'You can never doubt yourself': Ben Finley plays himself into future conversation for NC State at quarterback

CHAPEL HILL – Ben Finley was still on fire during his postgame press conference.

Moments after delivering a 30-27 double-overtime win against in-state rival UNC during his first career start at NC State, the third-year quarterback took a shot at Tar Heel quarterback Drake Maye, complimented the cleanliness of his jersey – a nod to the play of his offensive line – and reminisced about planting the Wolfpack flag on the 50-yard line near the powder blue logo.

“As I should of,” Finley noted.

No one – particularly those clad in red Friday night – will argue that fact.

Finley, who started the season as NC State’s scout team quarterback, was better than even the highest of expectations: completing 27 of 40 passes for 271 yards and two touchdowns, including a go-ahead score to Devin Carter late in the fourth quarter. At one point, he completed 11 straight passes in the second quarter. He was sacked once but spent most of the game with all the time in the world in the backfield.

“I don’t even look like a played a game, my shirt is pristine white,” he said. “Anytime you can go out there and camp out there and deliver balls, it’s a privilege.”

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Finley joked he hadn’t thrown a pass to Carter in over a year. It didn't seem to matter. The two combined connected six times for 130 yards on Friday. His other touchdown pass came from freshman Terrell Timmons in the first quarter, a fellow scout team player earlier this year.

“He’s just a carefree guy,” Carter said. “He has poise as well. So, it’s just, simple.”

There was nothing simple about a win that looked earned and lost throughout a wild night of football. The Tar Heels scored a touchdown to force overtime, and then they didn't. Maye's pass to John Copenhaver was called incomplete in the end zone starting a frenzied NC State celebration before two seconds were put back on the clock. Maye connected with Antoine Green on the next play with zeroes left on the clock to force overtime.

Both teams exchanged field goals in the first extra period and looked destined for a third before Noah Burnette missed a 35-yarder to give NC State the win.

It was the third victory for a Finley at Kenan Memorial Stadium. His older brother, Ryan, was 2-0 in Chapel Hill, including a 34-28 overtime win in 2018 when he famously called the stadium “Carter-Finley North”. Finley mistakenly remembered his brother calling it “Carter-Finley West”.

But that just adds another wrinkle to his story.

Five weeks ago, Finley was the Wolfpack’s fourth-string quarterback, maybe not content, but understanding of the fact he might never take another meaningful snap in college.

But injuries to Devin Leary and MJ Morris as well as the struggles of Jack Chambers gave way to Finley’s moment.

“You can never doubt yourself,” he said. “To be able to preserve is the biggest thing in life. Things are going to happen to you; keep climbing up the hill and you never reach the pinnacle of the mountain. You just have to keep climbing.”

North Carolina State quarterback Ben Finley (10) celebrates with fans after the team defeated North Carolina in overtime in an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, in Chapel Hill, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)
North Carolina State quarterback Ben Finley (10) celebrates with fans after the team defeated North Carolina in overtime in an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 25, 2022, in Chapel Hill, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)

So where does Finley go from here?

NC State (8-4, 4-4 ACC) is bound for a late December bowl game in which he will likely start. The future of Leary and Morris has yet to be revealed and Finley has three years left of eligibility. He’ll graduate in December.

“I never tried to get into UNC, but according to Drake (Maye) I couldn’t have,” Finley said, referencing Maye’s comments in September that NC State students couldn’t get into UNC. “It’s nice to get a degree from NC State in finance.”

Before he left the podium to continue his celebration, Finley was asked a simple question about his future: Do you want to be NC State’s starting quarterback next season?

His answer for also simple: “Oh, yeah.”

This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: Ben Finley plays himself into future quarterback conversation for NC State football.