Behind 262 rushing yards from running back Giovani Bernard, the North Carolina Tar Heels pummeled the Virginia Tech Hokies 48-34.
Following last week’s 27-24 loss at the hands of Cincinnati, the Hokies again struggled to put together a complete performance.
Bud Foster’s defense, which entered the season with high expectations, allowed 533 total yards to the Tar Heels, including 339 yards rushing.
“It was a long day at the office,” Foster said. “I thought our tackling was pitiful, and the perimeter tackling was just awful.”
Bernard, who had a career day, gave all the credit to the offensive line.
“All credit goes to the offensive line,” Bernard said. “They protected me and Bryn (Renner) tremendously today and it showed out there.”
The Hokies got off to their best start of the season in the first quarter, using a 19-yard reception by Dyrell Roberts to set up a 13-yard Logan Thomas rushing touchdown.
However, on the ensuing kickoff, North Carolina’s Sean Tapley swung momentum back to the Tar Heels, as he returned the kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown.
The defense failed to hold any lead Thomas and the offense gave them.
“They’ve done it for us plenty of times, so we understand,” Thomas said. “We need to put a complete game together, offense and defense and special teams. If we can do that, we’ll be a pretty good team.”
The Tar Heels entered the game with a prolific offense, but what the Hokies saw caught them off guard.
“(I was) pretty surprised,” said Antone Exum. “I'm disappointed with how we came out and performed, just together, as a defense. We knew that they had the talent all along, but it's pretty disappointing to go out and execute like that.”
Bernard’s 262 yards on the ground is the most ever by an opposing running back in the Beamer era. The previous high was 241 yards by Wake Forest’s Josh Harris in 2010.
“They’ve got some skilled guys,” said Frank Beamer. “(Bernard) had 262 yards today. That doesn’t happen against Virginia Tech very much.”
After a first quarter that took over an hour to play, North Carolina began the second quarter facing fourth-and-one on their own 38-yard line. Quarterback Bryn Renner hurried to the line out of the timeout, and Bernard took the handoff 62 yards for a touchdown.
“I thought we had a good plan, and we’ve just got to make plays in space,” Foster said. “That’s what we’re not doing. We’re not making plays in space. Our defense is designed, and most defenses are designed, to have a free hitter. When you have your free hitter there, you’d like him to make the play. Right now we’re not making that play. We’re missing that and it’s going for big plays after that.”
Tech trailed by eight points at the half, but Carolina wasn’t done with their offensive onslaught. Tapley and A.J. Blue scored third quarter touchdowns on the way to the most points allowed by the Hokies in an ACC game.
“To be honest, I'm not really discouraged at all,” Exum said. “I just feel like there are things that we need to put together, as a defense, as an offense. I will say, the offense really played their butts off today and we didn't step it up. We'll look at it on film and we'll get better from there and get on it next week.”
The Hokies’ 3-3 start is their worst since the start of their 19-year bowl game streak.
“It's tough,” said Bruce Taylor. “I've never been on a losing team before. Right now we're at .500. It's definitely tough. We've got to come back next weekend and try to fix it before it's too late.”
Beamer and the Hokies return home next weekend for a homecoming matchup with Duke. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. on the ACC Network.