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Pack wins big, ECU avoids shutout

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N.C. State's Reggie Gallaspy runs the ball during their game against East Carolina on Dec. 1, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Saturday, December 1, 2018

RALEIGH — There were no major surprises at Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday, from banged-up East Carolina starting quarterback Holton Ahlers not playing to N.C. State gaining an early lead and then coasting to victory against a Pirate team that in many ways was still disjointed two days after head coach Scottie Montgomery was dismissed by the school.

N.C. State kept its quest for a rare 10-win season alive, winning 58-3 for ECU to finish with a third straight 3-9 record. David Blackwell, an East Carolina alum in his first season as defensive coordinator, served as head coach.

The Pirates needed a field goal as time expired to avoid being shut out for the first time since Oct. 4, 1997. The Wolfpack finished with an enormous 655-104 advantage in total yards.

It was a difficult ending for seniors and coaches who have experienced more losses than wins during their careers as Pirates.

“This is the situation we are in now and it sucks, but it teaches you a lot about life,” offensive captain and senior lineman Garrett McGhin said. “You can get fired from your job or if things don’t go your way, you are not just going to be able to roll over. That is not an option, and especially not as a Pirate.

“I just tried to tell the young guys that I know this hurts and I was there for anybody who had anything to talk about.”

Jake Verity made a 46-yard field for the Pirates’ only score, extending ECU’s streak to 266 games without being blanked.

“I had no idea about a shutout streak, but No. 1 is if we can score points then absolutely (kick it),” Blackwell said. “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.”

The game was reminiscent of the 2004 finale in Charlotte, a 52-14 victory by the Wolfpack for coach John Thompson’s last game after his firing had already been announced.

East Carolina wore gold jerseys in 2004. This time it was gold pants.

Reid Herring started at QB and was 8-of-22 for 69 yards and an interception before hurting his shoulder during the third quarter. From there, Caiden Norman and Kingsley Ifedi went 1-for-3 combined for 4 yards and an INT. 

ECU had 26 rushes for 31 yards.

The Wolfpack (9-3) finished its regular season with wins against Louisville, North Carolina and ECU. All three of those teams have fired their head coach this year.

“I talked to (Montgomery) late Thursday night and then we’ve stayed in touch,” Blackwell said. “One thing about Scottie Montgomery is he’s not an excuse-maker. He takes responsibility and my conversations with him were him apologizing a lot to the staff and us about feeling like he let us down.

“My side of that is we feel like as coaches that we let him down. … There were so many positives throughout the season that got lost in the last two games.”

ECU was outscored 114-9 combined during losses at Cincinnati and N.C. State to complete a fourth straight losing campaign.

Saturday’s rout also stopped State’s three-game losing streak to the Pirates. Dave Doeren is now 1-2 versus ECU.

“I’ve been hearing it for three years now,” Doeren said. “I thought we played well today, and I thought our guys were ready to play.”

The second half for the Wolfpack featured standout linebacker Germaine Pratt as a punt returner and center Garrett Bradbury lining up at fullback and scoring a 1-yard touchdown for a 51-0 lead with 11:52 remaining.

Reggie Gallaspy, who became NCSU’s single-season record-holder for touchdowns, rushed 24 times for 220 yards and two TDs. Jakobi Meyers had 13 receptions for 163 yards and a 24-yard score.

State ran up 224 yards in the first quarter, leading 17-0 at the end of the period. It was 24-0 at the 11:26 mark of the second, and 27-0 at halftime.

The Pirates were outscored by a total count of 38-0 in the first quarter of their final two games. East Carolina lost 56-6 at Cincinnati on Black Friday, which only added to the heat on third-year coach Montgomery.

ECU’s attention toward its athletics director search and new football coaching search picked up immediately after Montgomery’s dismissal by Chancellor Cecil Staton early Thursday afternoon. The rumored top coaching candidate is Mike Houston, whose James Madison team lost in the FCS playoffs on Saturday.

Ahlers was on the sideline without pads and donning a headset, signaling in calls on offense.

Pirate defensive end Nate Harvey had ECU’s lone sack, tying the American Athletic Conference single-season record for sacks with 14.5. The ECU record remains 15 by Rod Coleman in 1997.

Ahlers’ 592 rushing yards for the season finished ranked second-most by a freshman quarterback in school history. Trevon Brown had three catches for 48 yards for 2,952 career yards, ranking fourth all-time in Pirate history.

State’s Ryan Finley was sacked only once and he passed for 409 yards, three touchdowns and an INT by Daniel Charles. Finley reached 10,000 yards passing for his career.

“It was special and it’s a little emotional,” he said. “It’s awesome. I can’t think of a better way to go out.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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