RALEIGH — Ryan Finley played his final home game today, leading N.C. State to a 58-3 win over East Carolina and leaving State fans to wonder just what they saw in his three seasons at Quarterback U.
They saw yet another quarterback on his way to the NFL, another in a recent Raleigh pipeline.
Finley was sharp in the rain against ECU, showcasing his own skills at quarterback and the many weapons around him. In the years to come, that might be what we most remember about Finley. He might have the best receiving corps in the country, and running back Reggie Gallaspy, a Southern Guilford graduate from High Point, has emerged as one of the most reliable backs in the country.
Finley’s role as field general is impressive, though.
He steadily guided State past listless ECU, throwing to nine receivers as the defense shut down the Pirates and Gallaspy, Jakobi Meyers and kicker Christopher Dunn set school records.
Finley threw for 409 yards, completing 32 of 44 passes for three touchdowns and one interception.
He’s reported to be the top-rated quarterback in the NFL Draft by several services and draft analysts. And in a year that doesn’t look to be deep in quarterbacks, he’s likely going to go in the first round.
Finley would join four other State quarterbacks already in the league. Of all the State quarterbacks to play in the NFL (there have been nine, dating back to 1939) he could join Philip Rivers and Roman Gabriel as first-round picks.
“I’ve tried not to think about any of that,” he said. “I’ve tried to concentrate on this season.”
Finley’s last home game will be one a lot of people will remember. It was Coach Dave Doeren’s first win against ECU, and he made no secret how badly he wanted it. He wanted the shutout, too, calling a timeout as the Pirates lined up for a field goal on the last play of the game.
In the locker room, he said he didn’t have enough game balls to pass out because of all the great plays and record-setting performances.
Meyers broke Torry Holt’s record for receptions in a season with 89. He caught 13 passes for 163 yards, and joined teammate Kelvin Harmon going over 1,000 yards receiving for the season.
Gallaspy broke T.A. McClendon’s record for touchdowns in a season with 19 and went over 1,000 yards rushing for the after gaining 220 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns. The crowd was chanting “Reggie! Reggie!” after he broke off an 86-yarder in the fourth quarter.
Dunn, the freshman kicker from Lexington, kicked three field goals to give him a record 21 for the season.
A center, senior Garrett Bradbury, even scored a touchdown on a running play.
It was that kind of day.
The quarterback seemed along for the ride at times, but in his three seasons in Raleigh since transferring from Boise State, he’s been that kind of quarterback. Finley just sort of glides around in the pocket and fires quick-release darts to a host of weapons around him.
Sometimes, he seems to disappear from plays he himself generates.
He’s a different kind of cat. He already has two degrees, a magna cum laude graduate from Boise State and a master’s degree from N.C. State. He played on the Team USA roller hockey team for 10 years. And on Tuesday, he’ll be at the 61st National Football Foundation awards dinner as one of the top scholar-athletes in the country and is a finalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy, which goes to the top football scholar-athlete in the country.
It’s been a full three years for Finley since the transfer, and Saturday was one full day.
“I can’t think of a better way to go out,” he said. “Today was special. It’s a little emotional. It’s awesome.”
He said he hasn’t thought about what comes next. He said he plans to play in State’s bowl game, which will be announced Sunday.
And then he’ll join Rivers and Russell Wilson and Mike Glennon and Jacoby Brissett in the NFL next season, giving State and five quarterbacks in the league.
That’s unheard for any one school, but it was part of the reason he came to State in the first place.
When the game ended and almost everyone else had run off the field, Ryan Finley stood in the rain and looked out across the three years.
“I just wanted to be in the moment,” he said. “I just wanted to take it all in.”
It was a perfect ending for a team and its quarterback.