NC State wins Bitcoin Bowl at Tropicana Field

NC State wins Bitcoin Bowl at Tropicana Field

Tropicana Field, the home of Major League Baseball's Tampa Bay Rays, took on a different role on Friday night by hosting the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl.

Baseball fans still have 99 days to wait until the Rays' home opener, but Tampa Bay sports fans were treated to an entertaining college football game as North Carolina State posted a 34-27 win over Central Florida.

Tropicana Field has been the Rays' home since the franchise's inaugural season in 1998, but it has also accommodated the St. Petersburg Bowl since 2008.

The win capped a terrific turnaround season for the Wolfpack, who finished 8-4.

After a dismal 2-9 campaign in 2013, N.C. State bounced back to win eight games for the first time since 2011, which was also the last time the program won a bowl game.

The Wolfpack, led by junior quarterback Jacoby Brissett and junior running back Shadrach Thornton, compiled 487 yards, the most the Central Florida defense has allowed this season.

Brissett completed 15 of 26 passes for 262 yards and a touchdown, while Thornton carried the ball 17 times for 96 yards.

The Knights won the St. Petersburg Bowl in 2012, but they were unable to get the job done this time around.

Central Florida sophomore quarterback Justin Holman, who completed 23 of 53 passes for 291 yards, threw two of his three touchdown passes in the third quarter. But the Wolfpack's 14-point third quarter was too much to overcome.

Central Florida senior receiver Josh Reese earned his team's Most Valuable Player honors as he hauled in six passes -- including a bowl record three touchdowns -- for 75 yards. Brissett was voted the game's MVP.

Tropicana Field is one of three Major League stadiums to host a bowl game this season as Marlins Park hosted the Miami Beach Bowl, while Yankee Stadium is set to host the New Era Pinstripe Bowl on Saturday.

William Boor is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.