Finley clearly the QB answer for NC State

Boise State transfer runs away with quarterback battle in first half.

The North State Journal—The North State Journal
North Carolina State wide receiver Bra'Lon Cherry (13) scores a touchdown during the first half of the game against William & Mary Thursday

RALEIGH — One question was answered before the first drive for NC State on Thursday night — Ryan Finley took the first snap under center. He was the Wolfpack’s starting quarterback. Another question was definitively answered over the next four quarters, too. Finley is the guy going forward after staying on the field during nearly every drive.The lone drive for Jalan McClendon in the first half? An overthrown pass on a broken play as he was falling out of bounds that was intercepted. Not exactly how you make an impression on your new offensive coordinator. McClendon didn’t return until the first series of the fourth quarter after the abysmal drive.So what set Finley apart in Dave Doeren’s eyes? His authority in the huddle.”He’s got command and he’s not nervous at all,” Doeren said of Finley’s performance. “I thought he looked really comfortable. He got guys where they needed to be. … I thought he played pretty smart.”Finley didn’t do anything fantastic, but it was never a necessity. He completed his first nine passes for 91 yards while Matt Dayes scampered in for two first half touchdowns. Dayes finished the night with 156 total yards — 138 on the ground — to go along with his two rushing touchdowns.After glowing about Dayes all offseason, Doeren spoke highly of his lead back again on Thursday. But after missing the final five games last season, he cautioned that we haven’t seen the best from Dayes yet.”I thought Matt Dayes looked really good,” Doeren said. “Six yards per carry and two touchdowns and caught the ball well. We know he’s explosive. The biggest thing is conditioning right now. We’d love to see him play a little more, but it’s good to get other guys in the game.”He got a little tired. Playing at that tempo just takes time.”Jaylen Samuels got in on the fun, in his typical fashion for the hybrid player. In his first 10 touches — five as a running back, five as a tight end — he scored three total touchdowns on 90 total yards. It’s an all-too-common occurrence for Samuels, who was scarcely used down the stretch for NC State last year.After leading the Pack in receiving and lining up multiple times at his true position of tight end, Samuels said most of his motivation came from his teammates.”When Matt scored his first two touchdowns, I knew I had to get something,” Samuels said with a laugh. “I knew mine was coming sometime. … We don’t really compete with each other. We just go out there and try to help our team win. Whatever we’ve got to do to win, we’re gonna do it.”Not to be outdone by Samuels and Dayes, senior receiver Bra’Lon Cherry also caught a touchdown from Finley. While he wasn’t a centerpiece for the Pack during the opener, Cherry is the clear-cut leader in the receiving corps.As for Finley, he dink and dunked his way to a consistent performance throughout the game. The Boise State transfer looked comfortable in Drinkwitz’s system, averaging just over 10 yards per pass on a 17-of-21 night for 174 yards and two passing touchdowns.While McClendon looked sharp on every play outside of the interception, finishing 6-of-8 with 88 yards, the interception ruined any chance of supplanting Finley. Heading into a tough road game against ECU in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Finley is clearly the starter against the Pirates and moving forward.”I’m assuming Ryan would [start] after the way he played,” Doeren said. “We’ll sit down as a staff tomorrow, watch the film and see where we’re at.”On the other side of the ball, NC State’s defense looked shaky early, allowing a relatively easy scoring drive for William & Mary. The secondary settled in after the initial possession for the Tribe, but will have a stiff test against the Pirates’ wide receiver corps.After limiting William & Mary to 62 total rushing yards, Bradley Chubb isn’t worried about the front seven against an in-state rival.”They shouldn’t be that big of a challenge,” Chubb said of ECU. “We’re going to prepare the same. Nothing’s going to change because one [opponent’s] Double-A and one’s not. They’re just a nameless opponent and you’ve got to prepare the same way and continue to fight.”