Local Star Runs Wild
October 16, 2012St. Thomas Aquinas High School
Sometimes the magic is on the other sideline. No one from Miami wanted to frame Saturday that way. Miami Coach Al Golden rightfully talked about two turnovers and an expensive penalty at the goal line.
He talked of playing 21 freshmen this year, and the mistake that changed the game, Miami's not lining up properly on North Carolina's 2-point conversion that put a scoreboard wedge between the teams all afternoon.
"One of our safeties ran off the field, and I don't know why,'' Golden said of that play. "I'm guessing we had 10 [players] on the field."
Still, sometimes your Saturday dreams run into the dreams in the other huddle. All day long, North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard took the football and ran like the day depended on it. Which, from North Carolina's perspective, it did.
Bernard carried 27 times for 177 yards. He scored two touchdowns. He caught three passes, one with his fingertips as the ball fell toward the ground on fourth down to keep a drive moving. He even returned a punt 26 yards.
"Sucking wind by the end, weren't you?'' said his coach, Larry Fedora.
"Maybe a little,'' Bernard said.
All day long, too, Yvens Bernard sat in Sun Life Stadium remembering these kinds of games by his son from the time he started playing in the Pompano Beach youth leagues all through St. Thomas Aquinas High School.
The father didn't come from Haiti in 1980 with this in mind. He came for a new life, a new chance. He still carries the island in his voice, though as his son ran to him at the end of the game for an embrace over the fence, even his voice lost itself.
"I couldn't say anything, I was so happy,'' he said.
If you're Miami, you can't let one player beat you like this. You go home second-guessing plenty, starting with a 44-yard field goal on third-and-7 with 5:45 left that would have reduced the game to another field goal. Instead, the pass came up short.
Here's another second-guess: losing out on Bernard in the first place. You see it now, Golden closing the recruiting loopholes in South Florida, hitting private powers harder, like St. Thomas (Philip Dorsett, Jelani Hamilton) and Columbus (Deon Bush) again.
"They wanted me,'' Bernard was saying. "And I love this area. It's home. But I saw a better fit for me elsewhere."
At first, that fit was Notre Dame, as Bernard committed there. But as events changed with a coaching shuffle, so did his thinking. And Butch Davis kept calling from North Carolina.
"He's not around anymore, but he's the reason I went there,'' Bernard said.
Yes, call Saturday's another game that Butch won against his old school.
For Bernard, it hasn't been an easy ride. Three practices in at North Carolina, he tore up his knee. He missed the 2010 season. So, only now is he achieving what he expected all along.
On Saturday, he was the force Miami couldn't stop and North Carolina couldn't stop giving the ball. He touched it once every 2.5 plays on offense. That was fine to him, considering he'd scrounged up twentysomething tickets from teammates for family and friends.
"It meant the world to me,'' he said of the win.
He was standing outside the stadium by the North Carolina buses with his father and his older brother, Yvenson. Former schoolmates at St. Thomas were there, and other family friends who don't see him anymore.
As they talked, the Miami team bus rolled out. This is how it works at the end of the day in sports. One team leaves wondering what went wrong, and can list a dozen reasons how it lost.
And the other team? Their feelings are captured by an immigrant father, who sees his son hugging his brother and feels the emotion come to his eyes.
"I can't dream a better day,'' he says.