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NC State earns preferred bowl destination on Dave Doeren’s birthday: ‘A joyous Sunday’

N.C. State coach Dave Doeren celebrates with Devan Boykin (12) after he intercepted a Drake Maye pass to secure the Wolfpack’s 39-20 over North Carolina victory on Saturday, November 25, 2023 at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C.

Dave Doeren’s 52nd birthday included a recruiting visit, time with his family and a N.C. State bowl bid announcement.

The Wolfpack (9-3, 6-2 ACC) faces Kansas State (8-4, 6-3 Big 12) in the Pop-Tarts Bowl at the end of the month, a decision coming late in the afternoon on Sunday.

Doeren called it a “joyous Sunday” and “great day, great weekend.”

The official selection came later than expected, though, due to Florida State not receiving a bid to the College Football Playoff and changing most of the bowl matchups. It was unclear where the Wolfpack would end up.

NC State football learns its bowl game destination. Here’s where the Wolfpack is headed

“It was a weird day in college football, to say the least,” Doeren said. “(I’m) thankful we ended up where we did — I think it’s a great place — and thankful to the bowl selection committee for us, Michael Strickland, Jim Phillips and all the people involved. I think this was the right location for us to go, since we’ve been in some of the other bowls. This is — for our fans to be able to travel to Orlando — an awesome destination for us and what we were hoping for.”

This selection comes less than two months after the team experienced a 28-3 loss at Duke, a game Doeren said was probably the worst in his tenure. It won out, defeating opponents like Clemson, Miami and North Carolina.

N.C. State now seeks a sixth-straight victory and the first 10-win team in Wolfpack history.

“We’ve had an 11-win team and a bunch of nine, eight, sevens and so on, but never a 10,” Doeren said. “In over 135 years of football, it’d be a first time. Any time you can break ground into something over a period that long, it’s meaningful, to say the least. This game means a lot to our football program. The guys are gonna play really hard.”

Doeren previously coached in iterations of the bowl — this is the first season it’s sponsored by Pop-Tarts — as an assistant at Wisconsin and Kansas.

Notably, he and the Kansas Jayhawks faced the Wolfpack in 2003. Philip Rivers threw for 475 yards and five touchdowns in his final college game. N.C. State won, 56-26.

“It was not good. He played really well,” Doeren said of Rivers. “But, that was a great bowl experience, to say the least.”

The Pop-Tarts Bowl is set to have an edible mascot, as well. If the Wolfpack wins, Doeren said he’d be willing to take a bite.

“Man, I guess I would have to, wouldn’t I?” Doeren said. “I’m not gonna be the guy that doesn’t do that.”

The bowl organizers would not share the flavor of the mascot. Doeren’s favorite flavor is brown sugar cinnamon. Then, he asked if he could “chase down the Pop Tart with a nice bourbon,” and was told that could be arranged.

Regardless of the mascot flavor, though, Doeren looks forward to spending time with this team one last time.

“We’re very thankful for the invite; excited to play against a great school, great institution like Kansas State,” Doeren said in a press conference. “I have tremendous respect for them; their coach, coach (Chris) Kleiman; and their president, who actually came from NC State, Rich Linton. (It’s a) great program, so I know our team, staff, and fan base cannot wait to come down to Orlando and be a part of the experience.”