Jalan McClendon held a football behind his back while he talked with the media after N.C. State’s win over Notre Dame on Saturday.
It was one of the game balls coach Dave Doeren handed out after the Wolfpack’s 10-3 win over the Fighting Irish.
McClendon relieved starter Ryan Finley for most of the second half and ran 10 times for 56 yards. The sophomore quarterback won’t have the ball for long.
“I plan to give it to the O-line,” McClendon said.
It was definitely a game, in the rain and mud, for the big men up front. Pharoah McKever’s punt block provided the deciding points, but N.C. State’s offensive line helped the Wolfpack run for 157 yards and maintain a semblance of control over the game.
“Like I said when I got here, I want to be able to run then ball when I want to run it,” Doeren said. “That was a big part of this game. We rushed for 157 yards, they rushed for 59.”
Matt Dayes ran for 126 yards, but 84 came in the first half. When Notre Dame’s defense loaded up the box to stop Dayes, McClendon came in and was used basically as a single-wing runner.
That was fine with N.C. State’s offensive line.
“This game was all about the trenches,” N.C. State center Joe Scelfo said.
Given the highlight of Notre Dame center Sam Mustipher’s bungled snap made Deadspin’s website by halftime, even perfunctory tasks were a challenge in the rain and wet conditions and could lead to disaster.
Finley fumbled three different times but recovered all three. McClendon, who played one snap last week vs. Wake Forest, was able to take care of the ball better.
The redshirt sophomore ran eight times on his first drive in the third quarter for 51 yards. He finished with 56 yards on 10 carries. He also completed both of his pass attempts for 14 yards.
It might be the first time a quarterback got a game ball after throwing for 14 yards.
“His number was called, and he performed,” Scelfo said. “That’s Jalan. He comes to work every day and he’s prepared.”
After N.C. State’s defense stopped Notre Dame on downs and the offense took over with 1:52 left, it was up to McClendon to secure the ball and milk the clock. He ran for 7 yards on first down and then Dayes broke off a 24-yard gainer.
“It was tough,” McClendon said, “There were a lot of fumbles, and it was a wet game. Once Matt broke (that run), it was a relief.”
Shortly after, the celebration began for N.C. State’s players, who dove head first into the puddles on the field near their sideline.
“Crazy atmosphere, crazy game,” Scelfo said.
And a crazy win for the Wolfpack, one it needed.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio.