The #23 ranked North Carolina State Wolfpack will play the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday, January 2nd and the Gator Bowl at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, Florida.
North Carolina State finished the season 8-3 overall and 7-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which was good enough for fourth place. The Wolfpack came on strong in the second half of the season winning each of their final four games. North Carolina State finished its regular season with a 23-13 victory over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. The Wolfpack was 51st in the nation in scoring and 68th in the nation in points allowed.
Kentucky finished its regular season 4-6 and was in fourth place in the East division of the SEC. The Wildcats finished the regular season with a 41-18 victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks but Kentucky lost four of its last six. The Wildcats offense struggled most of the season and finished 118th in points scored, while the Kentucky defense was 47th in the nation in points allowed.
Bailey Hockman is the key to the Wolfpack’s successQuarterback Bailey Hockman is the key to North Carolina State's success. North Carolina State's offense averaged 129.1 yards per game rushing, but was fueled by its passing game at average 262.4 yards per game and specifically by Hockman, who passed for 1820 yards, 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions, while completing 63.7% of his passes. Zonovan Knight was the leading rusher for North Carolina State with 736 yards and a 5.6 yards-per-carry average and nine touchdowns. The leading receiver for North Carolina State is Emeka Emezie with 42 receptions for 694 yards and 5 touchdowns. North Carolina State scored an average of 31.1 points per game.
The North Carolina State defense allowed nearly as much as the Wolfpack scored at 29.7 points per game. The Wolfpack allowed an average of 254.6 yards passing and 163.5 yards rushing per game. Opposing offenses average to 4.1 yards per carry against the Wolfpack. The statistical leaders on defense for North Carolina State were linebacker Payton Wilson with a team-high 108 tackles, defensive lineman Daniel Joseph with a team-high 6.5 quarterback sacks and Wilson also had a team-high two interceptions.
Injury Report: Quarterback Devin Leary remains sidelined with an injured shin, while tackle Tyrone Riley is out indefinitely with an undisclosed ailment.
Kentucky Offense Must Find a SparkThe Kentucky Wildcats scored an average of just 21.7 points per game behind averages of 187.4 yards rushing and 124.4 yards passing per game. The passing game for Kentucky was its weak link as the Wildcats were 121st in the nation. Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson passed for 1095 yards, seven touchdowns and four interceptions. Wilson also gained 410 yards rushing with five touchdowns. The leading rusher for the Wildcats was Chris Rodriguez Jr with 701 yards and a 6.9 yards-per-carry average that resulted in nine touchdowns. Josh Ali is the leading receiver for Kentucky with 49 receptions for 462 yards and one touchdown.
Kentucky's defense allowed an average of 26.4 points per game which was 47th in the nation. The Wildcats allowed an average of 220.3 yards passing and 166.7 yards. Opposing offenses averaged 4.4 yards per carry against the front seven of the Wildcats. The statistical leaders on defense for Kentucky are linebacker Jamin Davis with a team-high 89 tackles, linebacker Jordan Wright with a team-high 2.5 quarterback sacks and defensive back Kelvin Joseph with a team-high four interceptions.
Injury Report: Defensive back Kelvin Joseph will not play for personal reasons, while linebacker JJ Weaver is out with a knee injury and defensive back Jamari Brown, linebacker Torrence Davis, and defensive back Taj Dodson are all questionable.
- North Carolina State is 4-1 ATS in the last five against a team with a losing record
- The Wolfpack are 7-3-1 ATS in the last 11 bowl games