Sometimes you can’t win for trying and sometimes you lose because you try to do too much.
Three different times, on three key plays in the Miami loss, N.C. State quarterback Ryan Finley tried to make something out of nothing. Three times, Finley came up empty.
You can understand what Finley was trying to do and you can appreciate the effort, but the plays underscored N.C. State’s problems this season scoring touchdowns in the red zone.
On Saturday, N.C. State reached inside Miami’s 25-yard line four times and came away with one touchdown.
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On the season, N.C. State has been in the red zone 45 times and scored 26 touchdowns. In seven ACC games, N.C. State has 10 touchdowns on 23 red zone trips.
Taking them one-by-one from the Miami loss, N.C. State had third-and-7 from Miami’s 18 at 1:42 in the second quarter. Finley escaped pressure and was able to maneuver in the pocket to his left and find receiver Stephen Louis in the end zone.
Louis fell to his knees, almost like a catcher in baseball to secure the ball, and the pass hit Louis in the numbers but he couldn’t come up with the ball. It was one of four drops in the first half by N.C. State’s receivers and the most costly.
Obviously, that’s not Finley’s fault and when you’re running hot, you make that play as a team. N.C. State is obviously not running hot.
N.C. State settled for a 35-yard field goal and tied the score at 3.
After Miami drove the length of the field on its opening possession of the second half and took a 10-3 lead, N.C. State responded and drove down to Miami’s 11.
On third-and-8, Finley was again pressured and was able to roll out of trouble (again to his left) but this time tried to force a pass to either Louis or Jaylen Samuels. It was difficult to tell who was the target.
The problem was Miami cornerback Malek Young was in between Samuels, near the goal line, and Louis, in the end zone, and intercepted the pass.
Down 17-3, Finley drove N.C. State’s offense down to Miami’s 3-yard line with 55 seconds left in the third quarter. On third-and-goal from the 3, Miami got pressure on Finley again but he rolled out to his right this time. He stumbled as he was trying to avoid a sack and then at the last second tried to fling the ball into the end zone for Bra’Lon Cherry.
The ball was tipped twice by safety Jamal Carter and then intercepted by safety Rayshawn Jenkins in the end zone.
Replay overturned the interception, because Carter touched the ball while out-of-bounds, but it was a lucky break for Finley.
On fourth down, Matt Dayes scored on a 3-yard touchdown run on a toss sweep to the wide side of the field to make it 17-10.
N.C. State’s next trip to the red zone was highlighted by several mistakes.
As a first-time starter, Finley has been relatively productive this season. He has completed 213 of 354 passes for 2,669 yards with 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Finley played with toughness on Saturday, and he wasn’t helped by his receivers, who dropped five passes, but the Boise State transfer has been overwhelmed at times in ACC play.
Finley has nine touchdowns and eight interceptions in seven ACC games. That’s not good enough to get it done, even if the effort is there.
▪ Junior receiver/running back/tight end Jaylen Samuels was on the field a lot against Miami, he just didn’t do a lot.
Samuels played 52 of the team’s 73 snaps, which was the third highest percentage (71.2) of plays he has had in a game this season (73.2 vs. Florida State, 73 vs. East Carolina).
Samuels ran the ball twice for 8 yards. He did get to run the “JaySam Play” in the red zone in the third quarter, which Miami snuffed out after a missed block on the edge for a 1-yard loss.
He caught four passes for 28 yards. He was targeted eight times and did drop one pass.
On the season, Samuels has been on the field for 435 of the team’s 798 plays, or 54.5 percent. That’s actually down from 55.6 percent last year (530-of-953).
His production, through 11 games, is also down compared to last season. He has 47 catches for 450 yards with four touchdowns and 28 rushes for 165 yards and five touchdowns this season.
Through 11 games last year, he had 58 catches for 502 yards and seven touchdowns and 50 rushes for 310 yards and seven touchdowns.
Samuels, and N.C. State fans after the change at offensive coordinator, were hoping for more from Samuels this season, not less.