CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Gio Bernard outrushed the entire Virginia Tech team on a single carry — twice. He had a career day against a traditionally tough Hokies defense that doesn't allow many of those.
Yes, this was quite a statement — not just for himself, but for the future of his North Carolina team.
Bernard rushed for a personal-best 262 yards with a key long touchdown to lead the Tar Heels past slumping Virginia Tech 48-34 on Saturday.
"People are probably going to say that they're having an off year, but it doesn't matter," Bernard said. "We just wanted to show everybody what we could do, and we knew what we could do."
Sean Tapley returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown and added a 19-yard scoring catch from Bryn Renner for the Tar Heels (4-2, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who won their third straight, rolled up 533 total yards and claimed their first home victory over the Hokies (3-3, 1-1) since 1938.
"It's still early in the year, but ... this was a great measuring stick for us," North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said. "This was Virginia Tech. They dominated the Coastal Division, and we needed to go out there and play a complete game against them."
A.J. Blue had touchdown runs of 1 and 13 yards, and Renner finished 17 of 30 for 194 yards with a touchdown pass and a 4-yard scoring run.
Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas was 26 of 49 for 354 yards with a 13-yard touchdown run and two long touchdown passes, and Demitri Knowles took a kickoff 93 yards for a TD for the young Hokies, who are off to their worst start since opening 2-3-1 in 1992.
"I don't think it's time for excuses," coach Frank Beamer said. "I think it's time for results."
Bernard surpassed his previous best of 165 yards set last year against Duke, and nobody has rushed for more yards against a Virginia Tech team.
"That doesn't happen against Virginia Tech very much," Beamer said.
Bernard also became the Tar Heels' first 200-yard rusher since Ronnie McGill rolled up 244 against Wake Forest in 2003.
Virginia Tech finished with just 40 yards rushing. Bernard had two rushes that each surpassed that — a 51-yarder that pushed him past the 200-yard mark and a 62-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-1 on the first play of the second quarter that put the Tar Heels ahead to stay.