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To throw 257 consecutive passes without an interception, a quarterback will need at least a little blind luck.
What it takes most of all is excellence in the art of decision-making.
Ryan Finley has not been picked off since North Carolina State’s home loss to Miami last season and he currently ranks ninth in the nation in completion percentage at .719.
The Wolfpack, 2-0 in Atlantic Coast Conference play for the first time since 2006 and at No. 24, ranked nationally for the first time in seven years, have benefited greatly from Finley’s seeming inability to make the wrong choice. A road win over then No. 12-ranked Florida State has put N.C. State in a terrific position to compete for an Atlantic Division title.
A win over Louisville on Thursday will solidify the Pack’s standing.
On Saturday, it was a stark contrast between N.C. State’s season opener against South Carolina, where the Wolfpack got off to a slow start and were forced to chase the game.
While it did get nervy late against Syracuse, the Pack had the upper hand throughout. They will look to do the same Thursday.
“Getting off to a fast start is definitely going to be important in this game,” Finley said. “I think that is one of Louisville’s strengths on offense. They put up points early. I definitely don’t think we want to get behind and be at their tempo. We want to control the game and part of that, I think, is getting off to a fast start.”
POISE UNDER FIRE
Doeren knows perfection is too much to ask. He is, however, happy with Finley’s poise and the feels the results of his decisions are putting N.C. State in the best position to succeed.
“It’s just a matter of time. ... He’s not going to be perfect for the year, but he’s making good choices,” Doeren said. “He’s putting the ball where it’s hard for them to get to it. He’s throwing it on time, and the guys are fighting for the ball.”
The scope of Finley’s ability to decipher what is best is not limited to the passing game.
Finley made several solid runs on the read-option game against Syracuse when the Orange were intent on stopping the Wolfpack’s running game. N.C. State finished with 256 yards rushing, including 115 yards from Nyheim Hines.
“It’s good blitz control,” Doeren said of Finley’s ability to run. “If you can run some option and control how they are pressuring, you make them balance up. I’ve always felt like if you’re playing a team that’s good with option, good with screens, and can drop back and throwing the ball, be balanced, that’s tough.”
The Wolfpack will need Finley at his best Thursday. N.C. State is taking a day-by-day approach but it is hard not to notice that the stakes are high for the matchup versus the Cardinals.
“We are all competitors,” Finley said. “We expect to win every game we play in. We are focused on what we are doing here and excited on the opportunity we have on Thursday.”
DEXTER WRIGHT UPDATE
The former Hunt High star continues to recover from injury. His status for Thursday is still up the air.
Doeren spoke on Monday about Wright and indicated that things are improving and there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the redshirt-junior who has not played since the season-opening loss to South Carolina.
“He’s doing well and (Monday evening ) he’ll practice,” Doeren said. “He practiced last week. Our intention is to have him play on special teams and be able to be in the game on defense if he looks good. I’m hopeful.
“He asked if he could play on the punt team last week, and I said no because I hadn’t seen him tackle or play at full speed yet in practice. (Our trainer) thought he was really close to being 100 percent so (Monday) will be a big night for him.
On Tuesday, defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable elaborated on Wright’s condition.
“He is coming along,” Huxtable said. “I don’t know if he is going to be ready to go yet but he’s making progress. Hopefully we will get him back sooner than later.
“I don’t get to see the special teams a lot because I am not involved with them but I did hear us talking as a staff about getting him involved in the special teams to get him back into some playing shape that way and then, when he is able, getting him back on the field with us defensively. We are looking forward to getting him back.”