UCF to play NC State in Bitcoin St Petersburg Bowl

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UCF football will play NC State in the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl meaning head coach George O’Leary got at least one part of his bowl game Christmas wish.

Last month, O’Leary said he wanted his team to stay in the state of Florida if they weren’t selected to a New Year’s Day bowl game. He also said he preferred to play before Christmas because he didn’t have good experiences with student-athletes practicing during the holidays.

The Bitcoin bowl takes place Dec. 26th, the day after Christmas. But it’s a familiar setting for the Knights who will make their third appearance in St. Pete since 2009.

“I think it’s hard for kids to be away for a game over Christmas when their family is not there,” O’Leary said during an earlier press conference. “I just haven’t had good experiences with that in all the bowls I’ve been to.”

The Knights, who recently won a share of the American Athletic Conference championship with a dramatic Hail Mary catch by Breshad Perriman to defeat East Carolina, still have plenty of motivation.

After giving up three fourth quarter touchdowns last week, senior safety Brandon Alexander said he’s eager to get back on the football field.

“We went out there and played lights out in the first half and in the second half we had a lot of mental lapses, a lot of missed tackles and they had a lot of trick plays and scored touchdowns on us and we gotta adjust to those things,” Alexander said after UCF’s 32-30 win Thursday. “The bowl game is another game and honestly this is the seniors last opportunity to go out there and go out with a bang.”

UCF (9-3 overall, 7-1 AAC) and NC State (7-5 overall, 3-5 ACC) have two previous meetings having dropped the last contest, a 28-21 regular season loss at Bright House Networks Stadium in 2010. The Knights beat the Wolfpack in a tight 25-23 road season opener in 2007.

Collectively, both games drew an announced attendance of 100,303 fans.

The Knights’ senior class enters the bowl game with a 36-15 record, having just three conference losses in three seasons. This marks the third consecutive bowl game appearance for UCF, who beat Baylor 52-42 in the Fiesta Bowl last season and beat Ball State 38-17 in the Beef O’Brady Bowl during the 2012 season.

UCF is looking for its third straight bowl game win and 10-win season, both firsts in program history.

NC State, led by second-year coach Dave Doeren, is looking to win its first bowl game since 2011 when the school defeated Louisville 31-24 in the Belk Bowl. The team did not advance to the postseason last year.

Bowl game tickets can be purchased by calling 407.823.1000 between 5:30 and 8 p.m. Tickets are available by phone between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday-Friday this week. Tickets may also be purchased online at UCFKnights.com. Bowl tickets will be shipped the week of Dec. 15.