Saturday, December 26, 2015

Washington State Cougars: 2015 Sun Bowl Champions

Washington State won its first bowl game since 2003 on Saturday as the Cougars outlasted Miami in a snowstorm in El Paso, Texas, for a 20-14 victory in the Sun Bowl.

Washington State led Miami 20-7 at the half and held on to win by six despite being shut out in the second half. The Cougars had just 158 second-half yards, but their defense held tough when they needed to the most, forcing a pair of late turnovers when Miami had the ball deep in Washington State territory to preserve the victory.

Story of the game: The weather was the story of the Sun Bowl, as a snowstorm raged for the majority of the contest. As the weather got more turbulent in the second half, both offenses struggled to string together drives.

Miami had some success getting the ball into Washington State territory, particularly in the fourth quarter, but turned three drives inside the Cougars' 30 into only seven points.

Two of those drives ended in turnovers -- one on a fumble at the 5 that might have been affected by the slick conditions and the other on what has to be considered one of the worst play calls of the year: a halfback pass for an interception.

Player of the game: Washington State quarterback Luke Falk threw for 295 yards and two touchdowns, completing 29 of 53 passes in the snowstorm. Falk also had the game-sealing scramble on the Cougars' final possession that gave them a first down and put them into the victory formation.

Play of the game: This would be the second turnover of the fourth quarter for Miami. Just to set the stage for you, the Hurricanes had just fumbled on the Washington State 5-yard line after having a touchdown run called back on a block in the back.

The Hurricanes' defense held the Cougars to a three-and-out, forcing them to punt. A nice return set up the Hurricanes' offense at the 28, down six points with 3:13 to play. On the first play from scrimmage, Miami dialed up this.

That would be one of the worst executed halfback passes ever.

The offense wasn't dynamic by any stretch, but the Hurricanes were moving the ball pretty well in the fourth quarter. So rather than trying to march down with plenty of time and great field position, you call that. In the snow.

That might not be the worst part. A halfback pass is risky as is, but with a slick ball in a raging snowstorm, all you're doing is setting your poor running back up for failure. Sure enough, the ball slips out and falls like a wounded duck into the waiting arms of a Washington State defender.

Tweet of the game: Snowstorm or not, Washington State fans were going to take their shirts off at the Sun Bowl no matter what -- and of course there was some Fireball involved.
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