UNC Now: Injured RB Gio Bernard did not travel to Louisville

acarter@newsobserver.comSeptember 15, 2012 

For the second consecutive week, North Carolina will be without its best running back.

Giovani Bernard did not travel Friday to Louisville, where the Tar Heels will play the 19th-ranked Cardinals at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Kevin Best, a UNC football team spokesman, confirmed Bernard’s absence.

Jheranie Boyd, a senior receiver, also did not make the trip, Best said. Boyd watched practices this week while wearing a protective boot on his foot.

Bernard, who set a school freshman record a season ago with 1,253 rushing yards, was injured during the season opener against Elon after he compiled 203 all-purpose yards. He scored three touchdowns, and then left the game late in the second quarter.

Boyd caught one pass each against Elon and Wake Forest. His reception against Elon went for a 35-yard touchdown.

In Bernard’s absence, junior A.J. Blue likely is to start for the second consecutive week. Blue ran for 106 yards last week in a 28-27 loss at Wake Forest, and Romar Morris, a redshirt freshman, gained 70 yards on 14 carries.

Roy Smith, a walk-on who also runs track, likely is to continue handling the Tar Heels’ punt return duties in place of Bernard, who against Elon returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown. Mark McNeil, a former walk-on from UNC’s lacrosse team, likely will start in place of Boyd.

McNeil also started the opener against Elon.

Coach Larry Fedora doesn’t publicly discuss injuries, so a timetable for the return of Bernard and Boyd – or even an official diagnoses of their injuries – hasn’t been released. Fedora this week spoke with optimism about Bernard’s status.

“Gio practiced yesterday, and said he felt fine,” Fedora said Wednesday. “So we’ll see how that goes.”

Fedora also spoke of how much UNC missed Bernard last week at Wake Forest. The Tar Heels especially missed him in the red zone, where two second-half drives stalled and resulted in short field goals.

“It’s hard to say how much we missed him,” Fedora said of Bernard. “If he’s not on the field, it’s obvious we missed him.”

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