With North Carolina facing a 3rd-and-goal at the one-yard-line, Renner rolled out to his right and charged the goal line with his head down, only to be met by a trio of Wake Forest defenders.
The video replay shows strong safety Duran Lowe running parallel to the line of scrimmage and lowering his right shoulder as Renner dropped his body and tried to reach the ball across the goal line. Renner was down on his left knee as Lowe made contact, ramming the quarterback’s left shoulder and head as linebacker Zachary Allen attacked from the sideline.
Renner, on his knees at contact, dropped the ball and fell forward toward the UNC sideline at the one-yard-line. He sat up, reached out and grabbed the football with his left hand, then pointed to his head with his right hand before collapsing with a thud face-first into the artificial turf.
It was a frightening scene, prompting many in the press box to believe that Renner had been knocked unconscious.
Fox Sports sideline reporter Jenn Hildreth provided this report during the broadcast: "As soon as he got up, he started to say 'I'm good, I'm fine' ... He spent a lot of time talking to the trainers. One thing I could see, they definitely put him through ... they made him count the months of the year backward and he at least made it to April, so he was doing pretty well. He kept saying 'I'm fine, I'm good.'"
Renner was helped off the field by the athletic training staff and spent time on the sideline talking with head trainer Scott Trulock and head coach Larry Fedora, as well as talking on the phone connected to the UNC booth upstairs.
It seemed as though Renner was done for the half, if not for the game, but he returned to the field on UNC’s next possession. The West Springfield, Va. native looked uncomfortable, taking a two-yard loss on a busted play on first down, getting a pass batted down on second down and absorbing a sack-fumble on third down that set up a Wake Forest touchdown.
Fedora was asked after the game about his decision to immediately put his quarterback back in.
“Yeah, we put the ball on the ground on that series, so that’s one that I’ve got to go back and look at myself, because I made the call at the end to put him back out there and he felt like he was ready to go,” Fedora said. “The medical staff felt like he was ready to go and to all indications he was, but the ball came out on that series, so that’s something that I’m going to question myself on that deal.”
Renner completed 10 of his 13 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown before the play, and managed a 13-of-26 effort for 153 yards and an interception after the hit.
Fedora referenced the hard hit when talking about Renner’s inconsistency down the stretch.
“I think he took a pretty good lick down there,” Fedora said. “I’m sure he got rattled a little bit. That’s what you want to do to a quarterback. You want to hit him hard and it rattled him so I’m not so sure he wasn’t a little rattled, but Bryn played well enough for us to win a football game.”
The situation was eerily reminiscent of UNC’s loss at N.C. State last season. Renner left the game after a sack, only to return after passing two concussion tests at halftime. He struggled in his first drive back in however, throwing an interception into double coverage, and returned to sideline for good.
Renner confirmed the following week that he had suffered a mild concussion.
Reporters were expecting a similar conversation when Renner entered the media interview room, but heard something totally different.
“I felt fine, “ Renner said when asked about his decision to return. “I just got the wind knocked out of me. It was more of my ribs. It wasn’t that bad.”
A reporter asked about Renner pointing to his head after the hit, but the junior’s explanation was that he fell on the ball sideways and got the wind knocked out of him. Renner indicated that he wasn’t hit in the head nor was he foggy after the play, and also said that he did not take a concussion test before returning to the game.
That’s clearly a positive development for the North Carolina program, especially after so many thought that Renner had potentially suffered his second concussion in less than a year.
Regardless of the type of injury that occurred in that moment, Renner was a less composed, less confident player for the final 40 minutes of Saturday’s loss.
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