CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina sophomore running back Giovani Bernard doesn't care if this is an off year for perennial ACC power Virginia Tech. He still feels the Tar Heels made a major statement with their 48-34 victory over the Hokies on Saturday at Kenan Stadium.
The 5-foot-10, 205-pound Bernard rushed for a career-high 262 yards and one touchdown to lead UNC to its first home victory over Virginia Tech since 1938. He had runs of 62 and 51 yards, while the Hokies rushed for 40 yards as a team.
"People are probably going to say they're having an off year or whatnot, but for us it doesn't matter. We just wanted to show everybody what we can do. We knew what we could do, and it definitely showed out there," said Bernard, whose previous career rushing high was 165 yards last season against Duke.
Bernard had the highest rushing total ever by one player against Virginia Tech, topping the 241 yards of Wake Forest's Josh Harris in 2010.
"Giovani is a great back, and we helped him be a little bit better today," Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster said.
UNC (4-2, 1-1 ACC) broke Tech's 10-game win streak in road ACC games.
Virginia Tech (3-3, 1-1) sunk to new lows in losing for the third time in the last four games. The Hokies yielded their most points ever in an ACC game and haven't had three losses this early in the season since 1992, when they eventually ended up 2-8-1 in the season before their current 19-year bowl streak began.
"We'll get this thing together. I never thought we would be considered an average team by any means, and that's not what we're about, so we'll get it together and we'll get back to what we're accustomed to being," Tech cornerback Antone Exum said.
North Carolina finished with 533 total yards. The Tar Heels' 339 rushing yards were the third most allowed by Virginia Tech in Frank Beamer's 26 seasons as coach.
Hokies defensive end James Gayle said he was disappointed with the defense's performance, especially on a day the offense finally found sustained success with 394 total yards.
"It's very frustrating. I came to Virginia Tech because we're known to play great defense. I feel like today we let the team down," he said.
Tech cut UNC's lead to 48-34 on quarterback Logan Thomas's 66-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Corey Fuller and the ensuing two-point conversion pass with 8:55 left in the fourth quarter.
The Hokies drove to the Tar Heels' 25-yard line during their next possession, but Thomas was sacked on fourth down to end the threat.
UNC ran out the clock to close the door on its second win over Virginia Tech in the last three years.
"It's still early in the year, but this was a great measuring stick for us," said UNC first-year head coach Larry Fedora. "This is Virginia Tech. They've dominated the Coastal Division. We needed to go out and play a complete game against them."
Thomas finished with a career-high 354 passing yards and three total touchdowns. Fuller had five catches for 143 yards and a touchdown.
Bernard, meanwhile, had the most rushing yards by a UNC player since Kennard Martin had 291 against Duke in 1988.
The Hokies trailed the Tar Heels 28-20 after a marathon first half. Tech had almost a nine-minute advantage in time of possession but gave up some costly big plays.
The Tar Heels scored touchdowns on Sean Tapley's 94-yard kickoff return in the first quarter and a 62-yard run by Bernard in the second quarter.
Virginia Tech's offense showed some early punch with two touchdowns in the first quarter, but the Hokies' defense had no answer for the Tar Heels. UNC gained 239 yards in the first half and scored more points in the first two quarters than it had in any of its previous eight games against Tech.
The Hokies, who were held scoreless in the first quarter of their previous three games, shook their early offensive woes with two first-quarter touchdowns.
For the first time all season, Tech scored on its first offensive possession. It drove down the field in four plays and reached the end zone on Thomas' 13-yard run with 12:55 remaining.
The Hokies tied the score 14-14 on Thomas' 49-yard touchdown completion to wide receiver Marcus Davis with 2:15 remaining in the first quarter, but UNC regained the lead by outscoring Tech 14-6 in the second quarter.
Kicker Cody Journell scored all of Tech's second-quarter points on field goals of 40 and 35 yards.
NOTES: UNC kicker Casey Barth went 2-of-2 on field goal attempts and now has a school-record 60 made field goals for his career ... Hokies wide receiver Dyrell Roberts left the game in the first quarter after taking a jarring hit from safety Tim Scott. He did not return ... Bernard has scored eight touchdowns in four games this season ... Hokies tailback Tony Gregory (knee) and linebacker Tariq Edwards (personal reasons) did not make the trip to Chapel Hill ... Tech left guard David Wang started after missing the previous two games with an ankle injury ... Thomas' 66-yard touchdown pass to Fuller was the longest pass play allowed all season by the Tar Heels.