Jacoby Brissett threw for 262 yards and ran for 31 more, leading NC State to a 34-27 win over UCF in the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl. The Knights clawed back from a 34-13 fourth quarter deficit and had a chance to tie the game after Justin Holman's three-yard touchdown pass to Josh Reese-- his third touchdown grab of the night-- with under two minutes to go, but the Wolfpack recovered the ensuing onside kick and were able to run out the clock.
UCF's defense, which entered the game giving up just 17.9 points per game, had no answer for the Wolfpack's offense-- Brissett in particular. The junior QB capped off his first season in a Wolfpack uniform in an impressive way, going three for three with a pair of first down runs on NC State's first drive, which ended on a remarkable halfback pass from Shadrach Thornton to Jaylen Samuels. Thorton's pass was a wobbly jump ball to the corner of the end zone, but Samuels snagged the ball over UCF defensive back Brandon Alexander to give the Wolfpack their first lead.
The Knights responded with a third-and-goal touchdown pass from Justin Holman to Josh Reese to pull back ahead, but the lead was short-lived-- Brissett hit a wide-open Johnathan Alston for a 34-yard touchdown on NC State's next drive, and the Wolfpack never trailed again.
Halfback Matt Dayes added a pair of touchdowns and 78 yards for the Wolfpack. Dayes paired with Thornton to form a formidable rushing duo, helping NC State total 191 yards on the ground and ice the game against the stout Knights defense. UCF quarterback Justin Holman threw for 291 yards and three touchdowns, but completed less than 50 percent of his passes and threw a interception on a deep ball down two touchdowns in the fourth quarter that essentially sealed UCF's fate.
NC State nearly gave the game away to the Knights, with a smattering of mistakes slowing the offensive outburst. The Wolfpack failed to convert from first and goal at the Knights' four yard line in the second quarter, settling for a 19-yard Niklas Sade field goal. Later, with ten seconds left to go in the half and the ball on the UCF 16 yard line, Brissett took a sack that let the clock run out. Late in the third quarter, the Knights added three points on a Wolfpack fumble in their own territory.
It was a sour end to what was, by any account, a fine season for UCF. The Knights finished 9-4 and earned a share of the American Athletic Conference title despite losing offensive standouts Blake Bortles and Storm Johnson to the NFL.