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Harlon Barnett’s defense faces a difficult challenge in seldom sacked Ryan Finley

The ACC’s passing leader has been sacked just four times in seven games.

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Florida State Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina State quarterback Ryan Finley has been sacked just four times this season. To put that into perspective, Deondre Francois has been wrapped up by opposing defenses four plus times in a single game on four different occasions. Francois took five against Virginia Tech, four against Syracuse, SIX against Miami, and added five more last Saturday against Clemson.

The Wolfpack are ranked second in the nation in sacks allowed, trailing only Army. What makes that even more impressive is the fact that army has only thrown the ball 68 times this year, an average of 8.5 attempts per game. On the other hand, NC State average just over 37 pass attempts a game, good enough for 24th in the country. Finley has dropped back to pass 265 times. This means he is getting sacked on just 1.5% of his attempts. Brian Burns may lead the ACC in sacks, but he’s going to have his work cut out for him on Saturday.

Defensive coordinator Harlon Barnett talked about Finley’s ability to avoid the turf and credited him and his coaches with getting the ball out of his hands quickly, but he was obviously tight-lipped about his own plan to get him to the ground.

“There are some things that we’ve talked about in trying to (sack Finley),” Barnett said. “Like you said, he hasn’t been sacked much. Credit to him and them getting the ball out of his hands fast. We have to be able to see what we can do. I can’t give that away, but we’ll see what we can do.”

Finley has been one of the better quarterbacks in the ACC for a couple years, and NFL scouts certainly have their eyes on him, as he is likely to be drafted once his career at NC State has concluded. Barnett recognizes the senior’s talent and says that part of what makes him so dangerous is his standing as a veteran quarterback with ample experience in the Wolfpack’s offense.

“Him being in this offensive system on his third year—really good player,” Barnett said. “He understands coverages, understands where to go with the ball, and he has some talented receivers to throw the ball to. It’s always challenging against a veteran quarterback—what I would call a veteran quarterback in college—to go up against. And as talented as he his throwing the football, It makes it a challenge, but we look forward to it.”