Jalan McClendon was swarmed by his N.C. State teammates after a 1-yard touchdown run gave the Wolfpack a 7-0 lead over Old Dominion in the first quarter on Saturday.
Shortly after the scrum dispersed, starting quarterback Ryan Finley ran onto the field to celebrate with McClendon.
After losing out on a quarterback competition to Finley, and not playing last week in a loss to East Carolina, you might expect McClendon to be less than thrilled with his backup status or upset with Finley.
You’d be wrong.
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“That’s my guy,” McClendon said. “I help him. He helps me.”
McClendon, who finished with a pair of touchdown runs and his first career TD pass in the Wolfpack’s 49-22 win over ODU, said he understands why people might think he would be angry. He also understands the situation better than anyone else on the outside.
“No, I mean, as long as we win, I don’t care,” McClendon said. “That’s the result that matters.”
Finley, graduate transfer from Boise State, came in the summer and won the starting job. McClendon spent the past two years as Jacoby Brissett’s backup and was the starter in the spring game.
Finley has always been quick to talk about the success of the quarterback unit, not just his stats, which were good again (24-for-28, 281 yards, 3 TDs) on Saturday.
“He’s a good guy, too,” McClendon said of Finley. “So that helps out a lot.”
Finley, who threw for a season-best 281 yards and three touchdowns, was just as happy with his numbers as McClendon’s success.
“Like I’ve said before, we’re in it together,” Finley said. “Jalan is a great player, and he could probably be out there, too.”
McClendon got extended action for the first time this season. He played one series in the first quarter against William & Mary in the opener, throwing an interception, and then not again until the game was out of reach late in the fourth. He didn’t take a snap in the 33-30 loss at ECU last week.
But offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz had a package ready for McClendon this week and used it on N.C. State’s first two drives inside ODU’s 10-yard-line.
After running back Matt Dayes couldn’t punch in a touchdown on two attempts inside the 1-yard-line, McClendon came in and ran a read option with running back Dakwa Nichols. McClendon kept the ball, and got a key block from tight end Thaddeus Moss, for an easy touchdown.
They ran the same play in the second quarter with McClendon scoring from 3 yards out.
The same personnel set came in on third-and-goal from the 3 with N.C. State up 21-9 in the third quarter. McClendon pulled the ball from Nichols on the play-fake and hit Moss for a touchdown. It was the first career TD pass for McClendon, a sophomore, and first career TD catch for Moss, a freshman.
N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said McClendon has taken the decision to go with Finley, and the limited playing time, in stride.
“Jalan is a great teammate,” Doeren said. “He understood why Ryan was in front of him. He also, like we told him, was going to have opportunities and he seized them.”
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio
N.C. State (2-1)
Last week: beat Old Dominion, 49-22
This week: Open date