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North Carolina started the season 5-1, but stumbled down the stretch, losing four of the last six to finish with a 3-5 ACC record.

Still, the Tar Heels won their regular-season finale against Duke and have one of the best freshmen running backs in the country in Giovani Bernard.

The 5-foot-10, 205-pounder from Davie, Fla., rebounded from a torn knee ligament last season to become the program’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 1997.

“You see the great running backs, and they’re with the great teams,” Bernard said. “That’s the main thing. Dwight Jones has done a great job catching the ball all year and our offensive line has protected me and Bryn (Renner) amazingly this year. The credit goes out to those guys. I’m following the blocks. A little patience helps.”

Renner, a sophomore, led the ACC in passing efficiency and has thrown for 2,769 yards, 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

Renner said all of the team’s adversity has taken a toll, but also made the Tar Heels resilient. Though disappointed Withers won’t be around next season to coach the team, he said the Tar Heels are determined to send everyone out a winner.

“This coaching staff _ you can’t say enough about the job coach Withers did for us all season,” Renner said. “That’s really who we’re playing for. This staff and this team.”

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