One of Ben Finley’s biggest fans will be at the Duke’s Mayo Bowl in Charlotte to see N.C. State take on Maryland.
That’s Finley’s big brother, Ryan, a former Wolfpack quarterback himself.
Ryan Finley, who lives in Phoenix, watched from afar the day after Thanksgiving when Ben was the starting quarterback and the Pack knocked off rival North Carolina 30-27 in a double-overtime thriller.
He watched as his brother proudly waved a large N.C. State flag after the game and watched the replays of Ben climbing up into the stands at Kenan Stadium for an emotional hug with their parents.
“He deserved that moment and he embraced the moment,” Ryan Finley said in an interview. “It was all appropriate and in good fun, and that’s the way Ben rolls. It was fun to see. It was cool.”
Ryan Finley, 27, was the quarterback four years ago when N.C. State won in overtime at Kenan. It was his second victory in Chapel Hill with the Pack and he smiled and dubbed Kenan “Carter-Finley North” with a bit of postgame hubris.
Ben Finley, again embracing the moment, called it “Carter-Finley West” after the win last month.
“I think Ben was more accurate,” Ryan said, chuckling.
“I was just really proud of him that he took advantage of his opportunity. I think he did everything right. Being on the scout team, he could play free and play loose and focus on the things he needed to do each day to get better. That was big for him.
“When you get that opportunity, you have to be ready for it and Ben was. I just thought he played phenomenal against UNC and it was really fun to watch.”
Finley’s late-season ascent
Much was made of Ben Finley’s late-season ascent from scout-team quarterback to third-team QB to being QB1, as first Devin Leary and later MJ Morris went out with injuries, and Jack Chambers was too inconsistent.
Needed in the road game at Louisville with the offense stuck in neutral, Finley came in to pass for 201 yards and a touchdown in the loss. That earned him the start against UNC, where he became an instant part of Wolfpack lore with his 271 passing yards and two touchdown throws.
“I thought the growth that he made from not starting the (Louisville) game and being thrown into it, to the UNC game, with his pocket presence and his comfort level, he just looked like a completely different player,” Ryan Finley said. “That was attributed to his preparation. And his mindset going in, I thought, was a really good one.”
Mindset? Ben Finley said he would just “let it fly” against UNC. That’s what he did.
“I thought he threw the ball super good,” Ryan said. “I mean, he throws a really good ball, definitely better than I was ever able to throw it. But that growth he made from the first game he played in to the second, that was pretty astonishing to me.”
Ryan Finley played three seasons for the Pack after transferring from Boise State, throwing for 10,501 yards and 60 touchdowns in 39 games. As a fourth-round draft pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2019, he played in eight NFL games in two seasons, making four starts.
Traded to Houston in March 2021, Finley didn’t stick with the Texans and was waived. Returning to his hometown of Phoenix, where he and Ben starred at Paradise Valley High, he said he has not decided on his next career move.
How Finley brothers differ
Ben Finley, seven years younger than Ryan, was a redshirt freshman this season and earned his NCSU degree this month. Asked after the UNC game if he ever considered transferring while not playing, he said he loved N.C. State and wanted to graduate from the school.
And now? Morris and Finley will be working with a new offensive coordinator in spring ball with Robert Anae hired to replace the departed Tim Beck. There will be a new offensive system, with questions to be answered and positions to be won.
At 6-3 and 205 pounds, Ben Finley is roughly the same size as his older brother – Ryan is 6-4 and 207 pounds – although their temperaments and their demeanor differ.
Ryan Finley has been the more introverted, quiet, intense type. And Ben?
“He can be a goofball, but deep down I think he cares a tremendous amount,” Ryan said. “He does work really hard, kind of behind the scenes. I think he kind of enjoys having fun and he probably has had a little more balanced life than I had when I was playing. I think that’s a really healthy thing and I’m proud of him for finding that balance.”
As for the bowl game, Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren has not announced a starter, only saying both Morris and Finley are practicing. Odds are, both will play against the Terrapins (7-5).
Either way, Ryan Finley plans to be at Bank of America Stadium, hoping to see his little brother spin a few more passes, let it fly again.
Duke’s Mayo Bowl
When: Friday, Dec. 30, noon
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte