North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky has impressed NFL scouts this season with his strong passing arm and gaudy statistics.
N.C. State quarterback Ryan Finley has noticed his counterpart for Friday’s rivalry game in Chapel Hill, too.
“He’s played really good,” Finley said of Trubisky. “I’ve watched nearly all of his games. I think he’s done a really good job.”
Trubisky, a fourth-year junior in his first year as UNC’s starter, has completed 69.7 percent of his passes on the season for 3,188 yards with 25 touchdowns and four interceptions.
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Trubisky has been projected as one of the top picks in the NFL draft, if he decides to skip his final season of eligibility. NFL scouts are impressed with Trubisky’s size (6-3, 220 pounds) and arm strength. Finley has been impressed with Trubisky’s decision-making.
“He’s done a really good job of doing his job and executing and not turning the ball over,” Finley said.
Finley is not as complimentary of his own play. A graduate transfer from Boise State, Finley got to N.C. State in the summer and won the starting job in August.
He started three games at Boise last year but dealt with shoulder and foot injuries in his three years with the Broncos. The NCAA granted him a sixth-year of eligibility before this season began.
This is also his first time as the full-time starter since he was in high school in Arizona. Through 11 games, Finley has completed 60.2 percent of his passes on the season for 2,669 yards with 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
It was a risk by coach Dave Doeren to bring in Finley but it was one that has paid off, Doeren said.
“I do (think the risk has paid off) in a lot of ways,” Doeren said. “He’s mature, he understands the system really well. He has been able to get the ball to the right people in a lot of games. He’s only going to get better as time goes on.”
Loath to talk the media, in general, and about his own game, specifically, Finley said he has “not been as good as I probably could have,” this season.
All eight of his interceptions have been in ACC play (seven games) and he has been picked off five times inside the opponents’ 25-yard line — three of those in the opponents’ end zone.
“You can’t turn the ball over in the red zone,” Finley said.
He had interceptions in the end zone against Clemson and Boston College on plays that could have tied or potentially won those two games.
Finley doesn’t differentiate between mistakes.
“They’re all bad decisions,” he said.
Finley had two passes intercepted in Saturday’s loss to Miami in the end zone, one was overturned on replay. Both times, Finley was flushed out of the pocket by the pass rush and he was trying to make a play out of nothing. He doesn’t want any credit for the effort.
“That’s where my preparation needs to come in and I need to know in that situation you can throw the ball up in the red zone,” Finley said.
While Finley is aloof with the media, he has shown his new teammates his more endearing qualities.
“He’s cool,” guard Tony Adams said. “We love him. He’s very chill, laid-back guy.”
Finley’s quiet side is not unlike his predecessor, Jacoby Brissett, the starter the previous two years and now a rookie with the New England Patriots.
“He’s a quiet guy, Jacoby was the same way, he just chills,” Adams said. “That’s cool with us.”
And even as a newcomer, Finley has stepped in and been accepted as one of the team’s leaders, center Joe Scelfo said.
“I think he has done a tremendous job taking control and leading,” Scelfo said. “If you look at his emotions, he’s so consistent and that’s all you can ask for. If something bad happens, he just tries to remain himself and he stays calm.”
And don’t confuse Finley’s low volume for being passive. Trubisky’s universal admiration means there will be a lot of eyeballs on this game on Friday. The competitive streak in Finley runs deep.
“He’ll have a little extra spark,” Scelfo said. “That’s the way he is. He loves a challenge.”
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio
N.C. State at UNC
When: Noon Friday
Where: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill
Go online to find complete State-Carolina week coverage, including blogs, videos, photos and news from both the Tar Heels and the Wolfpack:
N.C. State: http://www.newsobserver.com/sports/college/acc/nc-state/