UNC Season Review
By Stuart Barefoot
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It was an up-and-down season for the Tar Heels in 2012, but the team generated some nice momentum heading into the offseason.
Whether it was scoring 66 points one week, giving up 68 another, or a last second win over N.C. State, you can’t say UNC had a boring 2012 season. The Tar Heels had a really weird season, because many people, myself included, predicted an 8-4 season for them, which actually happened. Outside of that, several aspects of UNC’s season took the world by surprise…losing to Wake and Duke, and nearly upsetting Louisville in a really bizarre game to name a few. How about that Maryland game to end the season? That game really was a microcosm of a crazy year.
It was a season that had the potential to be really, really difficult. A new coach, a bowl ban, or just being North Carolina football were obstacles the Tar Heels had to overcome. All things considered, the season went pretty well. 8-4 overall, 5-3 in the conference is nothing to sneeze at. If not for a bowl ban, they would be playing in the postseason here sometime soon.
The Heels showed their strengths and weaknesses early. In the following weeks after routing Elon 62-0, two things became clear: the secondary was weak and the team needed Giovani Bernard. After the sophomore went down, UNC lost its next two games to Wake and Louisville 28-27 and 44-39 respectively.
After Bernard returned to the lineup, he rushed for more than 500 yards and scored six touchdowns, as UNC would win four consecutive games until they were upset by Duke on October 20th. He definitely made a case for being included in the Heisman discussion, though it’s hard to imagine him getting it over Johnny Manziel.
His spectacular work this season earned him first team All-ACC as both a running back and a specialist. He also narrowly missed out on winning Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year, getting edged out by Clemson’s Tajh Boyd. In both cases, Boyd beat Bernard by just one vote.
Meanwhile, Bryn Renner was having stellar game after stellar game. The Junior QB threw for at least 300 yards six times, and at least 200 yards eight times. On two separate occasions, against Louisville and Maryland, he threw for five touchdowns, which tied a school record. His efforts earned him a spot on the All-ACC honorable mention team. Provided that both Renner and Bernard return to Chapel Hill next year, UNC will once again own one of the ACC’s top offenses.
They weren’t the only two players who impressed in 2012, however. Along with Bernard, G Jonathan Cooper, DT Sylvester Williams, and LB Kevin Reddick were all named to the ACC first team. Williams and Reddick were particularly valuable, since the UNC secondary had problems all season.
Larry Fedora did not disappoint in his first year in Chapel Hill. Everyone knew he was a good strategist, but perhaps the most important thing he did was manage a team that knew they would not be playing in a bowl regardless of their performance. Keeping morale was something he knew would be a challenge, and it was one he took head on. It was clear the spread offense was a good fit at Carolina, and he was able to implement it with guys he didn’t even recruit. Once he has a chance to build a team that fits his system better, UNC could wreak even more havoc.
Now that the bowl ban is out of the way, North Carolina can focus on the future. It’s a future that includes a stronger ACC, albeit mostly for basketball purposes, and a long awaited playoff system. Hopefully 2012 is the start of a positive new chapter for North Carolina football.