In the years to come, when N.C. State faces off against old rival North Carolina in football, someone will be sure to say, “Remember that rainy day in Chapel Hill when Reggie Gallaspy ...”
They’ll talk about a cold, gloomy day at Kenan Stadium when Gallaspy, with bullish run after bullish run, scored five touchdowns for the Wolfpack. They’ll talk of how the fifth came in overtime, Gallaspy crashing over the top from a yard out for a 34-28 victory.
That’s how it unfolded Saturday in a game in which the first half seemed like a replay of the low-scoring rivalry games from the 1950s, the second half became an offensive shootout and Gallaspy ended it after the Tar Heels had missed a field goal in overtime.
Gallaspy had 129 yards on 27 carries for the Pack (8-3, 5-3 ACC), which beat UNC for a third straight time in the series.
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“Reggie’s a beast,” Wolfpack quarterback Ryan Finley said. “He went straight beast mode on all of us and it was exciting to watch. I just managed the game and let him do his thing. What an exciting way to win that game.
“It’s a just a great team win. I thought we dominated the trenches down the stretch and that’s just awesome to see.”
After Gallaspy crashed in, some of the UNC players crashed the Wolfpack’s end-zone celebration. There were pushes and shoves and few punches in the mix, the emotions spilling over for both teams after a hard-fought game and especially UNC, which lost so many close games this season and lost another Saturday.
“I am hurting just like every one of those players,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said. “They just left it all out on the field and came up short again. Everybody down there, every coach, everybody that is involved in this program is hurting.
“I am proud of this football team for the effort they gave today. They gave a lot of effort, they fought, they prepared themselves this week and we just didn’t make enough plays to win a football game.”
The Tar Heels (2-9, 1-7) were intent on beating State in their final game of the season, of sending out their seniors with a victory in the rivalry game, of easing some of the pressure on their coach.
But when UNC failed to score to begin overtime, Freeman Jones missing a 37-yard field goal, the Wolfpack had its opportunity to end it -- and did. Other than one option run by Finley, it was all Gallaspy carries.
“I thought Reggie was a war-daddy, the way he ran at the end of the game,” Pack coach Dave Doeren said.
Gallaspy tied the school record for touchdowns in a game jointly held by Stan Fritts, Torry Holt and T.A. McLendon.
It was the Pack’s third straight win at Kenan, or what Finley said had now been nicknamed “Carter-Finley North.” Doeren is 4-2 against Fedora and the Tar Heels and the Pack also has won nine of the past 12 in the series.
The Tar Heels didn’t have a lead until the fourth quarter, when a 92-yard drive ended with freshman quarterback Cade Fortin scoring on a short keeper to make it 28-21.
The Pack responded to tie it 28-28 as Finley hit wideout Jakobi Meyers for 26 and 30 yards -- the second a sideline throw that Meyers caught one-handed and was first ruled incomplete but overturned on review.
“Unbelievable play, one of the best catches I’ve ever been a part of,” Finley said.
Gallaspy’s fourth touchdown run of the game, from 5 yards, tied the score with six minutes left in regulation.
“Nobody pressed,” Finley said of the late drive. “We stayed calm ... and stuck within ourselves.”
It was the second time the Wolfpack and Tar Heels went to overtime, UNC winning in 1998 in a game played in Charlotte.
On a day when the play-calling was conservative at times, Finley was 16-of-28 throwing the ball for 200 yards and Meyers caught seven balls for 111 yards. But Gallaspy grew stronger as the game wore on, barreling through gaps.
The Wolfpack played without linebacker Germaine Pratt, the ACC’s second-leading tackler. The senior was said to have a knee issue that has limited his practice time and kept him out of Saturday’s game.
Fedora was coy early in the week when asked about his starter at quarterback, but went with Fortin, a true freshman. Fortin was 19-of-40 passing for 276 yards as UNC closed with 429 yards in total offense.
For a half, neither team could move the ball in the rainy muck and the Pack led 7-6. That changed in the second half, when both teams found some offensive rhythm.
The Pack went 75 yards on its first two possessions in the third quarter, with Gallaspy scoring twice -- the second a 34-yard burst.
But UNC did the same, with Fortin first hitting Beau Corrales for a 37-yard score, then freshman running back Javonte Williams running 8 yards for a TD. The Tar Heels added a two-pointer after the Williams score on a Fortin pass to Carl Tucker for a 21-21 tie.
The Pack took the second-half kickoff and went 75 yards in 11 plays for a score. Finley connected with Meyers for a 20-yard gain on a third-down play and teamed up with Kelvin Harmon for a 24-yard completion to the UNC 4. Gallaspy scored on second down from the for his second TD of the game.
But the Tar Heels answered in three plays for their first TD of the game, a 37-yard throw from Fortin to Corrales.
N.C. State’s special teams factored into the Wolfpack’s first-half touchdown. First, punter A.J. Cole pinned the Tar Heels back to the 1-yard line. After a three-and-out series by the State defense, UNC punter Hunter Lent first dropped the snap in the end zone, then managed a 1-yard punt as he was being hit.
With first-and-goal at the 4, the Pack needed two plays to score, Gallaspy walking in from the 1. He would score another four times.
“Amazing,” Gallaspy said.