Art's Angle: All White Is All Right
White was sure right Saturday, as Carolina kicked old nemesis Virginia Tech around antiseptic Kenan Stadium for a signature win that pretty much showed us the full measure of Larry Fedora’s football program.
The less-than-capacity crowd made enough white noise so it seemed full, increasing the decibel as the slow-starting Tar Heels followed three straight three-and-outs and a Virginia Tech touchdown with Sean Tapley’s 94-yard kickoff return to the White House that tied the game. From there, all those Marooned in the northeast corner had little to cheer about.
Since it was the first such score given up by the vaunted Beamer Ball special teams since 1993, 237 games ago, they kind of knew there was more white lighting to come. Giovani Bernard lost three yards in the first quarter, then gained 265 over the last three to pass names like Voight, Means and Bryant as the 5th highest single-game rusher in UNC history.
Sure there was sloppy play and eight penalties in the first period alone by the amped-up Heels, who relinquished a 93-yard kickoff return and several long bombs of their own. But where the Hokies usually excel, on the ground, they were limited to 40 yards all sun-splashed afternoon. Go figure.
Carolina has now rung up its first consecutive 45-point games since 1993, when Mack Brown had his program smoking. And although it was 66 last week, Virginia Tech ain’t no Idaho. Any time you can manhandle a Bud Foster defense like the White Phantoms did, you’ve had a good day at the office. Make that a great day.
The Tar Heels remain unbeaten at home in Fedora’s freshman season, but they finally gave up a touchdown in their own house – four, as a matter of record. But they still own the cumulative third quarter (83-6) and second-half (119-24) scores. And they’re getting better in the first half, leading 28-20 at the break that should have been more lopsided but for Bernard’s bobble of a punt near mid-field. Since there has been so much talk of academics lately, it was Gio’s only “F” of an otherwise straight-A day.
The human bowling ball from Florida, where he’ll go home to Saturday against Miami, may be the most versatile player Carolina has ever had. He’s both a finesse and ferocious runner, has great hands to snag Bryn Renner’s passes and is dangerous from anywhere on the field as long as Coach Larry leaves him in the game, which was almost till the happy ending of the Great White Out that was more like a Wipe Out.
Gio’s first 62 yards came on the first snap of the second quarter on a bit of chicanery from Fedora and O-coordinator Blake Anderson, who say they were talked into it by the offense during the timeout between quarters. Facing a 4th-and-1 from their own 38, play resumed with both the offensive unit and the punting team standing on the field near the home sideline. Would they try a hard count to draw the Hokies off side and then punt, or just kick it away with the score tied at 14?
When the whistle blew, the punting team jumped back out of bounds, and the offense sprinted right to the line of scrimmage, as the Hokies bunched everyone in the box to stop whatever was coming. Fedora must have some nickname for the play, like Sprint or Scram or Hiccup.
I would call it SUCKER. The moment the offense was set, Russell Bodine snapped the ball to Renner, who handed it to Gio off left tackle. With tight end Jack Tabb sealing the edge, Bernard bolted through the stunned defense and was in the end zone before the Hokies knew what the hell happened.
The Virginia Tech dam was leaking and it burst in the third quarter when linebacker Travis Hughes stripped the runner and returned the ball eight yards. A few snaps later, Renner hit Tapley with his second score down the left sideline. All White was All Right from there to the alma mater in front of the Tar Pit and into the tunnel.
Here are a few more numbers from the 48-34 whitening of Virginia Tech:
- Most points against the Hokies since 42 in the 1998 Gator Bowl (Brown’s last team, although Mack was already unpacking in Texas).
- In what is generally a drudgery game, most combined points since a 39-21 score in 1930, the last decade Carolina beat VaTech at home.
- The 339 yards rushing was Carolina’s most since 341 against Bill & Mary in 2004. The school record by the way is 555 against Virginia in 1943. So, clearly, the Heels love to run wild over institutions from Thomas Jefferson’s state.
- Bernard’s sick 11.4 average-per-carry set another school record, beating out Kelvin Bryant’s 11.1 against East Carolina (which began this three-game home winning streak) in 1981.
- And Renner’s two more touchdown passes in not even two full seasons gives him 41, passing four-year QBs Jason Stanicek and Ronald Curry on the hit list.
- Oh, yes, Casey Barth made it 153 straight PATs and increased his UNC-record to 60 field goals with two more that split the uprights, politically correctly booting one into the Tar Pit net and the other into the Blue Zone (which actually had people there for most of the game).