ACC Football: North Carolina 28, Virginia 17
Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2011
By Ryan Bisesi
CHAPEL HILL — Winning cures all.
Last month’s turmoil surrounding the UNC football program now seems as old as the pine trees that surround Kenan Stadium.
Recent history aside, it really had been a long time since the Heels last won an ACC opener, a decade in fact. But Saturday the stumble out of the starting gate was absent for the first time since 2000 in a 28-17 victory against Virginia.
The residue of those ACC openers—and last week’s five-turnover effort against Rutgers— weren’t there as Carolina pulled away by halftime to hand the Cavaliers their first loss of the season.
UNC hadn’t beaten Virginia in Charlottesville from 1981-2010 before last year’s win and it ended another agonizing streak on Sunday.
Carolina’s offense had a banner day on the ground, running for 222 yards.
“It’s good to be 1-0 in the ACC,” UNC coach Everett Withers said. “That’s the bottom line. Anytime you can rush for 222 yards, it’s a good day.”
Redshirt freshman running back Gio Bernard had his first 100-yard game and Bryn Renner completed 15 of 21 passes with two touchdowns.
Jheranie Boyd caught an 18-yard touchdown pass in the front corner of the end zone to give Carolina the lead permanently at 7-3.
“[Boyd] told me before the play ‘I think I can beat him,’ ” Renner said. “I just put it up and he did the rest.”
Virginia running back and Rowan County hero K.P. Parks just missed his second 100-yard game with 14 carries for 98 yards. The redshirt freshman broke off a 34-yard run in the second quarter for his longest of the day.
The Heels came up with a pair of big defensive stands in the first half. Robert Randolph misfired on a 45-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter and David Watford’s fourth-and-3 pass fell incomplete to Dominique Terrell with the Cavs just out of field goal range.
“We thought we had a fourth down play based on what they showed us,” Virginia coach Mike London said. “We decided to try and get some points.”
Bernard had just 11 yards at the half, but took the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter 40 yards to the Virginia 22-yard line. Bernard got it to the 17 before Renner found Dwight Jones tiptoeing along the hashmark for a touchdown and a 21-3 lead.
“Dwight did a great job,” Renner said. “[The wide receivers] make all the plays.”
Bernard became the first freshman back since 2007 to rush for 100 yards for the Heels.
“He’s got a low center of gravity,” Withers said. “He does a good job of deciding when to go outside and cut back. It’s just a natural trait for him.”
Ryan Houston’s 1-yard push into the end zone came 5:25 before halftime to make it 14-3. Houston scored again late in the third to give UNC its best advantage of 28-10.
Renner has completed 81.4 percent of his passes this year.
“It was good to come out with an ACC win today at home and hopefully that carries momentum down the road.”
Virginia outgained Carolina in total yardage 468-401 and gained 170 yards on the ground against a defense that had allowed 30 rushing yards per game in its first two contests.
“Those things concern you but you can go look on tape and you can correct some of the things that happened to you,” Withers said.
UNC forced three fumbles and recovered one late in the first half when Michael Rocco lost the grip and Sylvester Williams fell on it.
Despite two interceptions, Rocco threw for 287 yards and ran for a touchdown with the game out of reach. The Cavs’ Kris Burd was the game’s leading receiver with seven catches for 110 yards.
NOTES: Salisbury alums Romar Morris and Darien Rankin dressed out for the Tar Heels. Neither freshman has seen time on the field so far.