Photo Reel: Bernard's Punt Return

Photo Reel: Bernard's Punt Return

While Gio Bernard may have stolen the headlines with his 74-yard punt return for a touchdown in the final seconds against N.C. State on Saturday, it was his return unit that built a textbook wall to allow the sophomore to score untouched.

With 30 seconds to play, N.C. State lined up in its three-man shield punt formation. North Carolina, however, had no intentions of attempting a punt block. After Will Baumann punts the ball, the Tar Heels will retreat to build a wall on the right side of the field. Keep an eye on Tre Boston at the far right of UNC's formation, as well as the Wolfpack's Anthony Talbert, who represents the left blocker in the three-man shield.

Once Baumann punts the ball, notice how North Carolina's return team accomplishes two tasks here. The first group runs side-by-side with N.C. State's initial wave of cover guys, while the secondary group begins moving toward the right side of the field (from Bernard's angle).

From this photo, it's clear before Bernard even catches the punt that the right wall has already been built. Four Tar Heel blockers have already sealed off the right side of the field, while two more near the top hashmark are in position to make a play. The players know the return has been set - Romar Morris can be seen frantically motioning for Bernard to come his way on the video replay.

The only breakdown that could disrupt the play is visible at the bottom of the screen. N.C. State's Juston Burris has beaten T.J. Jiles down the field and has a clean shot at Bernard.

Trying to tackle Bernard one-on-one in space, however, is an incredibly difficult assignment. A quick shift to the right allows Bernard to easily slip past Burris and follow his blockers to the right sideline.

The arrow below highlights Boston's block on Talbert. The Wolfpack player's responsibility is to cover the backside (left) of the return, while Boston's job is to bump-and-run Talbert down the field, sealing him off from the right sideline. Boston is even more effective by driving Talbert into the trailing Burris, blocking both out of the play at UNC's 40-yard line.

After Boston's block, the punter ends up with the best angle to tackle Bernard near midfield. Morris is in position for the block, however, and paves the way for an open look at the end zone for Bernard.

Brandan Bishop represents N.C. State's last hope at running Bernard down in a foot race, which ends in a UNC touchdown.

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