kick the ball out of bounds.
5. Ultimately it was a game of runs in Chapel HIll. North Carolina ran out to a 15-0 lead in the opening 4 minutes. NC State took a 35-25 lead towards the end of the 3rd quarter after scoring 4 straight touchdowns. The Tar Heels closed out the 4th quarter by outscoring the Wolfpack 18-0.
6. NC State lost control of their ACC destiny with the loss. The Wolfpack will likely have to win out the rest of the season and get some help in the form of a Florida State loss to get back in the division mix.
7. North Carolina unveiled a chrome helmet with light blue tint and a giant Tar Heel emblem on the side to go along with an all navy uniform. Whatever your thoughts on the alternate colors and helmets, keep in mind the modern look was not designed for typical fans. They're meant to grab the attention of recruits.