UNC running back Gio Bernard: 'I feel good … I’m ready to go'

acarter@newsobserver.comSeptember 3, 2012 

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UNC's Giovani Bernard (26) rushes for a six yard touchdown in the first quarter to put the Tar Heels up 14-0 over Elon on Saturday September 1, 2012 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C.

ROBERT WILLETT — rwillett@newsobserver.com

— So much for the Giovani Bernard injury watch. Bernard, the North Carolina sophomore running back, amassed 203 all-purpose yards during the Tar Heels’ 62-0 victory against Elon on Saturday but left the game not long before halftime with an apparent knee injury.

At least, that’s how it was described on the Tar Heels’ radio broadcast. Bernard wouldn’t elaborate on the nature of his injury on Monday, but assured reporters that he feels fine and that he’s over whatever it is that forced him out of the game on Saturday.

“I feel good, I feel great,” he said. “[It was] just a little precautionary kind of thing – I feel good.”

Bernard gained 93 yards on nine carries, and caught two passes for 10 yards. He ran for a 59-yard touchdown, caught a 6-yard touchdown pass and also returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown. Those three touchdowns were the first three that UNC scored.

Heels coach Larry Fedora on Monday scoffed at the notion that Bernard’s work load would be lightened on Saturday at Wake Forest.

“Lighten his load?” Fedora asked. “How many times did he carry the ball? Nine [times]? Nah – we’re not going to lighten it, I promise you. We’re going to load him up. I want him to touch the ball as many times as possible.”

Granted, Fedora said he and his staff will “be smart” about how to utilize Bernard against the Demon Deacons.

“But if you touch the ball nine times and do what you did, just think if you get it 18,” Fedora said. “So we won’t ride him like a mule or anything but we’ll make sure he gets the touches he deserves.”

Bernard declined to elaborate on how he suffered the injury.

“Don’t want to talk about that kind of stuff,” he said. “But I feel good now. I’m ready to go.”

He also said he was prepared to any kind of work load his coaches would give him this week. Bernard excelled in all areas against Elon, but especially on punt returns. He finished with two returns for 100 yards.

“It was a little different for me,” he said. “First time, as soon as the guy kicked the ball, I fair-catched it. I just wanted to get a catch under my belt. And the second chance, I think that was a 30-yard return and I felt more comfortable.

“And actually right before the third punt return coach told me, you know what, you can take this back if you want – joking around.”

But Bernard didn’t treat it like a joke. He caught the punt and outran the Phoenix for that 70-yard touchdown.

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