UNC Beat: The Rib Bone’s Connected to the … Head Bone?

I guess I should begin with a correction.

In this space last week, I said North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard was “okay” twice.  The second “okay” was in reference to the health of his knee, which everyone swore was good to go for the Tar Heels’ game Saturday against Wake Forest.  He was going to play, and he was going to increase his workload from the Elon game (nine carries for 93 yards, two receptions for 10 yards, 100 yards of punt returns, and three touchdowns).

And then, well, he didn’t play. So I guess … he’s not okay?

Larry Fedora has made it clear he will only discuss injuries at length when they are season-ending injuries. Bernard was not listed at all on UNC’s pre-Wake Forest injury report.

The logic behind such discussion (or lack thereof) goes like this: If the coach shares every little detail about a player’s injury and recovery, he is potentially tipping the hand of the team’s strategy for the coming week (in the case of going into a game without 1,000 yard rushers) or, even worse, putting the player’s health in danger.  The more you say about an injury, the more the opponent knows how to exploit it, whether strategically or by … other means.

It promised to be annoying.  It only took two weeks for it to also be insulting.

Early in the second quarter of the game, which Wake Forest won 28-27, there was a particularly scary moment when Bryn Renner appeared to suffer an injury after a hit from safety Duran Lowe.  Renner pointed towards his helmet briefly before dropping to the BB&T Field turf.

Renner stayed in the game until its conclusion, but was considerably less effective.  Renner says he passed two concussion tests on the sideline, but that this hit was nothing like the one that gave him a concussion during the NC State game last season, saying  “It was more my ribs, and getting the wind knocked out of me.”

Larry Fedora seconded this stance, saying “there was no contact with his head.”

Listen, I have an incredible amount of faith in the folks evaluating athletes for North Carolina.  If they think Renner is okay to play Saturday against Louisville, I’m okay with their evaluation, because I am most certainly not a doctor.  Seeing Renner seemingly unconscious was a scare, but they know a lot more about this stuff than I do.

However, I do know enough to know the difference between a cranium and a ribcage.  If Fedora wanted to say, “Yeah, Renner’s good to go!” that’s his prerogative. It doesn’t even apparently have to mean Renner is actually able to play against the Cardinals, as we learned from Mr. Bernard last week.  It would just be another name in the hat (FEDORA PUN) of guys who may or may not be dinged up but aren’t “out for the season.”  We can also trust that, if Bernard was held out Saturday, Renner will be held out if his injury is worse than we are being allowed to know.

Don’t insult our intelligence, though.  We know and can clearly see Renner was hit in the head, and telling the media it was a rib-shot isn’t going to convince any other team or coach that they must have looked at the tape wrong when they’re preparing to face the Tar Heels in the next couple of weeks.  There’s a pretty clear difference between withholding injury information while operating in the realm of vague coachspeak and fabricating information.  That line was crossed yesterday.

SO, HEY, ABOUT THE ACTUAL GAME: If there is a positive to take away from the proceedings in Winston-Salem, we could look at the play of running backs A.J. Blue and Romar Morris.  The duo combined for 176 yards rushing on 33 carries.  If Bernard has to take another week off with his non-existent knee injury, Tar Heel fans can trust Blue and Morris to hold down the backfield moving forward.

Two things jump to mind when looking at why North Carolina may have dropped this ACC opener.  First, there was the matter of untimely penalties. Both the Tar Heels and Demon Deacons were flagged eight times, but three of North Carolina’s penalties led to Wake Forest first downs.  Another flag, a holding call on Erik Highsmith in the third quarter, took the momentum of a Tim Scott interception that gave UNC possession eight yards from the end zone and crushed it.  On that possession, UNC was unable to get past the eight-yard-line and settled for a Casey Barth field goal. Yet another was a personal foul penalty after the whistle following a touchback in the fourth quarter, forcing North Carolina to start a potential go-ahead drive in the final two minutes of the game from their own 13-yard line. Fedora has said he wants the team to play smart, fast, and physical, and I’m assuming this is the reason he puts “smart” first on that list.

Also, my goodness, Wake’s Michael Campanaro had a game.  The junior from Clarksville, Maryland had 13 catches for 169 yards.  So, if I could offer some advice to future Demon Deacon opponents, it would be “cover that dude.”


First Star – Casey Barth: Barth’s two field goals Saturday make him the school record holder for career field goals, passing … Connor Barth, his older brother.

Second Star – Kareem Martin: The 6’6″ junior from Roanoke Rapids recorded 2.5 tackles for loss against Wake Forest, including an assisted sack alongside Sylvester Williams.

Third Star – Pretty much every other team at UNC: Losing to Wake Forest in football aside, it was a strong weekend for Tar Heel athletics.  Women’s Soccer beat Marquette and San Diego in the Duke Nike Classic, Men’s Soccer opened ACC play with a 2-0 win over Virginia Tech, Volleyball won the Carolina Classic by picking up three victories, and Field Hockey shut out both Delaware and Villanova in Newark, Del.

Zach Evans is brilliantZach Evans is a student at the University of North Carolina and a lifelong fan of the Tar Heels and follower of the ACC. Outside of the ACC, Zach is also a fan of the Atlanta Braves, the Carolina Hurricanes, the Carolina Panthers, and bad puns. He includes nailing the Final Four in his 2009 NCAA Tournament group and batting .000 during the 2011 intramural softball season among his crowning achievements. For more commentary, follow Zach on Twitter at @ztevans.

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