MIAMI (Ticker) -- If Oklahoma and Florida State play as entertaining a game as Minnesota and North Carolina State did tonight, then the Orange Bowl could be something to savor.
Philip Rivers capped a fabulous freshman season by throwing for 310 yards and two touchdowns as North Carolina State rallied from an early 24-point deficit to defeat Minnesota, 38-30, in the Micronpc.com Bowl.
Pro Player Stadium will also serve as the site of the national title game between the Sooners and Seminoles on Wednesday, leaving tonight's contest as a worthy opening act.
North Carolina State had to overcome a huge game by Minnesota's Tellis Redmon, who ran for a career-high 246 yards, the fourth highest in school history, and two touchdowns.
Rivers, who threw for over 3,000 yards this season and set numerous Atlantic Coast Conference freshman passing records, put the Wolfpack in front to stay at 31-27 with a 23-yard TD pass to Koren Robinson with 11:01 left. Robinson was the primary target of Rivers, catching seven passes for 157 yards.
North Carolina State finished 8-4 in its first season under coach Chuck Amato, an assistant to Bobby Bowden at Florida State for 18 seasons. Bowden may have a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback this season in senior Chris Weinke, but it may be Amato who will have the better quarterback next season.
Rivers led the Wolfpack to a come-from behind win for the fifth time this season, completing 24-of-39 passes.
"We were calm in the huddle. When you're down 24-0, most people think it's over," Rivers said. "Coach always tells us that motto -- athletes quit, winner's don't."
To make sure his players didn't quit, Amato lashed into his team at halftime, "Coach Amato gave us some words and (figuratively) slapped us in the face," Wolfpack linebacker LeVar Fisher said. "We took it personally. We deserved every bit of it. We deserved a little more."
Ray Robinson added a pair of touchdown runs for the Wolfpack, including an eight-yard score with 3:16 left that made it 38-30. The touchdown followed a fumble by quarterback Travis Cole deep in Minnesota territory.
Ray Robinson's first touchdown, a three-yard run that gave the Wolfpack their first lead at 25-24 with 42 seconds left in the third quarter, came after Koren Robinson made a leaping catch for a 59-yard gain.
Redmon's performance was not enough to prevent another late collapse by Minnesota (6-6), which allowed 133 points during a three-game losing streak late in the season.
Minnesota dropped its third straight bowl game to fall to 2-5 in the postseason overall. The Gophers were penalized 14 times, one shy of a school record.
"Not to take anything away from North Carolina State, but we made a lot of mistakes tonight," Minnesota coach Glen Mason said. "We put ourselves in a situation where if you don't shoot yourself in the footn you win the game."
Redmon scored on runs of 12 and three yards to help the Gophers build a 24-0 lead before the Wolfpack finally awoke.
"We kept the ball on the ground. The passing game wasn't working, so we had to keep it on the ground," Redmon said. "I don't know what theor coach said to them, but they came out to play in the second half."
Trailing by 16 points at halftime, North Carolina State produced the big play it desperately needed early in the third quarter when Brian Williams blocked a punt and the Wolfpack took over at the Minnesota 19.
"I knew I had to make a play. They sent me in there to do that," Williams.
Koren Robinson went into the end zone on a reverse on the next play and Rivers threw a conversion pass to Eric Leak to cut the lead to 24-16. A 37-yard field goal by Kent Passingham sliced the deficit to five points with eight minutes left in the quarter.
The evening started slowly for Rivers, who threw a pair of first-quarter interceptions that were converted into touchdowns.
Senior linebacker Justin Hall picked off the first pass of his career that led to a 12-yard TD run by Redmon.
A few minutes later, Cole kept the pressure on the Wolfpack when he found a wide-open Ron Johnson over the middle for a 40-yard completion. That set up a three-yard TD run by Redmon that made it 14-0.
The Golden Gophers moved at will on their next possession, a 72-yard drive that began after the first career interception by junior cornerback Andre Brown. Receiver Jermaine Mays went 23 yards on a reverse, Redmon had a 32-yard run and Cole scored on a two-yard run, his fifth rushing TD of the year.
Dan Nystrom increased the lead to 24-0 with a 27-yard field goal midway through the second quarter. Nystrom added a 29-yarder in the fourth quarter.
Despite the huge hole, the Wolfpack stayed poised late in the first half behind Rivers, who engineered an 11-play, 72-yard drive that ended with a two-yard TD pass to Andy Vanderveer. A two-point conversion pass to Ray Robinson cut the lead to 24-8 at halftime.
Rivers took advantage of a Minnesota secondary that was without two of its best defensive players. Safety Delvin Jones was suspended and cornerback Willie Middlebrooks broke his leg late in the season.
The game attracted a sparse but vocal crowd of 28,359 on a rainy and windy evening.