Photo by Ruben R. Ramirez - El Paso Herald Post

Gallery+Story: Central Michigan outlasts Washington State to take Sun Bowl 24-21

El Paso, Texas- The Central Michigan Chippewas defeated the Washington State Cougars in the 88th Annual Tony The Tiger Sun Bowl 24-21. This is the Chippewas first bowl win since 2012. 

The Chippewas took the lead halfway through the first quarter and never looked back in an afternoon that was highlighted by a rainy forecast in the Borderland.

Still, the rain did not put a damper on the 34,540 people in attendance for the nation’s second oldest bowl game.

Washington State did make it interesting, scoring 21 points, coming back in the second half. Still, that would not be enough, ultimately falling by a field goal.     

Here’s what happened

  • Central Michigan kicker Marshall Meeder opened the score line with a pair of field goals from 49 and 52 yards out to give the Chippewas a 6-0 lead with 2:30 left in the first quarter.  Meeder’s 52-yard field goal was a Central Michigan bowl record. Washington State fumbled the ensuing kickoff return, giving the Chippewas at the Cougars 23-yard line. 3 plays later the nation’s leading rusher, Lew Nichols, scored a touchdown from one yard out. The extra point attempt was good, making the score 13-0 at the end of the first quarter. 

 

  •  In the second quarter, the Cougars offensive inefficiency continued. While the only offensive spark for the opposing Chippewas came off of a 46-yard punt return by Kalil Pimpleton deep into Cougars territory. Central Michigan extended their lead when they scored a touchdown on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Daniel Richardson to Joel Wilson. The Chippewas went for two and converted on a pass from Richardson to Pimpleton. 

 

  • Washington State finally got on the board in their third possession of the third quarter. The Cougars moved the ball 74 yards in 8 plays. The critical play of the drive was when, on 4th and 5, the Chippewas were flagged for roughing the passer that kept the drive alive. The Cougars scored on the next play when Travell Harris rushed for the touchdown from 5-yard out, the extra point was good to make the score 21-7. 

 

  • The Cougars’ defense would create a turnover on the ensuing possession for Central Michigan. Travion Brown intercepted the ball. Six plays and 23-yards later the Cougars got their second touchdown in the span of less than 2 minutes when quarterback Victor Gabalis found De’Zhaun Stribling in the end zone from five yards out. The extra point was good, making the score 21-14.

 

  • Meeder would go on to make another field goal from 43 yards out to make it a 10-point game with 9:11 left. Washington scored their final touchdown of the match on a 4 play, 86 yard drive that ended with a 13 yard touchdown pass from Gabalis to Lincoln Victor.   

 What was said

Central Michigan head coach Jim McElwain thanked the Sun Bowl Association and Barstool Sports for the week that was. McElwain said, “(I’m) proud of these guys, proud of this team. We don’t get an opportunity to play power five teams very often and to get a win, especially in a bowl game as historic as this one (makes me) proud of our guys. I’m proud of these Chippewas, I’m really happy for our fans and our administration. ” 

As for their performance, McElwain acknowledged that his team could have had a bigger lead at halftime saying, “For us (going into halftime) we should have made it a lot worse. Let’s call it the way it is. We fumbled going in (on the brink of scoring), missed a field goal and yet that’s ok, the objective is to win the ball game and we won it.  

McElwain gave all the credit in the world to his players and very little to himself commenting, “I’d love to say it’s great coaching, but it isn’t. It’s great players.”   

My thoughts/Analysis

Simply put, this year’s edition of the Sun Bowl was quite the entertaining football game. Especially with all the trials and tribulations the Sun Bowl Association had to go through over the course of the week with Miami officially dropping out last Sunday (due to COVID) just to make the Sun Bowl come to fruition. The Chippewas came into the Borderland a seven point underdog, took the lead and held on for the win.

Lew Nichols of Central Michigan, the nation’s leading rusher, put on a show for the fans, rushing for over 100 yards and scoring a touchdown.

The game came down to a final two minute drive for Washington State to see if they could at least try for a field goal to tie the game. 

All-in-all fans couldn’t ask for much more…perhaps a little sun and less rain

Author: Joe Rodriguez  | Photos by Ruben R. Ramirez – El Paso Herald Post

Rodriguez is a life long El Pasoan. Joe has covered sports locally across the Borderland since 2007 for various media outlet both in El Paso and Ciudad Juarez as a personal passion as he is a professional in the world of healthcare (Physiatry). His favorite sports include soccer, auto racing, golf and horse racing.”

For all things Sun Bowl, click here; for our complete coverage of the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl, click here.