The North Carolina State Wolfpack and the Vanderbilt Commodores are set to square off in the 41st Camping World Independence Bowl, set for Monday, December 26, with kickoff at 4 p.m. CT.
The matchup between the Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference foes marks the second time in three seasons the two conferences have faced off in the Camping World Independence Bowl.
“We’re thrilled to have such great representatives from the ACC and the SEC,” 2016 Camping World Independence Bowl chairman Eric Barkley said. “This is the first time for both programs to participate in our Bowl, and we’re excited because both the Wolfpack and the Commodores finished their seasons strong to become bowl eligible.”
North Carolina State (6-6, 3-5) is led by fourth-year head coach Dave Doeren, who has guided the Wolfpack to bowl games in three-consecutive seasons.
The Wolfpack are led offensively by senior running back Matthew Dayes, who carried the ball 240 times for 1,119 yards and 10 touchdowns, while finishing fourth on the team with 31 receptions for 258 yards. His rushing yardage total was third in the ACC, leading to his selection as second-team All-ACC.
Sophomore quarterback Ryan Finley completed 224 of 372 passes on the season for 2,824 yards and 15 touchdowns. He distributed the ball well, as five players had 410 yards receiving or more, led by Stephen Louis’ 657. Six players recorded 26 or more receptions, led by 49 from Jaylen Samuels. Freshman Kelvin Harmon led the way with five touchdown grabs.
Junior safety Josh Jones paced the defense in tackles with 106, finishing tied for sixth in the ACC. He also broke up eight passes and intercepted two, tied with corner Jack Tocho for the team lead.
Up front, junior Bradley Chubb continually wreaked havoc, finishing second in the ACC with 21 tackles for loss, and tied for fifth in the conference with 9.5 sacks. As a unit, the Wolfpack were tops in the ACC in rush defense, allowing just 104.7 yards per game.
This is the first appearance in the Camping World Independence Bowl for North Carolina State, and with the appearance, it becomes the 11th member of the ACC to make an appearance in the Independence Bowl, and the ninth as a member of the conference.
Vanderbilt (6-6, 3-5) is led by third-year head coach Derek Mason, who is bringing the Commodores to their first bowl appearance since the 2013 season.
Junior running back Ralph Webb has been a stalwart for the Vanderbilt offense, finishing fourth in the SEC with 1,172 yards on 229 attempts, 12 of which went for touchdowns.
Sophomore quarterback Kyle Shurmur exploded in the final two games of the season, throwing for a combined 689 yards and four touchdowns in victories against Ole Miss and Tennessee to reach bowl eligibility. On the season, he threw for 2,251 yards and nine touchdowns.
Defensively, the Commodores are led by junior linebacker Zach Cunningham, who led the SEC with 119 tackles, including 16.5 for loss. He also racked up four fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and one blocked field goal.
This is also Vanderbilt’s first appearance in the Camping World Independence Bowl, and it also marks the 11th member of the SEC to make an appearance in Shreveport, and the ninth as a member of the SEC.
This is the third time in five years both participating teams are making their first appearances in the Independence Bowl.
This is the third meeting all-time between North Carolina State and Vanderbilt, and the first since Vanderbilt defeated State in the 2012 Music City Bowl.
— Stefan Nolet, Camping World Independence Bowl