UNC Football: Are We Witnessing the Best QB/RB UNC Combo Ever?


How do Bryn Renner and Giovani Bernard stack up against other UNC football greats in a single season since 1970? This article is going to look at a statistical analysis as well as notable awards to try to determine if Heel fans are witnessing the greatest quarterback and running back combination in UNC single season history.

Sep 29, 2012; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Bryn Renner (2) hands off to running back Giovani Bernard (26) against the Idaho Vandals in the first half at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Liz Condo-US PRESSWIRE

So far this season, since Larry Fedora has introduced the hurry-up spread offense, the offensive statistics have been off the charts. Renner has thrown for nearly 2,400 yards in 9 games. That’s an average of about 266 yards per game. With 3 games remaining, he’s on pace to throw for 3200 yards. The all-time season record holder is T.J. Yates who threw for 3,418 in 2010. A couple above average game for Renner and he could hold the new record. It should be noted that Yates played 13 games in 2010 whereas Renner will only get to play 12 since UNC cannot go to a bowl game. In 2010, UNC played 3 running back as well in Johnny White, Shaun Draughn and Anthony Elzy. They had a combined 1,575 yards on the season. Was Yates the best quarterback ever? Maybe. He is the only UNC quarterback to ever start for an NFL team. Did that year have the best QB/RB combo? Not so much.

In the 7 games that Bernard has played in this season, he has racked up 930 yards and 10 touchdowns. That is an average of 132 yards per game. Bernard has also managed 319 yards receiving with 3 touchdowns. If he keeps this pace, he’ll finish the season around 1,350 yards on the ground.  The single season record for a running back’s rushing yards is 1,720 by Don McCauley in 1970. However, in 1970, the Heels had 3 quarterbacks that played and combined only had 1343 yards passing. McCauley received the most ever 1st place votes for the Heisman that year for a Tar Heel at 6 but finished 9th in the voting. Was McCauley the best running back ever? That is debatable.  Was 1970 the best QB/RB combo ever? Not even close.

UNC’s only other offensive player to ever receive Heisman votes was Mike Voight in 1976. He ran for 1,407 yards with 18 touchdowns. However, their starting quarterback was Matt Kupec who only threw 751 passing yards and 2 touchdowns on the season.

Someone could make the argument for Chris Keldorf and Leon Johnson in 1996. Keldorf threw for 2,347 yards and 23 touchdowns. While Johnson almost broke the 1000 yard rushing mark with 913 and 10 touchdowns. That year under Mack Brown, the Heels finished 10-2 and 10th in the AP rankings. Without the record taken into account, Renner has thrown for more yards already and Bernard has rushed for more yards, so we can rule this combo out as well.

Natrone Means was a solid UNC running back. In 1992, his senior year, he rushed for 1,195 yards and 13 touchdowns. His quarterback, Jason Stanicek, threw for less than 1,100 yards and a mere 4 touchdowns. The answer is not here either.

There were a few years that UNC had 2 running backs that broke the 1,000 yard mark such as in 1993 with Curtis Johnson and Leon Johnson. Had that been a single running back to break the 2,000 yard mark, they would have a better case. However, if Renner and Bernard keep pace with what they have been doing, I am saying they will go down as the best quarterback/running back combination in Tar Heel history even if Bernard does not get into the Heisman voting.