Despite putting up the first points and attempting a late comeback, the UCF Knights couldn't overcome the NC State Wolfpack. In the first twenty one minutes of the game the lead had changed hands 4 times with a UCF field goal establishing a score (0-3) followed by an NC State touchdown (7-3), UCF touchdown (7-10), and another NC State touchdown (14-10). After that UCF was never able to retake control of the lead.
The football in this game was imminently watchable. There were only two turnovers in the entire game. NC State lost a fumble and UCF threw an interception. NC State's first touchdown came on a cool trick play where their Running Back Shadrach Thornton threw the touchdown pass instead of the Quarterback. Opening their first drive of the fourth quarter NC State Wide Receiver Bo Hines threw a pass to Quarterback Jacoby Brissett for 20 yards and a first down.
During UCF's comeback run in the fourth quarter, their flirtation with cool an novel plays didn't treat them as kindly. With a single minute and 44 seconds left in the game they scored a touch down bringing the score to 34-27, if they could get another possession they could still win with another touchdown followed by a two point conversion. The UCF Knights went for an onside kick with the hope of getting that one more possession and a chance to score, but NC State recovered and were able to run out the clock to cement their victory. It was a thrilling end to a hard fought game. Turns out these teams in spite of their differences in regular season records and their standing in their conference were rather evenly matched.
The great difference maker in this game was NC State's pair of running backs, Shadrach Thornton and Matt Dayes. Thornton carried the ball for 96 yards and threw a touchdown pass, while Dayes ran for 78 yards and ran in two of the Wolfpack's four touchdowns. By contrast the entire UCF Knights team only managed 82 total yards from running the football.
At the quarterback position NC State Quarterback Jacoby Brissett was efficient averaging 10.1 yards a catch and throwing 15 of his 26 passes successfully racking up 262 yards and a single touchdown. UCF's Justin Holman threw for 291 yards and all three UCF touchdowns, but to do that he had to throw the ball 53 times for which the ball was caught only 23 times by his team averaging 5.5 yards and it was caught by the other team once.
That one interception ended up being incredibly damaging to UCF's chances for success. At the start of the play the ball was smack dab in the middle of the field at the 50 yard line and there were 9 minutes left on the clock.. Holman threw deep, a full 37 yards to NC State Freshman Defenseman Josh Jones who returned the ball those same 37 yards back to the 50 yard line before he was stopped. NC State's following drive didn't end in a score. They ended up punting the ball away, but NC State managed to burn 2 minutes and 47 seconds off of the game clock. By the time UCF had possession of the ball again they were all of the way back to their own 20 yard line and had just under six and a third minutes left. The loss of time and field position that followed the interception critically hindered UCF's chances of getting the win in their fourth quarter comeback effort.
Brissett would end up winning the game's most valuable player award for his solid performance, and UCF wide receiver John Reese ended up winning his team's consolation equivalent after catching 6 balls for 75 yards and all three UCF touchdowns. Here's how this bowl compares to past incarnations:
- Together the teams covered 860 yards for the second most in this bowl's history after last year's East Carolina – Ohio Matchup
- This was the second best attended with 26,675 in attendance coming in after 2009's matchup between Rutgers and UCF.
- UCF now has an all time losing record in this bowl with a win in 2012 over Ball State and losses in 2009 to Rutgers and this 2014 loss to NC State.
- By virtue of this being their sole appearance in this particular Bowl game NC State is now undefeated in appearances here.