Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables knows all too well what Ryan Finley and the N.C. State offense are capable of.
Finley nearly led the Wolfpack to upset wins against Clemson each of the past two years.
The Tigers needed overtime to beat N.C. State in 2016, and last year, Finley passed for 338 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in a 38-31 Clemson win.
Finley is having the best year of his career in 2018. The senior leads the ACC and is sixth nationally with 324 passing yards per game as No. 16 N.C. State is off to a 5-0 start.
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“He’s just really good at what he does. He’s accurate, poised, tough. He’s got good quickness. He certainly takes what’s there, but he’s very aggressive, very confident,” Venables said. “He does a great job understanding your positioning on a specific route and throwing the ball where it needs to be based on where you’re at.”
Finley has an experienced group of receivers to throw to as the Wolfpack start two juniors and a senior.
Junior Kelvin Harmon is the best of the group. He leads the ACC in yards per game with 107, and he averages more than 16 yards per catch.
Venables is reminded of an offense he used to face every day in practice when he sees Finley and the chemistry he has with his receivers.
“They’ve got great cohesion on offense. It’s like having Deshaun (Watson) and Mike Williams and the rest of the guys from a cohesion standpoint and understanding where we need to be and where each other’s going to be, and versus this look we’re going to do this, and versus that look we’re going to do that,” Venables said.
N.C. State leads the nation in third down conversions at nearly 61 percent. This will be the best defense the Wolfpack has seen, but it could also be the best offense Clemson faces this year.
“It’s precision. It’s execution. It’s a quarterback that shows great experience in his decision-making. The system is one thing, but the guy that’s pulling the trigger and making all those decisions and throwing with accuracy and throwing on time is a big part of it,” Venables said. “They’ve got an experienced group of receivers and an experienced group of linemen up front and again, a quarterback that sees the field.”
Clemson will play a day game yet again this week at Death Valley as the Tigers will host N.C. State at 3:30 p.m.
Clemson has yet to play a night game at home this season, and defensive end Clelin Ferrell was disappointed when he received the news that Saturday’s game will be during the day.
“I was hoping they were going to make this a night game,” Ferrell said. “I think it’s time for a night game in the Valley, but they didn’t do that.”
Clemson’s game at Florida State on Oct. 27 will also be a day game. It will start at noon, the ACC announced Monday.