The Wolfpacker

January 2019

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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12 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY MATT CARTER E arlier in November, NC State offered class of 2020 quarterback Ben Finley from Paradise Valley High in Phoenix. The younger brother of Wolfpack three-year starting quarterback Ryan Finley had little trepidation about potentially following in the footsteps of his brother. In fact, he relishes it because the com- petitor in him sees an opportunity to top his old brother. "He's had so much success at NC State, and he's loved it," Finley said. "He's set- ting records and making history. I want to beat him. I think that'd be awesome … just beat everything by one yard or one touchdown. "He'd be pissed off for life." Finley was only joking about the last part, but not about going to NC State to make his own mark. Thus he made his verbal commitment official Nov. 18. "They offered some solid quarterbacks in the 2020 class," Finley noted. "I thought about it. I wanted to be in Raleigh, I wanted to play for NC State. I didn't want to miss out on that opportunity. "When I realized that, talking to my par- ents and my brother, it felt right." Finley informed the NC State coaches and his brother earlier about his choice, but he waited to make it official because Finley wanted to make sure other coaches recruiting him learned about the news from him and not social media. Arizona, Arizona State, Iowa State and Nevada had also offered Finley, and he made sure to check all those programs out during the recruiting process. "I considered all the schools since they believed in me," he said. "I made sure I went to every school and picked out what I loved. "When it came down to it, NC State just felt right." What the Wolfpack is getting in the fu- ture Finley has some differences from the current Finley. For one, the younger Finley is bigger. When Ryan was a junior in high school, his brother noted that he weighed around 160 pounds. Ben Finley already checks in at 6-2½, 196 pounds. "Our athleticism is comparable," he added. "I got quickness, but Ryan's got me in speed because his legs are so dog- gone long." Finley has time to work on his speed, though, as well as his game before he gets to NC State. He also does not have to worry anymore about the pressure of mak- ing a college decision. "It's a great feeling," he said. "Very few kids get to experience this feeling. I can't wait to get to see what the recruiting class will be and build on it. "I think it will be a great time at NC State. I'm looking forward to it." Finley led Paradise Valley to a 6-4 re- cord this season, while completing 57.0 percent of his passes for 2,777 yards with 23 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He also rushed for 153 yards and four scores. NC State lost its earlier commitment from the 2020 class when three-star cor- nerback Jahquez Robinson announced Nov. 26 he was decommitting. Since backing out of his pledge, the Jacksonville (Fla.) Sandalwood product received an of- fer from LSU, which he claimed was his dream school. ■ After trouncing East Carolina 58-3 to end its regular season with a 9-3 record, NC State head coach Dave Doeren made his pitch to play in an upper-tier bowl. Director of athletics Debbie Yow was more specific on Twitter — she wanted the Pack to go bowling in Florida. Both received their wish when the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl picked NC State to face No. 19 Texas A&M Dec. 31 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN. It marks the Wolfpack's return to the Gator Bowl for the first time since NC State had one of its signature moments in its football history nearly 16 years ago. The Pack crushed Notre Dame 28-6 on New Year's Day 2003 to secure a school-record 11th win. The Aggies went 5-3 in the vaunted Southeastern Conference and finished their regular season with a thrilling seven-overtime win over then-No. 7 LSU at home. Texas A&M also has a win over Kentucky, which was No. 14 in the final College Football Playoff rankings. NC State and Texas A&M are playing each other for the first time, but the coach of the Aggies is a familiar face. Jimbo Fisher spent the previous eight years at Florida State and went 5-3 against the Wolfpack, including 3-1 against Doeren. The Pack, however, beat FSU in the last meeting involving Fisher, a 27-21 win at Tallahassee in the Noles' home opener for the 2017 season. Fisher left for A&M the following December. NC State will be looking for just its second-ever double-digit-win season. The nine wins marks the first back-to-back nine-win cam - paigns since 1991-92, which was also the last time NC State had back-to-back winning ACC records prior to this fall. NCSU went 6-2 in the conference in 2017 and 5-3 this year, posting the second-best league record behind Clemson in that span. The bowl is the fifth straight for the Pack, which will be looking to win its third consecutive postseason game and improve to 4-1 in bowl games under Doeren. A victory could also secure a second straight top-25 finish in the final edition of the polls. NC State was 28th in the pre-bowl top 25 released by the Associated Press and 27th in the coaches' version. The Pack was similarly just outside the top 25 going into the bowls last year but leaped into the final rankings after beating Arizona State in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. — Matt Carter NC State Heads South To TaxSlayer Gator Bowl Class Of 2020 Quarterback With A Familiar Last Name Commits To NC State TRACKING THE PACK Phoenix Paradise Valley standout Ben Finley will follow in the footsteps of his brother Ryan and play quarterback for the Wolfpack. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN

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