In its last two games, No. 4 Clemson has combined to hold Syracuse and Wake Forest to 324 passing yards on 33-of-68 passing with two interceptions and no touchdowns.
And though those numbers are impressive, the Tigers’ biggest challenge will come Saturday when it faces NC State quarterback Ryan Finley at Death Valley.
“He is very, very good,” defensive end Clelin Ferrell said Monday. “Just watch that game last year and see what he did against us.”
What Finley did last year was throw for 338 yards and three touchdowns as Clemson hung on for a 38-31 victory over the Wolfpack in Raleigh, N.C. Safety K’Von Wallace knocked loose a perfect Finley pass at the goal line to Jalen Samuels in the final seconds and then picked off Finley’s last pass to end zone to secure the victory.
“He is a really, really good player and he is obviously the heart of their team,” Ferrell said.
Playing Finley is a little bit more of a challenge for Clemson (6-0, 3-0 ACC) due to the style of which he and the Wolfpack play. So far this year, the Tigers have played three-triple option teams and two up-tempo teams—Wake Forest and Syracuse—that run a lot of run-pass-option (RPOs) plays.
NC State (5-0, 2-0 ACC) runs a prostyle offense, somewhat similar to what Clemson saw from Texas A&M in Week 2. Though A&M quarterback Kellen Mond is a different kind of quarterback than Finley, he still threw for 430 yards against the Clemson defense.
“They definitely have RPOs like Wake Forest does and everybody does, but it is a different system and a different quarterback,” defensive coordinator Brent Venables said about NC State. “(Wake’s) Sam (Hartman) is a terrific player and he has a great future ahead of him, but he does not know what he does not know yet. Where this week is a much different challenge where he is 23 or 24 years old and has played a lot of football. He has a lot of experience and is a very talented player.”
Finley leads the ACC in total passing yards (1,621 yards), passing average (324.2 ypg), completions (130) and completion percentage (69.5) this season.
So far this year, Finley has thrown just three interceptions in 187 pass attempts to go with 10 touchdowns. He is second in the conference to Lawrence in passing efficiency at 156.8.
He has diced up the Clemson defense the last two years, having more success against Clemson than any other quarterback.
“He is just really good at what he does,” Venables said. “He is accurate, poised, tough. He has good quickness. He certainly takes what is there, but he is very aggressive and is very confident.
“He will throw the seam when there is not really a hole there. He does a great job immediately understanding the positioning of a route and throwing the ball where it needs to be based on where you are at. He is very good with what he does.”