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No. 20 Northwestern holds off Kentucky in Music City Bowl

Northwestern running back Justin Jackson (21) carries the ball against Kentucky in the first half of the Music City Bowl NCAA college football game Friday, Dec. 29, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Justin Jackson ran for 157 yards and two touchdowns, and No. 20 Northwestern held off Kentucky 24-23 on Friday in a Music City Bowl that might be remembered more for injuries, ejections and a wild finish.

Both starting quarterbacks left in the first half with injuries, though Kentucky's Stephen Johnson returned early in the third quarter. Kentucky lost running back Benny Snell Jr. to an ejection for contact with an official early in the second quarter, and Northwestern lost leading tackler and linebacker Paddy Fisher before halftime when he was ejected for targeting.

Northwestern (10-4) still finished off back-to-back bowl wins in consecutive years for the first time in program history, and the Wildcats notched their second 10-win season in three years under coach Pat Fitzgerald. The senior class also won its 27th game for the best stretch in more than a decade.

Kentucky (7-6) had a chance to win after Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald tried to convert his fifth fourth down of the game only to turn it over for the fourth time on downs — this time at his own 39 with 2:31 left. Johnson ran for his second touchdown of the second half with 37 seconds left. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops went for the 2-point conversion rather than play for overtime, but Johnson couldn't connect with Tavin Richardson on the pass.

With quarterback Clayton Thorson knocked out early in the second with a right knee injury, Northwestern outran Kentucky 333-65. Safety Kyle Quiero provided the winning margin taking Northwestern's second interception 26 yards for a TD with 7:49 left.

SUN BOWL

NORTH CAROLINA STATE 52, ARIZONA STATE 31

EL PASO, Texas (AP) — Nyheim Hines had three 5-yard touchdown runs to help North Carolina State beat Arizona State in the Sun Bowl.

Hines finished with 72 yards on 16 carries for North Carolina State (9-4). The Wolfpack played in their fourth consecutive bowl game and sixth in seven years under coach David Doeren.

Reggie Gallaspy added 79 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries for the Wolfpack, Ryan Finley completed 24 of 29 passes for 318 yards and a score, and Stephen Louis had three catches for 115 yards.

Arizona State (7-6) played its final game under fired coach Todd Graham, with former NFL coach Herm Edwards taking over the program.

Manny Wilkins was 25 of 40 for 352 yards and three touchdowns for the Sun Devils. He also threw three interceptions. Arizona State won its previous three Sun Bowl appearances — in 1997, 2004 and 2014.

North Carolina State played without standout defensive end Bradley Chubb. Chubb, a projected top-10 pick in the NFL draft. The school announced a few hours before the game that he wouldn't play.

BELK BOWL

WAKE FOREST 55, TEXAS A&M 52

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — John Wolford threw for 400 yards and four touchdowns, and Matt Colburn ran for 150 yards and the go-ahead score in Wake Forest's victory over Texas A&M in the Belk Bowl.

The teams combined for 1,260 yards in one of the highest-scoring games in bowl history.

Wolford, a four-year starter and the game's Most Valuable Player, threw all four TD passes in the first half for Wake Forest (8-5). Colburn had a 1-yard touchdown with 2:18 left in the game to give the Demon Deacons the lead for good.

Scotty Washington had nine catches for 138 yards and a touchdown for the Demon Deacons, and tight end Cam Serigne had nine catches for 112 yards and a score.

Wake Forest stopped the Aggies on downs on their final drive to seal the win.

Nick Starkel threw for a Belk Bowl-record 499 yards and also had four touchdown passes for Texas A&M (7-6). Christian Kirk caught 13 passes for 189 yards and three touchdowns.

Jimbo Fisher now takes over as Texas A&M's coach in place of the fired Kevin Sumlin. Interim coach Jeff Banks coached the Aggies on Friday.

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