Finley starts at QB, NC State beats William & Mary 48-14
Ryan Finley looked at ease as North Carolina State's starting quarterback. Of course, he didn't need to do a lot of heavy lifting with Jaylen Samuels and Matt Dayes repeatedly getting to the end zone.
Samuels and Dayes combined to score five touchdowns to help N.C. State beat William & Mary 48-14 on Thursday night, an easy win to open the season and build confidence with Finley running the Wolfpack's new offense.
Finley had battled Jalan McClendon through preseason camp for the starting job. The graduate transfer from Boise State did enough to get the first gameday shot, then directed touchdown drives on his four first-half series to start Dave Doeren's fourth season.
"At the end of the day we just went out and executed and got our athletes the ball in space," said Finley, who completed 17 of 21 passes for 174 yards and two scores.
Steve Cluley ran and threw for scores for the Tribe (0-1), who came in ranked No. 10 in the Championship Subdivision ranks. But they couldn't keep up in a 21-point second quarter by the Wolfpack that may have also solidified Finley's hold on the starting job in the offense installed by Eli Drinkwitz - who coached Finley at Boise State last year.
Finley made a series of easy throws and distributed the ball to playmakers Dayes and Samuels, completing his first nine passes.
"He's just got command," Doeren said. "He's not nervous at all. He just played. And I thought he looked really comfortable."
Meanwhile, McClendon made a costly mistake in his first series. He rolled right toward the sideline under pressure, then threw late and high for an interception. The redshirt sophomore didn't make it back on the field again until the fourth quarter.
William & Mary had just 168 total yards, with top tailback Kendell Anderson getting just five touches after being questionable with a shoulder injury. Cluley threw two interceptions.
"It was a very physical game and it took its toll on us," Tribe coach Jimmye Laycock said. "I like to think that we could have played better but don't know if we could have with as tough as they are."
WILLIAM & MARY: The Tribe opened with a long touchdown drive but things soon fell apart. Then again, it's the kind of thing that can happen on the road against a Bowl Subdivision team. Move on.
N.C. STATE: Doeren cautioned this week that the Week 1 starting QB wouldn't necessarily be starter all year. That makes Finley's performance little more than a good start in a gameday audition against an overmatched opponent for now, though Doeren acknowledged it also could mean another start next week.
While Doeren was unhappy with the Wolfpack's seven penalties for 80 yards, one stood out in particular.
Junior defensive end Kentavius Street made a third-down sack but was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after ripping off his helmet to celebrate while motioning and pointing to the crowd. That gave the Tribe a first down and sent Street to the sideline, though Josh Jones bailed him out with an interception two plays later to avoid a score on a once-dead drive.
"Really disappointed, particularly on some of the stupid stuff, taking a helmet off after you get a big play," Doeren said. "Act like you've been there before. It's stuff that we've got to get fixed and we will get it fixed this week."
Dayes was in position to become the Wolfpack's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2002 last year before a foot injury sidelined him for the final five games. The senior ran 23 times for 138 yards and two touchdowns to go with a pair of catches for 18 yards.
WILLIAM & MARY: The Tribe will aim to improve to 7-0 against instate program Hampton on the road.
N.C. STATE: The Wolfpack won't have an easy trip to East Carolina, which will boast a rowdy crowd eager to see the Pirates stick it to their power-conference instate foe.