N.C. State makes its 24th trip to a postseason bowl game when it faces Rutgers for the first time in the PapaJohns.com Bowl.
The trip also marks NC State’s second bowl trip to Birmingham where the Wolfpack downed Southern Miss 31-27 in the 1990 All-American Bowl. It is NC State’s first bowl trip since a 14-0 shutout of USF in the 2005 Meineke Car Care Bowl. The Pack is currently riding a three-game bowl winning streak, dating back to the 2002 Toyota Gator Bowl.
Overall, N.C. State is 12-10-1 in bowl games, but 5-2 in its last seven.
The Wolfpack closed the 2008 season with four straight wins to become the tenth bowl eligible team from the ACC.
N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson ranks 41st nationally in passing efficiency with a 134.28 rating. Wilson garnered first-team All-ACC honors and ACC Rookie of the Year accolades as the redshirt freshman led the conference in pass efficiency rating and touchdown passes (16). He threw just one interception all year while playing in nine full games and making a brief appearance in the opener against South Carolina. His only pick came on his final pass of the Clemson game in week three which was also his first start. Since then, he hasn't thrown a pick in 226 attempts.
N.C. State is plus-11 in turnovers on the year, and linebacker Nate Irving leads the team with four interceptions to tie for 9th nationally.
Rutgers is making its fourth straight bowl appearance after making just one postseason trip in its first 135 years of playing the game. Last year, Rutgers defeated Ball State 52-30 in the International Bowl.
Like the Wolfpack, Rutgers concluded the season on a tremendous surge with victories in its last six games after a 1-5 start. Losing a running back as talented as Ray Rice can take some time to adjust. After all, Rice only ran for 4,926 yards and 49 touchdowns the last three years.
Without an established running game, experienced senior QB Mike Teel got off to an ugly start, throwing 7 picks and just 3 TD passes in the first seven games. Teel suddenly caught fire against Pittsburgh and threw 6 TD passes in a single game. He topped that mark in the final game of the regular season by throwing 6 in the first half against Louisville, and 7 for the game. Over the last five games of the season, Teel totaled 20 TD passes and 5 INT's. He hasn't thrown a pick since week 10 at USF, giving him 78 attempts without an interception. Teel finished as the top passer in the Big East with 3,099 yards, 23 TD's and 12 INT's.
As a team, Rutgers managed to score a total of 79 points in its first six games against FCS schools. The Scarlet Knights erupted offensively for 231 points in its last five games, an average of 46.2 per game.
With the offense sputtering in the beginning, the defensive numbers were also sour. Rutgers allowed its first four FCS opponents to accumulate 115 points, and each one scored at least 23. The Knights surrendered just 107 points in the last seven games while allowing only Pittsburgh to score over 17 points.
Junior wide receiver Kenny Britt had 81 catches for 1,252 yards and 6 TD's. He ranks 2nd nationally in receiving yards per game with 113.82, and 5th in total receiving yards.
The 3rd annual PapaJohns.com Bowl will be televised on ESPN at 3:00 pm eastern time on Monday, December 29.