Well we finally got to watch some NC State football again, and I think it’s safe to say it was a successful debut for the Pack. We finally got answers to some long-standing questions, while others continue to linger. Quarterback play had been atop the list of questions all off-season, and Thursday’s win clarified it at least a little bit.
Here are the official stats via ESPN:
Ryan Finley: 17/21, 174 yds, 2 TDs, 5 rushes for 6 yds
Jalan McClendon: 6/9, 88 yds, 1 INT, 6 rushes for 5 yds
If I had to pick one word to describe quarterback play on Thursday, I would go with sufficient. Spectacular plays weren’t to be found, but Ryan Finley played within the confines of the offense and did exactly what it required of him. He’s surrounded by weapons at the skill positions, and last night’s offense was largely predicated on getting the ball to guys like Jaylen Samuels, Matt Dayes, Nyheim Hines, and other dudes. Finley distributed the ball to these guys and hit most of the small number of downfield throws he was asked to make. He played virtually mistake free football, which is all he was really asked to do.
Finley didn’t get to throw a true deep ball and thankfully the game didn’t call for a lot of downfield throws since the Pack controlled basically the entire game. Finley did orchestrate some third down conversions that required him to stand in the pocket and make a throw of more than two yards, and he looked pretty calm and comfortable doing so, which was encouraging.
McClendon was a lot more boom or bust in the opening game. The arm strength that everyone has raved about since he got on campus was definitely evident and the man really does throw a pretty ball. I don’t think anyone can deny that McClendon is the superior talent, but he seemed to be behind Finley in the decision-making aspects of the game. The second quarter scramble and jump ball heave that resulted in an interception was one of the worst plays ever. His fourth quarter pass to Kelvin Harmon though was one of the few phenomenal highlight reel plays of the game. Like I said, boom or bust.
McClendon almost looked nervous at times as well. He had trouble with a few snaps* and was inaccurate on a hand full of touch passes such as screens and swings into the flat. I’m not sure if that’s nervousness or just struggling with passes that don’t need to travel at a bazillion miles per hour. There probably was one, but I honestly can’t remember a single screen or pass into the flat that Finley was off target on.
It was McClendon’s first meaningful snaps of his career, so jitters are to be expected. I hope that Finley being undoubtedly better on Thursday doesn’t send McClendon to the bench for good, because the talent is obviously there. Finley is definitely the guy right now though.
Overall the quarterback play was fine. There were few terrible plays, which is all State needed to win this game. Anybody that thought we were going to have a repeat of Pete Thomas vs. Brandon Mitchell can take a breath. I also have to give a shout-out to Jakobi Meyers for his amazing third down catch. I don’t care what position he is playing, I will be a huge Jakobi Meyers fan. He is my Jaylen Samuels.
*It could be possible these snapping issues weren’t on McClendon. I’m not going to pretend to be a snapping expert, but Finley didn’t fumble a snap, which is why I drew the conclusion that I did.