By Eddy Landreth
Carolina opened a new era in football with a superb effort in both the execution of its schemes and the passion with which it played the game.
The Tar Heels rolled across Elon, 62-0, but now UNC must go on the road and begin the conference season in Winston-Salem against Wake Forest (1-0).
Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.
â€œAll conference games are difficult,â€ first-year UNC coach Larry Fedora said. â€œThey have the most meaning. That is everybodyâ€™s goal in every league, to win their league. There is a familiarity amongst the players because they have played before.
â€œThere is more weight involved, and they will be a better opponent.â€
Carolina will be tested at a far greater level on Saturday. UNC will learn how well it can perform against an ACC opponent.
From the Tar Heelsâ€™ perspective, one of the players on whom the focus will settle is redshirt sophomore running back Giovani Bernard.
Bernard scored three touchdowns in three different ways â€“ including a 70-yard score in his debut as a punt returner â€“ by early in the second quarter against Elon.
He ran for 93 yards on nine carries from scrimmage, caught a TD pass and returned the punt. In all, he gained 100 yards in punt returns, which included a fair catch on his first attempt.
But he sat out part of the second quarter and the entire second half with some type of injury or soreness. Fedora will not discuss injuries or allow his players to do so. Bernard simply said he was OK and ready to go.
One thing he accomplished was returning punts for the first time in his career.
â€œIt was a little different for me,â€ Bernard said. â€œThe first time, as soon as the guy kicked the ball, I fair caught it. I just wanted to get a catch under my belt.
â€œRight before the third punt, coach said, â€˜You can take this back if you want,â€™ joking around. I said, â€˜You know what? Watch this.â€™â€
Then he did it.
Even his teammates were amazed by what Bernard accomplished.
â€œItâ€™s unbelievable,â€ quarterback Bryn Renner said. â€œWeâ€™re roommates now. I woke up [on Sunday] after the game and thought, â€˜I donâ€™t know how he did it.â€™
â€œHeâ€™s so humble, he doesnâ€™t want to talk about it that much, but I told him, â€˜You know what you did in a quarter of play?â€™ I wanted to make him talk about it because what he did was unbelievable.â€
Bernard said that the Tar Heels want to show what they did against Elon is genuine.
â€œWe want to continue,â€ Bernard said. â€œWe want to show we are a top-notch team, not just against an Elon-type of team. We want to show everyone we can play with the top dogs.â€
The offense ran a bland game plan, Fedora said after the Elon victory. That will begin to change this week.
â€œWe want to add different things every week,â€ Renner said. â€œWe donâ€™t want to stay the same. We want to get better. As far as execution, we did have a basic game plan.
â€œWeâ€™ll put a lot more stuff in for Wake Forest this week, and that is going to continue as the season progresses. Weâ€™re going to add different nuances. But we want to execute, and that takes a good week of practice for that to happen.â€
The defense will try to come as close as possible to the same result, which was the schoolâ€™s first shutout since 1999. But Wake Forest will make the Tar Heelsâ€™ job far more difficult.
â€œWe didnâ€™t have very many mental busts,â€ defensive tackle Sylvester Williams said. â€œBut coach said that if one guy makes a play, he wants to see 10 more hats on the ball.
â€œSo we want to play with a little more energy toward the end of the game. As long as we run to the ball, it will be better.â€