Sean Tapley's 94-yard kickoff return for touchdown delivered a positive on special teams; penalties and a turnover counted as negatives.READ MORE »
Offensive Options on Display
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – “C’mon Coach,” Jon Cooper urged head coach Larry Fedora, along with his counterparts on the offensive line. “Just give us a chance, let’s run the ball, it’s fourth-and-one. Just give us the opportunity.”
They made the most of that opportunity, as the fake sneak from Bryn Renner turned into a 62-yard touchdown romp by Gio Bernard. They went for it, and never looked back.
“Really I was going to punt the ball,” head coach Larry Fedora said. “Then the offensive line, they’re cranking on me about ‘Let’s run it, let’s go for it,’ and then I was mad we didn’t get it on third down. The more time I had to think about it, it was more about, if we’re going to win this football game we need to be aggressive.”
Bernard, who would run around, over, and through the Virginia Tech defense all afternoon, finished with 221 net yards rushing. It was a marquee performance by a marquee player, and while Bernard was the main event of North Carolina’s offense, the entire offense played well after a jittery start to the game.
“All credit goes to the offensive line,” Bernard said. “They protected both me and Bryn tremendously today, and it showed out there.”
After getting a couple of three-and-outs behind them early, the offense was keyed by an offensive line that dominated the way they were projected to dominate in the preseason, the offense went for it all day, on their way to 48 points, the most points scored on Virginia Tech since 2007 against a powerful LSU team.
“Those five guys played their rear ends off today,” Fedora said. “They blitzed a lot. They came after us, played zero coverage, and our guys kept Bryn up and did an unbelievable job blocking in the run game.”
“They had great confidence, they felt like their tempo was really good, and they were like, ‘Coach, they are sucking air, we’ve just got to keep rolling, keep rolling,’ – that light is coming on in their head about the tempo, about what it can do to a defense.”
Even though things weren’t open in the passing game for quarterback Bryn Renner most of the day, he still finished 17 of 30 for 194 yards, one passing touchdown, and one rushing touchdown. Most importantly, he took care of the ball – no interceptions, no fumbles.
Then there were what appeared to be playmaker after playmaker – Quinshad Davis, A.J. Blue, Sean Tapley and his 94-yard kick return, Erik Highsmith and Eric Erbron – a variety of weapons in the offense.
“We’ve got some guys, that if you get the ball to them, they’re going to be able to make some plays for us,” Fedora said. “That’s the thing that Bryn is starting to understand in this offense, that he doesn’t have to make every play, all he’s got do to distribute the ball where it’s supposed to go.”
“There was a series when we took it down and scored where probably about three calls that we made that there was really not a place to go, and Bryn made a place. He found somebody and got the ball to them,” Fedora said.
There were other superlatives – the Tar Heels were a perfect 4-for-4 in scoring touchdowns in the red zone against a team that previously had given up only eight touchdowns in their previous five games.
“That was huge,” Fedora said. “That’s something we were struggling with a little bit in the past few weeks as far as finishing drives off. That was one of our keys to victory this week was ‘finishing.’ Finishing the play, finishing the drive, finish in the end zone and not kick field goals.”
It all added up to the most points scored against Virginia Tech by any conference team since they joined the league, and doubled North Carolina’s previous high of 24 points against Virginia Tech as an ACC member.
“That’s just a great overall effort by our offensive line, our tight end, our receivers, our running backs, our quarterback, our offensive staff – they did a tremendous job, they really did," Fedora said.
The Tar Heels offensive production on the stat sheet has been called into question because the bulk of it has come against less-than-stellar competition. Putting 48 points on Virginia Tech shows that this offense has taken a step forward, is developing an identity, and isn’t afraid to “go for it.”