by Mike Potter
It’s kind of an historic day for Elon, which will be taking on the Tar Heels in football for the first time ever.
For UNC it’s the beginning of the Larry Fedora era, the coach taking over the helm after going 34-19 in four seasons at Southern Mississippi. The regular season will be it for the Tar Heels this time, as they’re on a one-year bowl ban from the NCAA for academic and other violations. A 10-win kind of season isn’t unthinkable, but UNC needs to get off on the right foot with a convincing win over the FCS opponent. Should Elon win, of course, the Phoenix would suddenly get massive national attention.
The Tar Heels went 7-6 last season, while the Southern Conference member Phoenix was 5-6 in its first campaign
under Jason Swepson.
This one is all UNC, as they roll 62-0 for their first shutout in 13 years.
The Tar Heels establish control in the first quarter.
After coming up dry on their first possession, lightning strikes on the first play of their second drive as Giovani Bernard breaks a tackle at the line of scrimmage and scoots down the left sideline for a 59-yard score. Casey Barth’s boot makes it 7-0 at 9:34.
UNC scores again on its next drive, going 55 yards in nine plays with Bryn Renner hitting Bernard across the middle for a six-yard TD. Barth’s try makes it 14-0 at 4:45.
Barth adds a 21-yard field goal at 2:31 of in the second quarter.
And soon after that Bernard lights up the house again, taking a punt and returning it untouched 70 yards down the right sideline with Barth adding the kick at 12:16.
It goes to 31-0 with 9:48 left in the half as Renner hits Jheranie Boyd on a 35-yard scoring strike with Barth converting.
With 2:41 remaining before the break Barth adds a 32-yard field goal. And with 24 seconds left in the half the Tar Heels convert an interception at the Elon 13, when three plays later A.J. Blue bulls in from the 1 and Barth’s conversion makes it 41-0.
And the rout continues. In the third quarter Renner hits Jack Tabb on a 23-yard pass, Marquise Williams scores from three yards out and Blue from four with Barth converting all the kicks to make it 62-0.
Bernard finishes with 94 yards and the score on nine carries, catches two passes for 10 yards and the TD, and returns two punts for 100 and the score. Renner completes 14 of 21 for 236 yards with three touchdowns and the interception. Eric Highsmith catches three passes for 44 yards and completes an 18-yard pass to Renner.
Elon finishes with 170 yards total offense, with Thomas Wilson completing 13 of 27 for 99 yards with two interceptions.
They said it …
UNC coach Fedora: “It was a good first game, and great to get it under our belt. You go into the game as a new head coach and your first game you want to make minimal mistakes and you want good communication on the sidelines. You don’t want to make mistakes in substitution; you want to take care of the football, those little things. Other than turning the ball over twice, I thought our guys responded very well.”
Elon coach Swepson: “We were overmatched playing this opponent — give credit to North Carolina. That’s a good football team. It’s a bowl team from a year ago, looks like it’s going to be a bowl(-type) team this year. But I’m proud of my kids. They kept fighting and played the game hard.
Renner: “I think we played well. We had some good drives here and there, but we need to look at film. We’ve got a good Wake Forest team coming up. I think the defense led the way. As far as them pitching the shutout, it’s great for them. They played great today and really helped us out.”
Highsmith: “It was real fun just to go out there and play somebody else and not just be hitting ourselves in practice. Just to have fun. That was the main topic today. Have fun.”
What does it all mean?
That the Tar Heels have no obvious weaknesses at the moment, and that the Phoenix has some wounds to lick before hosting N.C. Central in what should be a competitive game in Week 2.
Stars of the game
Play of the game
Bernard’s punt return.
UNC: Won 1.
Elon: Lost 2.
UNC leads 1-0.
UNC at Wake Forest, Sept. 8, 3 p.m.
Elon vs. N.C. Central, Sept. 8, 7 p.m.