The Holiday Bowl has been canceled after a wave of positive COVID-19 cases affected the UCLA program as the Bruins were preparing to face No. 18 NC State. UCLA announced it wound not participate in the game less than five hours before the game was scheduled ti kick off on Tuesday, and the Holiday Bowl released a statement on Wednesday announcing the game would be scrapped after a frantic search to find a replacement team came up short.
The Bruins were down to just two interior defensive lineman in the days leading up to the game, according to The Athletic's Bruce Feldman, but had more positive tests on Tuesday. Without enough players in the unit, UCLA felt unable to safely field a prepared team for the game in San Diego. These two teams have not played since 1960.
"We are extremely grateful to the Holiday Bowl, students, fans, sponsors and the people of San Diego for their support this week," said UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond. "We are deeply disappointed for our young men in the football program that worked extremely hard for this opportunity. My heart goes out to them. The health and safety of our students will always be our North Star."
NC State coach Dave Doeren was not happy about the way the cancelation went down, however.
"We felt lied to, to be honest. We felt like UCLA probably knew something was going on with their team but didn't tell anybody on our side," he said. "We had no clue that they were up against that. I don't feel like it was very well handled from their university. It would have been great to have a heads up that this could happen. Maybe two or three days ago we could have found a plan B. It's disappointing."
This marks the fifth bowl game that has been canceled in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, joining the Hawaii Bowl, Military Bowl, Fenway Bowl and Arizona Bowl. Additionally, the Gator Bowl replaced Texas A&M with 5-7 Rutgers and the Sun Bowl poached Central Michigan to play Washington State in the Sun Bowl.
NC State finishes the season 9-3, its fourth season of at least eight wins in the past five seasons under Doeren. UCLA finishes 8-4 to reach eight wins for the first time since 2015 under fourth-year head coach Chip Kelly.