Finley, McClendon form impressive combo for Wolfpack at QB

After a lengthy battle during the offseason, the Wolfpack is finding ways to use both quarterbacks effectively.

The North State Journal—The North State Journal
North Carolina State quarterback Ryan Finley (15) breaks free of a tackle by William & Mary linebacker Arman Jones (37) during the first half of the college football game on Thursday

RALEIGH — For months, two NC State quarterbacks battled for the starting role after the departure of Jacoby Brissett to the NFL. Both Jalan McClendon and Jakobi Meyers looked solid during the Spring Game, but it appeared the reins would be handed to McClendon after Meyers suffered an ankle injury.Enter Ryan Finley.The transfer quarterback from Boise State was written off by most as a depth addition by Dave Doeren in case something happened to McClendon and Meyers. With prior knowledge of offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz’s system, Finley came in and, in a little over three months, was thrust to No. 1 on the depth chart.Since being given the keys against William & Mary, he hasn’t taken his foot off the pedal. After going 17-of-21 for 174 passing yards with two touchdowns in three quarters, there was no question Finley was ready to play.Even in a loss to ECU, Finley completed 20 of 31 passes, including an 80-yard bomb to Stephen Louis, proving he can throw downfield, too. He then set a career-high with three passing touchdowns in a single game against Old Dominion. He passed for three touchdowns in two years at Boise State.”He’s just consistent,” Doeren said of Finley. “He understands where to go with the football and leads the ACC in completion rate. He manages the game well and understands what Coach Drinkwitz wants and distributes the ball to our playmakers.”But Finley isn’t just a game manager. He’s passing with precision with a 76.3 completion percentage. He’s thrown 80 passes with no interceptions. He’s also created with his feet, rushing for a 15-yard touchdown against ECU.That effectiveness has earned Finley praise from opposing coaches.”I think he is a three, maybe four-read guy,” Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder said of Finley. “There are not a lot of those in college football. … There were times tonight I thought he was on his second and third read and we couldn’t get to him.”He looks like a next level guy to me.”Figuring out Finley is tough enough. Now the Wolfpack are utilizing McClendon near the goal line with as much effectiveness as Finley as a passer.Given just three snaps during the first three quarters, McClendon made them count. The sophomore rushed for two touchdowns from three yards and one yard out. He then connected with Thaddeus Moss for the freshman tight end’s first college touchdown.Rather than having McClendon ride the pine, Doeren is finding packages that work for both signal-callers to thrive. Heading into an Atlantic Division gauntlet that includes Clemson, Louisville and Notre Dame all in a four-week span, McClendon is a clear goal-line weapon for the Pack.”We can do a lot of stuff,” tight end Jaylen Samuels said. “When Jalan comes in, we can run the ball and throw the ball. It just gives us a little better threat because everybody thinks it’s a wildcat formation, but he can really throw the ball.”It’s not a perfect science, and there are sure to be some kinks when it comes to playing better opponents than ODU. But with both quarterbacks on the same page and two different skill sets, NC State has a two-headed monster under center heading into ACC play.Despite the competition throughout the offseason, the camaraderie is still there for both quarterbacks.”That’s my guy,” McClendon said of Finley. “I help him, he helps me. Whoever’s in the game, I know they’re going to support each other. That’s the biggest thing. Everyone else suspects that if I don’t play I’m supposed to be mad. Nah, I don’t really care as long as we win.”