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N.C. State holds off Central Florida, 34-27

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — North Carolina State took another step forward in its turnaround under coach Dave Doeren with a strong performance in the Bitcoin Bowl.

Jacoby Brissett threw for 262 yards and one touchdown and Matt Dayes scored on runs of 24 and 15 yards to help the Wolfpack beat Central Florida 34-27 on Friday night at Tropicana Field.

Brissett tossed a 37-yard TD pass to Johnathan Alston to put the Wolfpack (8-5) ahead for good in the second quarter. Running back Shadrach Thornton got NC State going early with an 18-yard scoring pass to Jaylen Samuels.

UCF (9-4) began the night ranked in the top 10 in fewest yards allowed per game, as well as pass efficiency, rushing and scoring defense. But American Athletic Conference co-champions had no answers for Brissett and a supporting cast that amassed 488 yards of total offense — over 200 more than opponents averaged against the Knights during the regular season.

Brissett was 15 of 26 with no interceptions, completing passes to eight receivers. Thornton rushed for 96 yards on 17 carries and Dayes finished with 78 yards on 13 attempts to key a ground attack that produced 188 yards.

UCF’s Justin Holman threw for 291 yards, including TD passes of 6, 14 and 2 yards to Josh Reese, who had six receptions for 75 yards. Reese’s second touchdown cut it to 34-20 with 11 minutes remaining.

QUICK LANE BOWL

RUTGERS 40, NORTH CAROLINA 21

DETROIT (AP) — Josh Hicks ran for 202 yards and a touchdown and Rutgers beat North Carolina in the inaugural Quick Lane Bowl at Ford Field.

Gary Nova threw for 184 yards and two touchdowns, and Robert Martin ran for 100 yards and two scores to help the Scarlet Knights (8-5) cap their first Big Ten season.

Hicks was selected the player of the game.

Owned and operated by the NFL’s Detroit Lions, the bowl replaced the Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl, which had been played in Detroit under various names since 1997. The new bowl was hoped to make a bigger impact with a Big Ten vs. ACC matchup, but drew a disappointing crowd. The announced attendance was 23,876 — smaller than all but one Pizza Bowl — and the actual crowd appeared to be less than half of that.

Rutgers led 40-7 before the Tar Heels (6-7) scored twice in the final 7 minutes. North Carolina also had two second-half touchdown passes taken away because of interference penalties.

HEART OF DALLAS BOWL

LOUISIANA TECH 35, ILLINOIS 18

DALLAS (AP) — Houston Bates had 4 1/2 sacks against his former team to help Louisiana Tech beat Illinois in the Heart of Dallas Bowl at the Cotton Bowl.

Bates graduated from Illinois with a year of eligibility remaining and transferred to Louisiana Tech (9-5) to finish his college career close to home.

Kenneth Dixon scored one of his two touchdowns on an 80-yard reception, and Xavier Woods returned an interception 69 yards for a score for the Bulldogs. Dixon became Louisiana Tech’s career rushing leader, finishing with 63 to push his three-season total to 3,410.

Illinois (6-7) struggled early with penalties and missed field goals, but got within three points on David Reisner’s 43-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. But Dixon scored his second TD from a yard out with 6 minutes left to make it 28-18.