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NC State Football

WILSON: Anomaly or Trend?

October 11, 2018

Another week, and another win for the Wolfpack. With NC State riding high at 5-0 on the year, 2-0 in ACC play, it can be hard to find something to nitpick with the team, especially the offense.

Well, here I am.

Ryan Finley threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns against Boston College this past Saturday in the Pack’s 28-23 win. However, Finley also threw two interceptions on back-to-back drives, one of which came inside the Eagles’ 5-yard line. The offense recovered for touchdowns on three of the next four drives, which proved to be insurmountable for Boston College to overcome.

However, will Finley, a quarterback lauded for his touchdown-to-interception ratio, start to decline in ball security as the season continues, or will this be end up being an isolated incident?

The first place to start is to see if there has been any precedent to any similar trend previously for the Phoenix native. When it comes to his first year in Raleigh, there definitely is a trend there.

After five games without an interception, Finley threw two picks against Clemson in the infamous overtime loss in Death Valley, the latter of which came on the Pack’s only overtime play in the end zone on a pass intended for Bra’Lon Cherry.

Following the loss on the road, Finley got picked off six more times while only throwing for six touchdowns down that stretch to close out the regular season -- though he was untouched against Vanderbilt with a three-score performance in the Independence Bowl. In terms of record, the Wolfpack ended the season 3-4 after the loss to the Tigers.

One year later, Finley looked a lot more polished behind center, only giving up his first interception of 2017 in the team’s eighth game, but the end result was a 35-14 loss on the road to Notre Dame. Finley finished the regular season with at least one interception in every game, including two in the subsequent game versus Clemson. The Pack ended the season 2-3 before a 52-31 win over Arizona State in the Hyundai Sun Bowl where Finley finished with 318 yards through the air, one passing touchdown, and no interceptions.

But how does the upcoming competition fare against opposing quarterbacks?

Intradivisional foe Syracuse looks to be the biggest test of Finley’s ball security. The Orange leads the conference in turnover margin with +8 and is second in interceptions with nine behind Boston College’s 10. The ACC’s pass-snatcher extraordinaire also plays in central New York as Andre Cisco already has four picks in six games this season.

Though NC State will eventually have to face the Orange, the Wolfpack’s next challenge will come against Clemson. As already mentioned, Finley has four interceptions thrown in two games against the Tigers in his NC State career. However, this year’s Clemson squad is currently -1 in turnover margin and has only picked off two passes.

The rest of the ACC slate is at the bottom end of the turnover differentials: Wake Forest (-3), Florida State (-5), North Carolina (-8), and Louisville (-10).

The Wolfpack has a huge gem at quarterback with Ryan Finley. He’s been one of the best offensive catalysts. Historically, though, once he starts getting picked off it can continue to be a trend. However, as years have gone by, it’s become less of an issue. With no game this week, the team can regroup and prepare for the fourth-ranked team in the nation.

Next week, the Texile Bowl and Atlantic Division supremacy will be on the line. And just as importantly, Finley’s composure will be put to the test.

Tags: Football
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