Pack Pride's Top Performer: Bra'lon Cherry

TAMPA, FL -- Each week we'll profile a player of the game, and Bra'lon Cherry takes home the honor against South Florida.

In many ways, the improvement of Bra'lon Cherry mirrors the growth of his football team.

The sophomore from New Bern, North Carolina finished the 2013 season with eight receptions for 68 yards on offense before a season-ending injury at Duke. This year, as NC State’s offense is expanding, Cherry is blossoming into a wideout who can impact the game in a variety of ways.

He had the full arsenal on display on Saturday.

Cherry tallied three touchdowns, two rushing and one receiving, to lead NC State in their 49-17 victory over South Florida. It was the Wolfpack’s largest road win since a 46-point rout over Navy in 2002.

NC State is now 3-0, and it is the first time since 2010 the Wolfpack began a season with three straight wins.

"A lot of guys played," NC State head coach Dave Doeren said after the game. "It was great to get some of those guys some game reps and I was proud of the way they responded after last week. I think our O-line is playing at a high level. Balance is the key to having a good rushing game."

NC State had nine players catch passes, led by freshman Bo Hines, who finished with 63 yards on three receptions. The Wolfpack also had six rushers average at least 4.6 yards per carry, with junior Shadrach Thornton totaling a team-leading 70 yards on 12 rushes. Thornton and sophomore Matt Dayes (10 carries for 68 yards) each scored touchdowns.

Graduate student Tony Creecy also rushed for 68 yards and State finished with five rushing touchdowns in the game... the most since T.A. McLendon's breakout game at Texas Tech in 2002.

The offense continued its balanced approach in Tampa. The Pack mixed it up nicely against the Bulls, and at halftime NC State had 343 yards on 47 offensive plays, with 198 yards passing and 143 yards on the ground.

For Cherry, the balance is something Wolfpack fans can expect to see throughout the season, although it still feels a little weird for him to be cashing in on running plays.

"It was a different feeling but whatever they give me, I just try to work with it and make something happen and do what I can to help the team," he said. "We have got weapons everywhere. Everybody can play so you are going to have to worry about not just one player, but everybody else that is a receiver or running back... also the quarterback too."

And that quarterback, redshirt junior Jacoby Brissett, had another strong outing, completing 20-of-29 passes for 266 yards and two touchdown passes.

“It was big,” Brissett said. “It is like our first road win in two years. I feel like that speaks volumes about our team and the type of players that we have, as far as mentality-wise, to come out and take it on someone else’s field.”

The Wolfpack scored touchdowns on seven of its first nine possessions of the game (with one drive concluding due to the end of the first half).

"I feel like Coach Canada did a great job of scheming and really game-planning a way to spread them out and get them to use their speed," Brissett added. "He called a great game. He put us in the right situations."

With all of the options at wide receiver, Cherry has emerged as a true redzone threat... and in the right situation. Through three games, Cherry has nine catches and three carries, and he turned five of those 12 touches into touchdowns.

His five total touchdowns is currently the second-most in the ACC, trailing only Pittsburgh tailback James Connor.

"It is a great feeling," said Cherry. "I have just got to keep working and get better."

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