Gritty NC State team right at home in hostile conditions, foul weather

North Carolina State's Reggie Gallaspy II (25) scores a touchdown as Kelvin Harmon (3) blocks North Carolina's Patrice Rene (5) during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. North Carolina State won 43-28 in overtime. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

After NC State scratched and clawed its way to a 34-28 overtime victory over the a Tar Heel team that was likely fighting for its coach’s job, Wolfpack quarterback Ryan Finley grinned and twisted the knife.

Asked about the Pack’s recent success at Kenan Stadium, Finley said, “We call it Carter-Finley North.”

His geography was a little off. Kenan is a trip west from the home of the Wolfpack, not north, but the sentiment was on target. The Pack has won their last three in Chapel Hill.

For most of the first half, however, it appeared that the game was being played on frozen tundra, or perhaps in a typhoon. With rain and wind playing havoc with game plans, both teams, slipped slid and slogged through an error-filled 20 minutes.

At the end of the first quarter, Finley had thrown for three yards and had a passer rating of 6.3, 147 points below his rating for the year.

His counterpart, freshman Cade Fortin, wasn’t much better, finishing the first quarter with a rating of 14. The teams had combined for 72 yards of offense and each quarterback had one more completion than interceptions.

“The weather made it tough early,” State coach Dave Doeren said in an understatement.

With the passing game stuck in the mud, State turned to their senior workhorse on the ground, Reggie Gallaspy.

I thought Reggie Gallaspy was a war-daddy,” Doeren said. “The way he ran at the end of the game, I’m so proud of that kid. The o-line came alive for him, the tight ends.”

Gallaspy ran for a career-high 128 yards and tied a school record with five rushing touchdowns, producing all the scoring—aside from kicker Chris Dunn’s points after—that the Wolfpack would get on the day.

“I didn’t know he had five, but I knew he had several,” Doeren said. “We were standing in the huddle trying to figure out what end we wanted to be at for overtime, and I wanted to be opposite their band. But Ryan said, ‘Reggie scores every time we go down there.’ I said, ‘Well, let’s go down there then.’”

Despite Gallaspy’s heroics, the Heels wouldn’t go away. Throwing deep much of the day and betting they’d be able to victimize a State secondary that struggled at times this year, Carolina hung around and hit just enough big plays to remain within striking distance. In the fourth quarter, Fortin found Anthony Ratliff-Williams for 51 yards to set up a short touchdown run that gave the Heels a 28-21 lead.

“Carolina played their (butts) off,” Doeren said. “They did. They played hard. Our guys found a way to win. That’s really been the thing we have talked about all week is that they were going to play for four quarters or more and we had to do the same and find a way to put it away. We did that. It wasn’t always pretty but when we needed to stop them in the second half, we did.”

Needing a touchdown in the worst way, the Pack went to the guy that had delivered all day.

“Reggie’s a beast,” Finley said. “He went straight beast mode on all of us. I kind of just managed the game and let him do his thing. …That was fun to watch.”

Gallaspy punched one in from five yards out to tie the score. When Carolina opened overtime with a missed field goal, Gallaspy got the ball on six of the seven plays the Wolfpack ran.

“Coach already knows I want to the ball in my hands,” Gallaspy said. “As a senior having all the things that happened to me, you want the ball in your hands.”

The Heels didn’t have an answer.

“Reggie has heart,” Doeren said. “I was just hugging him in the locker room and my sons were right next to me, and I told him that I hope my boys have the same heart that he has when they get older, because that kid is 100 percent heart. He’s tough, he won’t be denied, he’s big and all that but he is so mentally and physically there. He’s playing for his daughter. He has it all together right now. You’re not going to stop that guy. He’s going to square you up and he’s going to fall forward.”

In terrible weather and hostile conditions, when nothing else was going right for NC State, Reggie Gallaspy took the ball, time and again, and turned Kenan Stadium into home turf.

No matter what direction you have to travel to get there.