Don't know much about NC State's Holiday Bowl opponent UCLA? Here's where to start

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  • Dave Doeren
    American college football coach
  • Chip Kelly
    Chip Kelly
    American football coach
Nov 27, 2021; Pasadena, California, USA;    UCLA Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) runs for 17 yards and a first down against the California Golden Bears in the second half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 27, 2021; Pasadena, California, USA; UCLA Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) runs for 17 yards and a first down against the California Golden Bears in the second half at the Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

SAN DIEGO — It's safe to say UCLA and its coach, Chip Kelly, don't know much about their Dec. 28 Holiday Bowl opponent.

“That Dave Doeren’s the head coach and they’re the Wolfpack,” Kelly said Sunday when asked what he knew about No. 18 N.C. State.

Doeren might not know much more about the Bruins, but the trip to San Diego will be a homecoming for the ninth-year coach.

A San Diego native, Doeren was born on Coronado Island and lived in Los Angeles until the fourth grade. He spent the 1998 and 1999 seasons as a USC graduate assistant and his father still lives in west Los Angeles.

“Pretty neat for me to get to come back to where I was born,” Doeren said on Sunday after it was announced the Wolfpack (9-3) will face UCLA (8-4) in the San Diego Country Credit Union Holiday Bowl at Petco Park. “I didn’t live there long, my dad was in the Navy at that time.”

More: NC State will face UCLA in the Holiday Bowl

Doeren may be familiar with the area, but his program is anything but. This will be the longest road trip in N.C. State history, only going as far as Texas for postseason play.

The Wolfpack have played in 33 bowl games and are 3-3 under Doeren, including two straight losses in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl against Texas A&M in 2019 and last year to Kentucky.

His last bowl win was in 2017 against Arizona State in the Sun Bowl.

“It’s a nationally televised game against a team that has an incredible tradition,” Doeren said. “It’s a great opportunity to get to a different place on the map, somewhere a long way from here and create some exposure for the ACC out in California.”

Here are a few things to know about UCLA heading into the Dec. 28 bowl game.

It's been over 60 years...

N.C. State has faced UCLA twice previously, losing 21-12 in 1959 and 7-0 in 1960 with both games played in California.

The Wolfpack’s quarterback in those games was Roman Gabriel, who would go on to become the NFL’s most valuable player with the Rams in 1969.

The Bruins haven’t played in the Holiday Bowl since 2012, when they lost to Baylor, 49-26. Kelly last coached in the Holiday Bowl as Oregon's offensive coordinator in 2008 during a 42-31 win over Oklahoma State. This is UCLA's first postseason appearance since the 2017 Cactus Bowl.

The Wolfpack and the Bruins have some similarities entering this game.

Both teams are on a roll. N.C. State won four of its final five games, including a thrilling comeback win over UNC in the regular-season finale. UCLA won its final three regular-season games.

More: All-ACC football team announced: Here's who was selected and snubbed for NC State

More: NC State's historic comeback over UNC adds a dramatic chapter to in-state rivalry

The Bruins are trying to finish a season with nine wins for the first time since 2014. N.C. State is a win away from only its second 10-win season in program history and first since 2002.

Chip Kelly's final game at UCLA?

With Oregon coach Mario Cristobal leaving Oregon to replace Manny Diaz as the next coach at Miami, the door has opened for Kelly to return to the sight of his former glory.

Kelly, now in his fourth season at UCLA after two failed stints in the NFL, led Oregon to four consecutive BCS bowl games from 2009 to 2012 including the 2011 National Championship Game.

Kelly was able to avoid questions of his departure on Sunday since Cristobal was hired by Miami the next day.

Rumors are only beginning to circulate, but Kelly is among the shortlist to replace Cristobal.

Three players to watch

QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson: The 6-foot-1, 205-pound quarterback from Las Vegas, Nevada has been incredibly proficient this season, completing 176-of-283 passes for 2,409 yards and 21 touchdowns to six interceptions. He's also dangerous with his feet, rushing for 609 yards and nine touchdowns on 130 carries. Thompson-Robinson, though, has been sacked 20 times this season.

RB Zach Charbonnet: Charbonnet, who has rushed for 1,137 yards and 13 touchdowns this season, has been an impact player for the Bruins after transferring in from Michigan during the offseason. The junior has seven 100-yard rushing games this season, tied for the most since Joshua Kelley in 2018. Back-up running back Brittain Brown, who missed the last two games with an undisclosed injury, is also expected to play in the bowl game.

DB Quentin Lake: Lake leads the team with three interceptions and is fifth on the team with 53 tackles. UCLA's defense ranks eighth in the Pac-12 in terms of giving up yards per game. The Bruins allow 384.5 yards (260. 2 passing, 124.3 rushing) per contest.

David Thompson is an award-winning reporter for the USA Today Network covering NC State and Duke athletics. He can be reached at dthompson1@gannett.com, at 828-231-1747, or on Twitter at @daveth89.

This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: What's to know about NC State's Holiday Bowl opponent: UCLA

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