Not all interceptions and turnovers are alike but good luck trying to explain that to N.C. State quarterback Ryan Finley.
Finley’s best pass against Boston College, a seam route to running back Matt Dayes in the third quarter, was bobbled and intercepted. The sophomore quarterback’s first interception of the season, at Clemson on Oct. 15, was tipped by his receiver and then bounced to the defense.
N.C. State coach Dave Doeren pointed out that not all interceptions are Finley’s fault but to Finley, a bit of perfectionist, a mistake is a mistake.
“You just can’t turn it over,” Finley said. “It’s on me.”
In the first five games of the season, the sophomore quarterback didn’t turn the ball over at all. In his first 139 attempts, he didn’t throw an interception. He also didn’t fumble.
In Saturday’s loss to Boston College, Finley was intercepted twice and fumbled. He has turned the ball over seven times in the Wolfpack’s past three games, all losses.
Clemson, Louisville and Boston College all have defenses ranked in the top 15 in the country in yards allowed per game.
Again, that’s not an excuse to Finley.
“I think the defenses that we’ve played the last three games are probably better but, at the end of the day, it’s on me,” Finley said. “You can’t turn the ball over.”
Finley has been intercepted twice in each of the past three games. He threw an interception to end the Clemson game, on the last play of overtime, and then opened the Louisville game with a pick in N.C. State’s end of the field, which led to a field goal.
Both of Boston College’s interceptions came in the second half, the last one on N.C. State’s last possession. With third-and-goal from the 3-yard line, Finley was intercepted in the end zone trying hit receiver Steph Louis on a jump ball.
If Finley’s confidence is shaken, he’s not giving any indication. In his best Bill Belichick impersonation, he would offer these thoughts on the topic: “We’re just focused on this week.”
For the season, Finley has completed 148 of 240 passes for 1,815 yards with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. He had a season-high 307 passing yards in the Boston College loss and has two 300-yard games this season.
Finley’s decision-making helped him win the starting job in August practice and was an asset in the first month of the season. He has to take care of the ball and understands his role in the Wolfpack offense.
Doeren understands the value of turnovers and the problems they have caused in N.C. State’s past two games. Against Clemson, the Wolfpack defense forced four turnovers, compared to only two giveaways.
“That’s the No. 1 reason you win and lose games,” Doeren said.
For the season, N.C. State is plus-2, with 15 takeaways and 13 giveaways. It has only had a negative margin in three games this season: a win over Old Dominion and the past two losses to Louisville and Boston College.
“We have to do everything we can as a football team, because of the margin of error we have, to be positive in the turnover margin,” Doeren said.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio