NC State breaks record after record in 58-3 win over East Carolina

N.C. State had more trouble keeping its record book updated than it did with East Carolina on Saturday, padding stats and scoring nearly at will – even senior center Garrett Bradbury scored on a fourth-quarter touchdown plunge – to close out the regular season with a 58-3 win.

School records were falling almost too fast to keep up. When Reggie Gallaspy broke the 1,000-yard mark on his final carry of the game, an 86-yard run he nearly broke for a touchdown but was pulled down a mere 11 yards short, N.C. State coach Dave Doeren called timeout to prolong the “Reggie” chants.

Gallaspy also set the single-season school record for touchdowns and tied the single-season mark for rushing touchdowns. Jakobi Meyers broke Torry Holt’s single-season record for receptions and gave the Wolfpack two 1,000-yard receivers for the first time. Christopher Dunn kicked three field goals to set that single-season record with 21. And the Wolfpack (9-3) beat the Pirates (3-9) for the first time since 2008.

“I think that’s how it’s supposed to look,” Bradbury said. “A lot of guys had a lot of season and career milestones today. It was awesome to see.”

Ryan Finley went over the 400-yard mark for the third time in his career and Doeren picked up his first win over the Pirates in three tries, a comprehensive victory that saw the Wolfpack score on its first four drives to take an early 24-0 lead in the first-ever December game at Carter-Finley Stadium.

Gallaspy scored two rushing touchdowns – his ninth and 10th in a three-game span – to bring him to 19 on the season, breaking T.A. McLendon’s single-season scoring record set in 2002 and tying his rushing TD record. He finished with 220 yards on 24 carries, giving N.C. State a 1,000-yard rusher for the third straight season (Matt Dayes, Nyheim HInes).

“That was a very special moment,” Gallaspy said. “There have been a lot of highs and lows for me, throughout this season and my whole career.”

Meyers’ 163 receiving yards on 13 catches moved him to 1,028 yards for the season, joining Kelvin Harmon in quadruple digits and breaking Holt’s record with 89 catches.

Finley, meanwhile, was 32-for-49 for 409 yard and three touchdowns, tying Jamie Barnette for fourth in career passing touchdowns with 59. Dunn’s three field goals gave him 21 on the year, breaking the record held by Josh Czajkowski and Marc Primanti.

It all made for a productive and historic coda to the season for the Wolfpack, tacked onto the schedule to replace September games canceled because of Hurricane Florence – West Virginia for N.C. State and Virginia Tech for East Carolina – and a second chance at senior day after the Thursday night loss to Wake Forest.

“We were scoring touchdowns and breaking records with a ton of players and it was an absolute blast,” Doeren said.

These were difficult circumstances for East Carolina, which fired third-year head coach Scottie Montgomery on Thursday. Defensive coordinator David Blackwell, a former East Carolina player under Bill Lewis, served as interim coach.

Already playing without freshman quarterback Holton Ahlers (knee), the Pirates lost backup Reid Herring in the third quarter and were down to their fourth-string quarterback at one point, freshman Caiden Norman of Clayton. The Pirates managed only 104 yards of offense and made a 46-yard field goal on the game’s final play to avoid being shut out for the first time since 1997.

One other bright spot for the Pirates in an otherwise dismal day: Knightdale’s Nate Harvey tied the AAC single-season record for sacks (14.5) with a second-quarter sack of Finley to force N.C. State’s first punt of the day.

N.C. State was without three starting offensive lineman at one point, with right tackle Justin Witt suspended for the first half for his role in the postgame fight at North Carolina last Saturday. Right guard Josh Fedd-Jackson did not dress because of injury and left guard Terronne Prescod left the game in the first quarter. Left tackle Tyler Jones served his one-half suspension from the UNC game in the second half.

Running back Ricky Person was also absent after suffering a nasty-looking leg injury in Chapel Hill, but the Wolfpack got linebacker Germane Pratt back after he missed the win over the Tar Heels and even used him as a punt returner, fair-catching a third-quarter punt.

N.C. State, having posted consecutive nine-win seasons for the first time in 22 years and third time in school history, will now await its bowl fate Sunday, while East Carolina will play its next game back at this stadium, opening the 2019 season against the Wolfpack in Raleigh.

“I think we deserve to be in an elite bowl game,” Doeren said, making his pitch. “I know our fans will travel to support us wherever we’re going. We’re really excited for the opportunity to play a great opponent and we hope we get selected for a great bowl game.”

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Sports columnist Luke DeCock has covered four Final Fours, the Summer Olympics, the Super Bowl and the Carolina Hurricanes’ Stanley Cup. He joined The News & Observer in 2000 to cover the Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a columnist in 2008. A native of Evanston, Ill., he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and has won multiple national and state awards for his columns and feature writing while twice being named North Carolina Sportswriter of the Year.