CHAPEL HILL — The idea was clear to N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien: punt the ball and get the game to overtime.
Gio Bernard had other plans.
Bernard's 74-yard punt return with 13 seconds left clinched UNC's 43-35 win over the Wolfpack on Saturday at Kenan Stadium. O'Brien said punter Wil Baumann did what he wanted with the game tied at 35 and 30 seconds left on the clock.
"I think at that point, you just want to kick it and get it out of there," O'Brien said. "I think we might have over-kicked it."
O'Brien dismissed the idea of punting away from Bernard, who had injured his ankle earlier in the second half and did not return the preceding punts in the second half.
"What you want to do is kick it high in the air and make him fair catch it," O'Brien said. "You still have to cover and make a tackle."
Bernard broke around N.C. State's containment and raced up the right sideline for the score. Up until that return, N.C. State hadn't allowed a punt return longer than nine yards all season.
"It was good play by him and it won them the game," N.C. State senior center Cam Wentz said.
It was the second straight game in Chapel Hill that the outcome changed on a punt return. N.C. State's T.J. Graham returned a punt 87 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of the Wolfpack's 29-25 win in 2010.