At first blush, I thought Connor Barth's field goal in 2004 to knock off then #3 Miami was a more epic play in recent Tar Heel football history. Now that I've contemplated it a little I am not longer sure that's the case.
The Barth field goal capped off an upset of a top five team, the first in UNC history. It was a night game at Kenan Stadium and after the field goal sailed through the uprights, said uprights were brought down by fans who had rushed the field. It was also one of just a few big wins during ten year stretch after the Mack Brown era ended.
Gio Bernard's punt return came in a rivalry game but not just any rivalry game. NC State had a five game winning streak against UNC and for awhile it looked as though the Heels would lose six straight. In one incredible moment, Bernard ended half a decade of misery and increased the number of forlorn among the sections of red and while by a thousand percent.There is also the element of Bernard quickly reaching the level of elite players in UNC football history with this punt return giving him near legendary status.
In that respect, I am tempted to give the nod to Bernard's play. Because it happened within the context of the NC State rivalry, the potential for longevity is there, more than with Barth's FG. Every time UNC plays NC State, this moment will come up. It is part of the rivalry's fabric now.
Here are videos of both, you be the judge then vote in the poll below.
Barth's FG vs Miami
Bernard's punt return vs NC State