RALEIGH — The play has been in NC State’s playbook for several weeks now, just waiting for the right time to be used.
When linebacker Brock Miller was tackled at the 1-yard line after recovering an East Carolina fumble early in the fourth quarter at Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday, Garrett Bradbury decided he’d waited long enough.
“When Brock Miller got tackled at the one, it wasn’t even an option,” Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said. “I mean, Bradbury went out there calling the play.”
Instead of lining up over the ball as he’s done all year as the Wolfpack’s All-ACC center, the 6-foot-3, 300-pound senior positioned himself behind quarterback Ryan Finley. He then took a handoff and plowed through the line into the end zone for a touchdown that increased State’s lead to 51-0.
It was an offensive lineman’s dream-come-true that served as the cherry on top of a 58-3 Wolfpack victory that had everyone in red in a celebrating mood.
“I think any time a fat guy scores, everyone’s going to rally around that,” said Bradbury, who joked that he thought about diving over the pile into the end zone before thinking better of it. “But it’s fun for the whole team and everyone was just excited.”
No one was more excited than Bradbury’s linemate Terronne Prescod.
So in an effort to share the glory with his friend and fellow upperclassman, Bradbury handed the ball to Prescod — who promptly punted it into the crowd.
“We’ve been talking for awhile about what the celebration would be,” Bradbury said. “He’s been begging me to give him the ball so he could punt it. He wanted to show some versatility as a player.”
The boot earned State a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, but with the score already out of hand and the outcome no longer in doubt, no one — including coach Dave Doeren — seemed to mind.
Doeren did express some disappointment that his offensive captain didn’t keep the ball for posterity. But Bradbury said he would have regretted it forever had he not given it to the offensive tackle known to his teammates at “Big T” to show off his kicking skills.
“Everyone was like ‘just keep it, run to the sideline and put it up in a case,’” Bradbury said of the touchdown ball. “But if I did that, I feel like I’d look at it every day and wonder ‘What if T could have punted it?’ So I gave it to T.”
Finley, who threw for three touchdowns in the game, said he got a kick out of the entire scene — though he couldn’t decide which he enjoyed more, Bradbury’s touchdown or Prescod’s kick.
“They’re about equally fun to see,” Finley said. “I didn’t know exactly what was going on, but I knew some sort of fun celebration was ahead of that. We’ve been waiting to run that play. We’ve had it in for a couple of weeks.”
Doeren joked that he nearly called Bradbury’s number last week at North Carolina. It’s a gesture that would have undoubtedly rubbed plenty of salt into the Tar Heels’ many wounds, but would have been too big a gamble considering that State had to come from behind to win in overtime.
Running back Reggie Gallaspy scored all five of his team’s touchdowns in that game to tie a school record.
“I really wanted to run it last week,” Doeren said. “But Reggie was kind of hot.”
Saturday against an ECU team that looked as though it was just ready to get its 3-9 season over with, everyone wearing red was hot. Six different players scored touchdowns and five single season school records were broken or tied as the Wolfpack waltzed to its ninth win.
The victory helped ease the sting of a loss to Wake Forest three games ago that spoiled State’s official Senior Night festivities.
“You always want to finish the season with a win, especially at home,’ Bradbury said. “A lot of guys had season and career milestones today. It was awesome to see. It was a celebration for them individually and as a team.”