Slogging through a first half that saw North Carolina manage only 18 total plays, 11 of those runs, the offense showed no signs of life. Bernard had 8 carries and only 30 yards, a paltry 3.8 average per attempt. More importantly, the Heels were scoreless.
“I don’t get really frustrated, because I know it’s just a matter of time,” Bernard said of the stagnant first half. “I’m just so happy to be a part of this, I know that at any given time one of us can break a touchdown. I know it’s just a matter of time, and I’m just so grateful we came out of this with a win, that’s the biggest thing.”
After catching some breaks in the third quarter -- a short Louisville punt, a couple of Louisville penalties -- the offense added enough to get down to the three-yard line. Bernard toted the rock in for the first score for either side.
“It was a big sigh of relief,” Bernard said. “If you see a hole, you've got to hit it, and I saw that and Travis Bond did an amazing job on that pull and I saw a crease right there. If we had been on the one-yard line that would have been a 99-yard run – it was just that wide open.”
Patience comes in many forms, one of those being the patient style that Bernard uses when running the ball, waiting for the blocks to develop in front of him, biding his time until the right moment.
“For me as a running back the main thing is to stay patient,” Bernard said, “Even running the ball when you have the ball, throughout the game it is just being patient. You’re going to have tough games like this when things aren’t going right, that’s the point at which you’ve got to dig deep and realize things are going to take care of themselves if you just keep doing your job.“
Things would open up for Bernard from that point forward. He would end the game with 116 yards on 25 carries – and in the record books. Not only was Bernard the first freshman to notch four consecutive 100-yard games, the last back in any class to have four 100-yard games in a row was Ethan Horton – in 1984. Oddly enough, Bernard and his teammates knew that record was on the line.
“Our O-line coach (Sam Pittman), he was talking about it,” Bernard said, “I think when I had twenty-some yards left, and this is how I know about how special this team is. He told those guys, I was sitting in the middle, he said, ‘Everybody here, it’s been since 1984 for a running back to have a 100-yard game four times in a row.’ He told every single one of the linemen, ’Do it for Gio.’”
Bernard was obviously emotional recounting these events.
“I broke down in tears,” Bernard said. “I’ve never had such an amazing O-line, such an amazing O-line coach, and such a team feeling. It broke my heart to see those guys working so hard for me – to do something special for me. I just thank them so much for everything they’ve done for me.”
Those 116 yards and the records that fell didn’t come against some patsy, a team against which you can pad your stats. Louisville has a top 15 rushing defense nationally.
“They are definitely a good rush defense,” Bernard said. “They were 13th in the country, coach was talking about that, averaging 82 yards a game rushing. They are a great defense and I think if you just keep rushing at them and keep rushing at them – because they are going to bring their blitzes – if you can just get past that interior defense there’s a long run waiting.”
Bernard also thinks there’s another payoff for exercising patience: winning.
“One of the biggest things about this team is that we find ways to win. We find ways to get over humps and all the tribulations this team has gone through – we found a way to come back,” Bernard said. “Even last year we found a way to really get past all the things that came out and have a pretty good season and I think we’re doing the same thing this year with all the tribulations that are going on outside in the media.
“Every game we feel we can win. We’re 5-1, we’re still disappointed by that one, we should have been 6-0. Our mentality is to go out and win every game, if we can continue that (mentality) I think we can do something really special with this team for this university. “
Bernard is a patient man, but he rushed pretty quickly into UNC’s football record books.