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Gio Bernard's 74-yard game-winning punt return for a touchdown.
Gio Bernard's 74-yard game-winning punt return for a touchdown.
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Special Teams Could Be The Difference
Release: 10/30/2013

By Emily Fedewa, GoHeels.com

Last year, NC State punted to Gio and a legend was born.

This year, Bernard is in the NFL and the Carolina football team will travel to Raleigh with new and different weapons - and they will try to keep that legend alive.

Sophomore safety Jeff Schoettmer believes this year's team can be just as effective at taking down the rival Wolfpack as that final punt return proved to be last year.

"We have players in place that can do the same thing as (Gio) did," Schoettmer said. "Switzer and T.J. Thorpe both can take it the distance, so we're relying on them to do the same thing."

But so far, opposing defenses haven't given those young guys a chance to prove their ability to create that significant moment.

A big play on special teams - like the one Bernard made last year returning the final punt for a game-winning touchdown - is one of the things that has been missing from this year's team.

Head coach Larry Fedora said he hopes that this week - against a fierce in-state rival - will prove to be the game when special teams finally makes a big difference.

"We work extremely hard on special teams," Fedora said. "We like to pride ourselves on believing that we're going to have at least one game-changing play in every game and we haven't done that yet. So it's time for somebody to step up and do that."

As a native of North Carolina and a lifelong UNC fan, junior defensive tackle Ethan Farmer knows how big this rivalry can be. He said it could also be great place for special teams - and the team as a whole - to make a statement.

"It's very important (for special teams to make a big play), and I think that play's going to come up soon," Farmer said. "Growing up as a Carolina fan, and now being a part of this school, it's a big time rivalry to us. I mean, NC State-Carolina, it's a rivalry, so you never know what can happen."

After playing well last weekend against Boston College to earn their second win on the year and snap a four-game losing streak, the Tar Heels are looking to finish the season on a high note, starting with a win in Raleigh.

Especially since the Tar Heels haven't come away from Carter-Finley Stadium with a victory since 2005 - a streak they're looking to break Saturday.

"We want to win, just as bad as any opponent. I mean, any ACC game we want to win," Schoettmer said. "But yeah, going to Raleigh, playing at their place, it's big motivation to get a win."


UNC North Carolina Football


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