Yes, this was quite a statement -- not just for himself, but for the future of his North Carolina team.
Bernard rushed for a personal-best 262 yards with a key long touchdown to lead the Tar Heels past slumping Virginia Tech 48-34 on Saturday.
"People are probably going to say that they're having an off year, but it doesn't matter," Bernard said. "We just wanted to show everybody what we could do, and we knew what we could do."
Sean Tapley returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown and added a 19-yard scoring catch from Bryn Renner for the Tar Heels (4-2, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference), who won their third straight, rolled up 533 total yards and claimed their first home victory over the Hokies (3-3, 1-1) since 1938.
"It's still early in the year, but ... this was a great measuring stick for us," North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said. "This was Virginia Tech. They dominated the Coastal Division, and we needed to go out there and play a complete game against them."
A.J. Blue had touchdown runs of 1 and 13 yards, and Renner finished 17 of 30 for 194 yards with a touchdown pass and a 4-yard scoring run.
Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas was 26 of 49 for 354 yards with a 13-yard touchdown run and two long touchdown passes, and Demitri Knowles took a kickoff 93 yards for a TD for the young Hokies, who are off to their worst start since opening 2-3-1 in 1992.
"I don't think it's time for excuses," coach Frank Beamer said. "I think it's time for results."
Bernard surpassed his previous best of 165 yards set last year against Duke, and nobody has rushed for more yards against a Virginia Tech team.
"That doesn't happen against Virginia Tech very much," Beamer said.
Bernard also became the Tar Heels' first 200-yard rusher since Ronnie McGill rolled up 244 against Wake Forest in 2003.
Virginia Tech finished with just 40 yards rushing. Bernard had two rushes that each surpassed that -- a 51-yarder that pushed him past the 200-yard mark and a 62-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-1 on the first play of the second quarter that put the Tar Heels ahead to stay.
"He's standing there, and I said, 'Look, you've got to get six inches here,'" Fedora said. "And he was like, 'Well, I'll get more than that.'"
North Carolina began to pull away midway through the third quarter, going ahead 35-20 on the Renner-to-Tapley touchdown pass before Knowles took the ensuing kickoff back for a touchdown.
Virginia Tech went for two, trying to make it a one-score game, but Thomas' pass over the middle didn't have a chance, and the Tar Heels scored the next two times they touched the ball.
Casey Barth kicked field goals of 44 and 40 yards for North Carolina. Its 48 points were the most scored in the series by either team, and the Tar Heels gained at least 500 total yards for the third time under their new coach.
"I came to Virginia Tech because we're known to play great defense," defensive end James Gayle said. "I feel like today we let the team down."
Thomas threw an early 49-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Davis and added a 66-yarder to Corey Fuller with 8:55 left for the Hokies, who lost for just the sixth time in 33 ACC road games.
The Tar Heels entered outscoring their previous three opponents at Kenan Stadium by a combined 155-6 and hadn't allowed a touchdown at home all season. Thomas didn't need much time to end that streak, bursting through on a 13-yard keeper to make it 7-0 barely 2 minutes in.
Tapley then tied it -- and started the Tar Heels' scoring binge -- by taking the ensuing kickoff back for a touchdown. That was the first kick return for a score against Tech since 1993, the longest streak in the country.
"Sometimes in life you kind of need a little jump -- a little jumper cable, I guess you could say," Bernard said, "and for the most part, Tap was that jumper cable."