CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Larry Fedora couldn't have asked his players for much more in his first game as North Carolina's coach.
Gio Bernard had three first-half touchdowns and the Tar Heels had their biggest scoring day in 17 years to beat Elon 62-0 on Saturday, turning in a performance featuring plenty of points, a lot of yards and relatively few miscues.
"I can't say enough about the way the kids responded," Fedora said. "There were very few mistakes made for a first game, and that means you've got to give credit to the staff. That means they left no stone unturned in their preparation — and they did a great job of preparing these kids."
North Carolina finished three points shy of tying the school record and had its best output since beating Ohio 62-0 under Mack Brown in September 1995. It was the Tar Heels' first shutout since beating Duke 38-0 to close the 1999 season.
And the Tar Heels set an Atlantic Coast Conference record for punt-return yardage (260 on nine returns), bolstered by Bernard's 30- and 70-yard returns in his first game fielding punts.
That left Fedora relatively little to fuss about afterward, though not for a lack of trying.
"Obviously we could've not turned it over two times and we had three penalties," Fedora said with a smile. "So it could've been smoother."
Fedora left Southern Mississippi to take over a program reeling from an NCAA investigation of improper benefits and academic misconduct, which led to the firing of Butch Davis just before last year's training camp and forced the Tar Heels to play under interim coach Everett Withers last season. North Carolina is ineligible for a bowl this year due to NCAA sanctions from the reputation-bruising scandal.
Fedora said this week that he had a knot in his stomach that would reach his throat by kickoff. His players picked up on that excitement.
"We fed off him today and his energy," said receiver Erik Highsmith, one of 14 UNC players to catch a pass. "He was on a whole other level and we played up to that, too."
The biggest concern was the health of Bernard, who had a 59-yard TD run down the left sideline, a 6-yard scoring catch and the 70-yard TD punt return down the right sideline — all by the 12-minute mark of the second quarter — before heading to the locker room late in the first half.