TSX: Pack Must Stop Bernard

Tailback Giovani Bernard is approaching a rushing milestone for North Carolina, and coach Everett Withers isn't shying away from the importance of getting the redshirt freshman to 1,000 rushing yards.

Bernard has 935 for the season going into the Nov. 5 game against North Carolina State.

"I think it's important," Withers said. "I think it's part of the Carolina history, the 1,000-yard backs who have come before Gio.

"It's important to our offense that he get that goal and pass a thousand and keep on going. I think it's very important."

It's important not just from a personal standpoint but a team concept as well, he said. Much of North Carolina's success on offense can be attributed to its running game.

The Tar Heels are averaging just under 161 yards a game rushing this season, up from 126 last year and 133 in 2009.

"We want to be able to run the football," Withers said. "You get a 1,000-yard rusher that says a lot about the ability to run the football.

"That also helps our quarterback. It helps our receivers. And it helps our tight ends."

Having a 1,000-yard rusher also helps in recruiting he said.

"No question," he said. "I think it's important that kids know that you'll turn around and hand it off to your tailback 20 some-odd times a game and let him get yards.

"I think it's important any time in recruiting."

The game at N.C. State will be the first of consecutive road outings for the Tar Heels, who have met bowl eligibility with their 6-3 record but are looking to improve on their 2-3 ACC mark.

They are at Virginia Tech on Nov. 17, and their regular-season finale is Nov. 26 when they host Duke.

-- North Carolina has never had a 1,000-yard rusher and 1,000-yard receiver in the same season, but that dry spell should come to an end, perhaps as soon as the next game. Redshirt freshman TB Giovani Bernard has rushed for 935 yards and is averaging 107.2 a game this season. Senior WR Dwight Jones has 841 receiving yards and is averaging 93.4 a game. Bernard seems almost assured to get to the mark against N.C. State, but Jones may have to wait another game or two.

-- Fast starts are the key to success for the Tar Heels. In their six wins, they have outscored their victims 49-0 in the first quarter. In their three losses, they have been outscored 30-14.

-- The Tar Heels are playing for the 10th consecutive weekend. They have an open date on Nov. 12, but it's not a full "bye" week because that is followed by Thursday night affair at Virginia Tech on Nov. 17.

SERIES HISTORY: North Carolina leads 63-31-6 (last meeting, 2010, N.C. State 29-25).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: With redshirt freshman TB Giovani Bernard leading the way, North Carolina has become an effective running team. The Tar Heels are averaging about 161 yards a game on the ground. That takes some of the heat off sophomore QB Bryn Renner, a first-year starter who leads the ACC in passing efficiency but sometimes can be rattled into questionable decisions. Junior WR Erik Highsmith is beginning to make plays to take some of the defensive heat off senior WR Dwight Jones.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The Tar Heels are holding opponents to just over 106 yards a game on the ground despite giving up 312 to Georgia Tech. Only four teams, including the Yellow Jackets, have rushed for 100 yards or more against the Tar Heels. Interceptions are down a bit, however, with 10 in nine games, compared to 19 in each of the last two years and 20 in 2008.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "College football needs rivalries. Just like the East Carolina rivalry, I think it's important to have rivalries in your state. I've always thought that. Everywhere I've been, there's been rivalries in the state matchups. I think it's critical for college football, for college athletics in general." -- Coach Everett Withers, on the importance of North Carolina's rivalry with nearby N.C. State.

THIS WEEK'S GAME: North Carolina at North Carolina State, Nov. 5 --
The Tar Heels ended a two-game losing streak with their win over Wake Forest. Now they look to end a longer skid in the series with the Wolfpack. The 'Pack has won the last four meetings between the two close rivals. The two campuses are less than 30 miles apart.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Take care of the football. The Tar Heels lost six turnovers in their defeat at Clemson, and they had a 5-1 advantage in turnovers in their win over Wake Forest the next week. That and getting off to a fast start will be a big help for the Carolina cause.

TB Giovani Bernard --
The redshirt freshman is just 35 yards short of reaching the 1,000-yard mark in rushing for the season. He is well ahead of schedule to become North Carolina's first 1,000-yard rusher since Jonathan Linton in 1997.

LB Zach Brown -- The Butkus Award semifinalist leads North Carolina in tackles, tackles-for-loss, sacks, forced fumbles, and interceptions. His sack and resulting forced fumble and recovery gave the Tar Heels an early score against Wake Forest in the last outing.

KR T.J. Thorpe -- You might miss a big play if you're not paying attention when North Carolina receives a kickoff. The freshman leads the ACC with a 29.0 return average and ran back a kickoff 100 yards at Clemson.

-- Freshman TE Eric Ebron is starting to play a bigger role in North Carolina's offense. He has five of his eight receptions over the last three games.

-- Junior WR Eric Highsmith has 21 receptions over the last four games after making 14 receptions through the first five. He did not play against Georgia Tech.

-- SS Jonathan Smith had six tackles in the start against Wake Forest after taking over for the injured Matt Merletti. Smith has gotten nine of his 23 tackles for the season in the last two games.

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