Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct.10, 2016

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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34 OCT. 10, 2016 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED BY MATT JONES R edshirt sophomore Ryan Fin- ley had a head start on the quarterback competition at North Carolina State. The graduate transfer from Boise State followed his offensive coordi- nator, Eli Drinkwitz, to Raleigh, N.C., and hit the ground running. That's not surprising, considering the bond he has with Drinkwitz. Fin- ley missed 10 games last season at Boise State with an ankle injury and all of his freshman season in 2014 with a shoulder injury. While he was out last year, he sat in the coaches booth with Drinkwitz, immersing himself in the offense. "You don't see a whole lot of quar- terbacks that will go to their third read, their fourth read and the pro- gressions. He's done that," TheWolf- editor Matt Carter said of Finley. "He's very poised and he doesn't let pressure get to him. He looks through the pressure rather than at it and goes through his reads. "I wouldn't say he has a cannon arm, but he can throw it deep well enough. More of a very accurate ball, managing-the-offense type of guy." In three games as Boise State's starter last season, the 6-4, 200-pound Finley was 46-of-70 passing with a touchdown and four interceptions. When he arrived at North Carolina State in May, he began a quarterback battle with redshirt sophomore Ja- lan McClendon, a competition that lasted into the team's opening game against William & Mary. F i n l e y f i n i s h e d t h a t c o n t e s t 17-of-21 passing for 174 yards with two touchdowns, while McClendon completed 6 of 9 throws for 88 yards with an interception. It's been all Fin- ley since. "He seems to have a great com- mand of the offense," Carter said. Finley graduated in three years from Boise State and now has three years of eligibility remaining with the Wolfpack (the NCAA has already granted him a sixth year of eligibil- ity). His strong start — he ranked first in the country in completion per- centage (76.3) through four weeks — has stabilized an offense that lost quarterback Jacoby Brissett to the NFL. "He is a great manager," Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren said of Fin- ley on his radio show last month. "He knows Coach Drink, he under- stands why he does what he does and does a good job managing that part of the offense. He puts us in the right place a lot of times. "I've said it many times: He throws a very catchable ball, and he gets it out quick and allows his players to make plays. That's the best thing a quarterback can do is get the ball to the right people quickly and let them do their thing. He's done that repeti- tively and he'll continue to get better because he's a critic of himself and he works on it." Finley is surrounded by some of- fensive talent. Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Stephen Louis has emerged as a threat, leading the team with 226 receiving yards through the first three games. "Stephen Louis has kind of been the breakout guy at receiver," Carter said of the 6-2, 215-pounder. "He had surgeries on both his shoulders, so he had a medical redshirt last year. He always looked the part, but he's done a lot better than I would have expected the past couple weeks." Senior running back Matthew Dayes is the one to watch in the back- field. Through three games, he was averaging 104.0 yards per game. "They're a very balanced team, they can run the ball and Matthew GAME PREVIEW: NORTH CAROLINA STATE Hostile Environment Home-field advantage could help the Wolfpack spring an upset Facts & Figures NOTRE DAME VS. NORTH CAROLINA STATE Game Info Date: Oct. 8, 2016. Site: Carter-Finley Stadium (57,583). Kickoff: 12 p.m. Television: ABC. Radio: This broadcast can be heard live on SIRIUS Satellite Radio (channel 129). Series Facts: This is the second meeting between NC State and Notre Dame. The Wolfpack beat the Irish 28-6 in the only previous matchup in the 2000 Gator Bowl. Coaches: North Carolina State — Dave Doeren (21-21, fourth season); Notre Dame — Brian Kelly (57-26, seventh season). Noting North Carolina State: At his previous job, Doeren led Northern Illinois to the 2013 Orange Bowl with a 12-0 regular season. The Huskies were defeated 31-10 by Florida State … NC State offen- sive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz served under current Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Sanford at Boise State in 2014. Drinkwitz was the Broncos' tight ends coach … Junior H-back Jaylen Samuels earned All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors at tight end a year ago with 65 catches for 597 yards and seven touchdowns. Through three games this season, he had 135 yards and three touchdowns. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Ryan Finley ranked No. 1 nationally in completion percentage (76.3) through four weeks this season. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN

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