Heels hold off Knights
Published 9:55 pm Saturday, September 10, 2011
CHAPEL HILL — Giovani Bernard rushed for 81 yards and two touchdowns to help North Carolina beat Rutgers 24-22 on Saturday.
Bernard scored on runs of 60 and 6 yards for the Tar Heels (2-0), who overcame five turnovers to begin the season with consecutive wins for the third time in the last four seasons.
The Scarlet Knights (1-1) lost the ball on downs at their own 42 with 2:32 remaining, and the Tar Heels ran out the clock from there.
Bryn Renner was 20 of 26 for 273 yards and a touchdown for North Carolina, but he threw three interceptions. Dwight Jones had six catches for 135 yards and a score.
Chas Dodd was 25 of 47 for 243 yards and two touchdowns for the Scarlet Knights, who had no turnovers.
Mohamed Sanu, who reeled in an 18-yard score from Dodd, set career highs with 13 catches for 119 yards for Rutgers.
Bernard showed his speed to the outside on both of his scoring runs.
Midway through the second quarter, the UNC running back took a toss to the right and outran Rutgers’ Steve Beauharnais to the corner. Bernard cut back to the middle of the field to elude another tackle by David Rowe, then sprinted away from the pursuit to give the Tar Heels a 14-6 lead.
On his scoring run late in the third quarter, Bernard bounced an inside run toward the left sideline. He gave ground to step out of a tackle by Rutgers’ Brandon Jones, and beat Beauharnais again — this time around the corner to extend North Carolina’s lead to 24-15.
The Scarlet Knights pulled within 24-22 on a 5-yard touchdown catch by Tim Wright with 10:40 remaining.
The Tar Heels led 17-12 at halftime despite dominating the first two quarters statistically. They outgained Rutgers 286-91 in the first half, even while running five fewer plays from scrimmage.
Renner wasn’t as sharp as he was last week, when he set an ACC record for completion percentage in the first start of his career by completing 22 of 23 passes against James Madison. But he got off to a fast start against Rutgers, throwing a 66-yard touchdown strike to Jones on the game’s first possession.
Renner completed his first five passes today, giving him a school-record 19 consecutive completions dating back to the opener. The streak ended on an interception by Duron Harmon, who returned the ball 45 yards to the North Carolina 2-yard line.
The Scarlet Knights couldn’t capitalize to tie the score. Dodd came up just short of the goal line on his lunge to the end zone on third down, and North Carolina linebacker Kevin Reddick stuffed a run by De’Antwan Williams on fourth down.
Rutgers scored after its other takeaways in the first half. The Tar Heels lost fumbles on the next two possessions after Renner’s first interception, resulting in a pair of field goals by San San Te to cut North Carolina’s lead to 7-6.
After another Renner interception, Sanu made a leaping one-handed grab for an 18-yard touchdown to bring Rutgers within 14-12 late in the second quarter.