CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. --- Five days after a 65-50 loss to Georgia Tech, North Carolina travels to Charlottesville to face a suddenly hot Virginia team that has won back-to-back games for the first time since the opening weeks of the season. The Thursday night game will kickoff at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.
This will mark Carolina's 10th appearance in an ESPN Thursday night game. The Tar Heels are 5-4 in the previous nine contests, including a 24-21 loss last year at Virginia Tech. Only one of those nine previous appearances came at home.
Last Saturday, quarterback Bryn Renner completed 24 of 35 attempts for 350 yards and two touchdowns. Player of the Year candidate Giovani Bernard had 172 all-purpose yards, including 78 rushing and 92 receiving. He scored twice to increase his season total to 17 (11 rush, 4 receiving, 2 punt returns).
Virginia is coming off a 41-40 win at home over Miami.
• Carolina is averaging 488.7 yards per game, which is more than 40 yards per game more than the single-season school record of 441.8 in 1983.
• TB Giovani Bernard is second in the nation in scoring, third in all-purpose yards, fourth in punt return average, and eighth in rushing (per game averages). Bernard has 17 touchdowns this season and needs four to equal the single-season school record of 21 set by Don McCauley in 1970.
• Bernard has 1,008 rushing yards and is the first Carolina player with back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons since Natrone Means in 1991 (1,030) and 1992 (1,195).
• QB Bryn Renner has 20 touchdown passes this season. He holds the UNC single-season record with 26 in 2011. Renner is the only player in UNC history to throw 20 or more TD passes in multiple seasons.
• The Tar Heels have rushed for 200 or more yards in four of the last six games.
• Carolina ranks fourth in the country in tackles for losses with 7.9 per game. DE Kareem Martin (14.0) and LB Kevin Reddick (14.0) lead the team, followed by DT Sylvester Williams (10.5).
• TE Eric Ebron is UNC's single-season school record in catches (37) and yards (568) by a tight end.
• PK Casey Barth has made all 44 extra point attempts this season.
• Bernard has rushed for more than 100 yards four times this season and 11 times in his career. This year he did it against Virginia Tech (262), Miami (177), Duke (143) and NC State (135).
• Bernard has more 100-yard rushing games (11) than any other sophomore in the country.
• Despite missing two games, Giovani Bernard leads the ACC with 17 touchdowns.
• WR Erik Highsmith ranks fourth all-time at UNC with 158 receptions.
• Carolina is +6 in turnover margin this season, and ranks third in the ACC and 29th in the nation.
• Carolina leads the ACC and is 14th in the nation in sacks allowed per game (1.0). The Tar Heels have allowed just 10 sacks this season.
• Carolina is averaging more than 250 yards passing (287.7) and 200 yards rushing (201.0). UNC is one of only nine FBS schools and one of just two ACC schools (FSU is the other) averaging at least 250 passing and 200 rushing.
• Carolina ranks first in the ACC and 11th in the country with 14 interceptions. Eight different players have at least one interception this season.
A WIN OVER VIRGINIA WOULD...
• Improve the Tar Heels to 7-4 overall, 4-3 in ACC action.
• Be Carolina's second straight win in Charlottesville. The Tar Heels had lost 14-straight at Virginia prior to the 2010 victory.
THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL HISTORY
• Carolina's game at Virginia is the 10th Thursday night ESPN football game in school history. The Tar Heels are 5-4 in the previous nine.
• North Carolina is one of four ACC teams (Miami, Virginia Tech, Boston College are the others) to have a winning road record (4-3) on Thursday nights. Carolina also defeated NC State in Charlotte on Thursday night in 1999.
• Carolina's Thursday night appearances have all been memorable for various reasons:
2011 at Virginia Tech: Despite losing TB Giovani Bernard to a concussion early in the game, Carolina rallied from a 24-7 deficit and appeared to recover an onside kick with a little more than two minutes remaining. The ball did not go 10 yards, however, and Virginia Tech was able to gain possession.
2009 at Virginia Tech: Casey Barth's game-winning field goal as time expired gave Tar Heels a 20-17 victory.
2009 vs. FSU: Carolina scored on its opening drive of each half and was leading 24-6 midway through the third quarter. However, the Seminoles scored four straight possessions, including three touchdowns to complete an 18-point-comeback win. It was the first ESPN Thursday night home game in UNC history.
2008 at Rutgers: Carolina's 44-12 victory was the first win for the Tar Heels outside their home state since 2002. Future first-round NFL Draft pick Hakeem Nicks scored twice, wide receiver Brandon Tate scored on a reception and a 12-yard end-around and linebacker Bruce Carter found the end zone on a 66-yard interception return.
2006 at Virginia: The Tar Heels lost 23-0 in Charlottesville on Thursday, Oct. 19. Four days later, Carolina announced that head coach John Bunting would not return for the 2007 season.
2001 at Georgia Tech: Carolina rode into Atlanta on a five-game winning streak and ranked in the Top 25 for the first time in nearly three years. Carolina's defense, which would finish the season No. 15 in the country, gave up 198 yards rushing to tailback Joe Burns as No. 23 Georgia Tech knocked off the 22nd-ranked Tar Heels, 28-21. With senior quarterback Ronald Curry sitting out with a sore hamstring, freshman Darian Durant played the entire game. It would be more than six years later before Carolina returned to the national rankings in 2008.
1999 vs. NC State: Carolina snapped a seven-game losing streak with a 10-6 victory over its rival in Charlotte's Ericsson Stadium when defensive backs Errol Hood and David Bomar stopped NC State's Chris Coleman at the 1-yard line with just under two minutes to play.
1997 at Georgia Tech: No. 5 North Carolina ran its record to 8-0 with a tight 16-13 victory over the Yellow Jackets. Despite gaining more than 500 yards of offense, Carolina had to recover an onside kick in the game's final minutes to secure the victory. Tailback Jonathan Linton became the first player in school history to rush for 100 yards and have 100 yards receiving in the same game.
1995 at Louisville: Wide receiver Octavus Barnes caught a touchdown pass from Mike Thomas with 14 seconds remaining to give Carolina a 17-10 victory. That game is still the 12th-highest rated ESPN Thursday night game involving an ACC team.
CAROLINA-VIRGINIA SERIES NOTES
• North Carolina leads the series with Virginia, 59-53-4, and the Tar Heels have won two straight in the series for the first time since winning nine straight from 1974-82.
• The Tar Heels lost 14 consecutive to the Wahoos in Charlottesville until a 44-10 win in 2010. The 34-point margin of victory was the largest in the rivalry for either team since a 41-6 Virginia win in 1968. Carolina is seeking back-to-back wins in Charlottesville for the first time since 1979 and 1981.
• Saturday's game will be the 117th meeting in the rivalry known as the "oldest rivalry in the South." Only four other rivals have played more often.
• North Carolina's final game of the regular season was typically played against Virginia prior to 1950. In fact, from 1919-1950, Carolina played its regular season finale vs. Virginia 28 of 32 times.
• Seven scholarship Tar Heels are from Virginia, including sophomore offensive tackle Nick Appel (Vienna), sophomore center Russell Bodine (Scottsville), junior linebacker Curtis Campbell (Chesapeake), sophomore linebacker Travis Hughes (Virginia Beach), junior quarterback Bryn Renner (West Springfield), sophomore cornerback Tim Scott (Fredericksburg) and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Landon Turner (Harrisonburg).
• Corey Holliday, Carolina's Assistant Athletic Director for Football Administration and a former Tar Heel standout, is a native of Richmond, Va. Holliday ranks second at UNC in career receiving yardage.
• Many of Carolina's greatest football players have hailed from the state of Virginia. A short list includes NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor (Williamsburg), two-time ACC Player of the Year Mike Voight (Chesapeake), two-time All-America William Fuller (Chesapeake), bruising halfback Ken Willard (Richmond), All-America offensive guard Ron Rusnak (Prince George), record-setting wide receiver Corey Holliday (Richmond), linebacker Dwight Hollier (Hampton), four-time 1,000-yard back Amos Lawrence (Norfolk), three-time first-team All-America cornerback Dre' Bly (Chesapeake) and record-setting quarterback Ronald Curry (Hampton).