(Yds/carry stats are calculated after removing sacks from the equation.)
Central Florida built it's nine-win season on a defense that was stifling against the chaff on its schedule and generally above-average against bowl-caliber opponents. On one hand, the Knights had the benefit of playing UConn (2-10), Tulsa (2-10), Southern Methodist (1-11), and South Florida (4-8) back-to-back-to-back-to-back in the November. That's a vacation. (Although they managed to lose to UConn.)
On the other hand, it's safe to say that despite the favors their schedule handed them, the Knights didn't lack credentials. They held BYU under four yards per play, 1.7 YPP below the Cougs' season average, and they were similarly tough on Houston, which also made it to the postseason. East Carolina only managed 14 rushing yards and 5.4 yards per play against UCF, well below its season averages in both categories.
By total defense or yards per play, UCF had a top-10 defense. By advanced metrics, it's more like a top-35 defense. Either way, still good. Easily the toughest defense NC State had seen since Louisville in mid-October.
UCF allowed only two opponents to average more than six yards per play, NC State included (the other was Penn State). Only one UCF opponent piled up more total yards in a game than State (PSU again), and only one had more rushing yards (BYU).
Nobody had a more efficient overall passing game against the Knights than NC State--the Pack's average of 10.7 yards per attempt is tops among UCF opponents, as is the Pack's collective passer rating. (A deserved tip of the cap here to Shad Thornton and Bo Hines for making that possible.)
Central Florida's experience on the defensive side put this sort of passing performance well down a list of likelihoods for NC State coming into the bowl game, but State also gave UCF some problems at the line of scrimmage that it hadn't seen every week. Amazing what an extra bit of uncertainty can do when coupled with effectiveness.
So the Wolfpack closed out its 2014 season with a third consecutive outstanding effort on the offensive side, and they were pretty good defensively as well--until the final quarter, State was mashing a nine-win team the way it had mashed the Tar Heels and Demon Deacons to close out the regular season, which is not quite what I had pictured given the step up in competition.
I wouldn't attach significant meaning to this finish as you ponder 2015, although it's a long offseason so if that's your thing, knock yourself out. I would just say that's a heck of a job, and let's do it again real soon.