Wolfpack and Bruins ready for Holiday Bowl showdown at Petco Park

SAN DIEGO – – The red painted red zone of the state of North Carolina is in front of the San Diego Padres dugout canoe. UCLA’s painted blue and gold goal crease is in front of the left field wall.

The No.18 Wolfpack (9-3) and Bruins (8-4) will face off in the Holiday Bowl on Tuesday night, the first football game to be played at Petco Park, the sweet Padres baseball stadium that opened. its doors in 2004.

“They have done a phenomenal job preparing this stadium for a football game,” said NC State coach Dave Doeren.

Doeren and UCLA coach Chip Kelly won’t have to go over the ground rules before kick-off at Petco Park, which has hosted football, rugby, supercross and even a first-round game of Davis Cup between the United States and Great Britain on a clay court built in left field. However, the Padres had to remove several seats along the straight pitch line in order to fit into an end zone for the clash between quarterbacks Devin Leary of NC State and Dorian Thompson-Robinson of UCLA.

After seeing other bowl games canceled due to COVID-19, the Wolfpack and the Bruins have tightened their protocols to ensure the game is played. NC State is trying to finish with double-digit wins for just the second time in school history. His best result was 11-3 in 2002 behind junior quarterback Philip Rivers, who continued to play for the San Diego / Los Angeles Chargers for 16 years before ending his career with Indianapolis.

“Prevention is the best medicine right now,” Doeren said. “Our guys have been through this. They know how to follow the protocols… to protect the mission. We are here to try to win our 10th game. It happened once in the history of the school. There is a lot of it. Game.

“Some of the decisions we make to try to stay healthy are very important decisions,” added the coach. “These are selfless decisions our guys made to have another chance to try and beat the odds. That’s kind of what happens when you watch college football. There are a lot of people who just don’t get done. not. So these two teams did it. “


The Holiday Bowl signed a five-year deal with the Padres after its 42-year-old home, the 70,000-seat SDCCU Stadium in Mission Valley, was demolished to make way for the new San Diego State Stadium. The Holiday Bowl’s honorary chairman is Padres right-hander Joe Musgrove, who grew up in the suburb of El Cajon and started the first hitting game in franchise history on April 9 in Texas on his second start. with the team from his hometown.


Leary threw four touchdown passes in the regular-season final against North Carolina to give him 35, breaking Rivers’ 2003 single-school season record of 34. Thompson-Robinson became the sixth player. of the Bruins to reach 3,000 total attacking yards in one season. He has 2,409 passing yards and 21 touchdowns, and 609 rushing yards with seven touchdowns. Thompson-Robinson threw for 349 yards and scored six touchdowns in a 62-33 rout against rival Southern Cal on Nov. 20, including attacking a Trojans defenseman to score.


6-foot-4, 320-pound NC State All-American left tackle Ikem “Ickey” Ekwonu is considered by many to be the best offensive lineman in the country. He was a finalist for the Outland Trophy and was named to the All-ACC First Team. Asked about Ekwonu, Kelly looked at Doeren and joked, “Did he leave sooner, Dave? No? Outs are something that happens during bowls games. I’m not suggesting that someone should. a little better.”


The Bruins have scored 44, 62 and 42 points in their last three games. They will be tested by NC State’s 3-3-5 stack defense, 18th nationally in goal defense and 24th in total defense. “I think they are extremely well trained,” said Kelly. “They have a unique pattern that you don’t see every day. But they seem to have the answers on the test before the test is given. It’s a challenge when you go up against a team like this.”


Doeren isn’t sure if Rivers’ connection to NC State and the Charges will help gain more fans for the Wolfpack in San Diego, but he said the former QB is “someone very dear to us. We love them. Philip. He’s been talking to our team a few times now and he’s maybe one of the most competitive guys out there when it comes to mind and everything he does. “


Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/berniewilson


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