RALEIGH — With just under 12 minutes remaining Saturday, senior center Garrett Bradbury lined up in the NC State backfield, took a handoff and dove into the end zone for his first career touchdown.
He then handed the ball to fellow offensive lineman Terronne Prescod, who promptly punted it into the stands, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. And everyone on the Wolfpack sideline, including coach Dave Doeren, got a good laugh out of it.
It was that kind of day for State.
Playing an East Carolina team whose coach was fired on Thursday and whose starting quarterback was out with an injury, the Wolfpack had a little fun at the Pirates’ expense in a game scheduled as a replacement for dates lost to Hurricane Florence.
State broke or tied five school records and came within one play of a shutout in a 58-3 shellacking of ECU at Carter-Finley Stadium that kept alive hope for only the second 10-win season in program history.
“We put up 58 pints and 655 yards. We were scoring touchdowns and breaking records with a top of players and it was an absolute blast,” Doeren said beating the Pirates for the first time in three tries since 2013. “It was an absolute blast.”
In addition to Bradbury’s touchdown, Doeren was also able to get senior walkon quarterback Woody Cornwell into the end zone while allowing senior All-ACC linebacker Germaine Pratt to take a crack at returning a punt during a second half that at times resembled a pickup game.
The Wolfpack (9-3) had the luxury of experimenting thanks to an offense that rolled up season-high totals in points and yards and a defense that held ECU to minus yards rushing and less than 100 yards total until the final two minutes. The Pirates (3-9) finished with 104 yards and avoided the shutout only when Jake Verity hit a 46-yard field goal as time expired.
“We haven’t had a complete game like that all season,” Bradbury said afterward. “We were in control from start to finish. That’s how it’s supposed to look. It’s awesome. There was a lot of positive energy.”
Considering the circumstances, the game figured to be a mismatch from the start with ECU playing out the string of its fourth straight losing season, defensive coordinator Dave Blackwell having only two days to prepare to lead the team after coach Scottie Montgomery was fired on Thursday and star freshman quarterback out with an injury.
And it lived down to expectations, with State scoring on its first four possessions to jump out to a quick 24-0 lead.
From that point on, the only suspense left was how many points the Wolfpack would score and how many records it would set.
In all, six different State players scored touchdowns, including two by senior running back Reggie Gallaspy. They were his 17th and 18th on the ground this season, tying T.A. McClendon’s school record in 2002. His 19 overall touchdowns are the most ever by a member of the Wolfpack.
Gallaspy also surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the season with a stellar 220-yard performance that was capped by an 82-yard fourth quarter run down the near sideline.
“It was very special,” Gallaspy said after becoming third State back in the last three seasons to rush for 1,000 yards. “There’s been a lot of highs and lows in the season for me and throughout my whole career. It’s just amazing how things ended up. It’s a blessing.”
Gallaspy wasn’t the only one that put his name into the record books Saturday.
Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers caught 13 passes for 163 yards and a touchdown, raising his season total to 89 receptions — one more than Torry Holt’s former single-season mark. Meyers also went over the 1,000 yard mark as well. With teammate Kelvin Harmon having already reached the plateau, they became the first State teammates to gain over 1,000 yards through the air in the same season.
Freshman kicker Christopher Dunn also got into the act by kicking his record 19th and 20th field goals of the year.
“What a day,” said Doeren. “I wish we would have had the shutout, but outside of that it could get any better.”
State might have gotten that shutout if not for a late fumble by a walkon, a 53-yard run by Anthony Scott that literally doubled ECU’s offensive output for the day and Verity’s last-second field goal.
Doeren did everything he could to preserve the whitewash, including calling a timeout to ice Verity as he lined up for the kick. But he split the uprights to preserve the Pirates’ streak of not being shutout, a 266-game stretch that dates all the way back to Oct. 4, 1997 against Syracuse.
“I had no idea about a shutout streak,” Blackwell said. “No. 1 is if we can score points then absolutely (kick it). No. 2 is Jake Verity is one of the best kickers in the country, so if you are in range then why on earth would you not give him the opportunity to kick?
“My mindset was that if we have the opportunity to score, then we were going to score.”
In the end, the three points mattered little, both to the outcome or to the Wolfpack, who got to walk off the field at Carter-Finley for the final time as winners after being stunned by Wake Forest in their official Senior Night game four weeks ago.
“This was special for a lot of different reasons,” said senior quarterback Ryan Finley, who went 32 of 44 for 409 yards and three touchdowns. “It was special for the seniors to go out like that. I was really happy about the records that were broken. That’s awesome. … It couldn’t have ended any better.”