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Cougars edge Hurricanes in snowy Hyundai Sun Bowl 20-14

On a snowy day in El Paso, the Washington State Cougars outlasted the weather and the Miami Hurricanes to take the 82nd edition of the Hyundai Sun Bowl 20 to 14.

The Cougars took the win, despite being held scoreless by the ‘Canes defense in the increasingly snowy second half.

Late in the game, a pass attempt by Miami Running Back Joseph Yearby would turn out to be costly for the Hurricanes. Only down by four at that point, the play was set up to give them the lead, but the ball slipped out of Yearby’s hand, and then was intercepted by Washington State’s Shalom Luan – icing the six-point victory for the Cougars.

“It was a play that we carried into the game we worked on it for a week and a half, two weeks, we knew it was going to be there. We knew we had to do a great job at setting it up,” Interim Head Coach, Larry Scott said. “We called it at the right time and the ball just slipped out of his hand.”

The Cougars struck first after Quarterback Luke Falk found running back Jamal Morrow down the middle for a 31-yard catch and run.

As the Hurricanes took the field for their first possession, the snow began to fall, but that didn’t stop Miami from matching the Cougars’ score.

The second quarter would be dominated by the Cougars and aided by a number of penalties against the Hurricanes. The Cougars would
score 13 unanswered point before the half – including Defensive Back Rayshawn Jenkins – before getting ejected for targeting a Washington State player in the end zone.

Miami was penalized six times for 63 yards in the first half, hurting their chances in scoring position and finishing the game with a total ofFullSizeRender nine penalties for 105 yards. The Cougars took advantage of that holding a 20-7 lead at halftime.

“I thought as a team we really complemented each other’s play a little bit, I thought offense started pretty quick, defense started slow, special teams was reasonably steady, of course weather makes it challenging,” Cougars Head Coach Mike Leach said. “The challenging part isn’t to make a play here and there, the challenging part is to be consistent… I thought our defense played well at the end.”

After a snowy halftime show, the Hurricanes and Cougars went scoreless in the third quarter; the falling snow intensifying as the game progressed.

FullSizeRender (2)It took two plays for The U to ignite a comeback attempt, starting with a 60-yard run on a reverse play by Braxton Berrios to the Cougars’ 5-yard line. Mark Walton would finish the drive on the ensuing play to cut the lead by six after a touchdown run.

The Hurricanes would have one last chance to take the lead after forcing a punt with 3:13 left to play, Berrios would field and return a punt to the Cougars’ 28-yard line and that’s when the drive ended after the interception by Shalom.

Falk who missed the team’s last game of the regular season and had not played in over a month, would be named Player of the Game after completing 29 of 53 passes for 295 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

“It was different, I thought we were playing in the sun bowl and we ended up getting the snow bowl,” Falk said. “I thought we allowed the weather to affect us on offense more than it should have, but like I said, the defense just had our back. They really should get the game ball instead.”

This marks he first bowl win for the Cougars since the 2003 Rose Bowl while Miami drops to 0-6 in bowl appearances since 2006. Leach helped the Cougars improve from 3-9 in 2014 to a 9-4 finish in 2015 to go along with the Sun Bowl victory.

“I think it’s only a stepping stone, this program is on the rise, it’s just been a team effort all season long,” Falk said. “We want to carry the tradition now.”

Miami will now close the book on the Al Golden era that began after their last visit to the Sun Bowl in 2010 and welcome new head coach, Mark Richt.

“Obviously they’re upset because they fought, one thing they did not do is give in or give up, or quit,” Scott said. “They fought to the bitter end…when you fight and you keep calling and believing that things don’t work out, it hurts, but at the same time I told them they had nothing to be ashamed of.”

82nd Hyundai Sun Bowl Preview: ‘Canes, Cougs set to light up the Sun Bowl

The 82nd annual Hyundai Sun Bowl game will feature a pair of 8-4 teams from opposite coasts. The Hurricanes (ACC) hail from sunny Miami, Florida; while the Cougars (PAC-12) travel from the Pacific Northwest state of Washington.

Aside from their identical win-loss record, both programs are making their second-ever appearance in the bowl game, but this will be the first time they play each other.

The Cougars defeated Purdue 33-27 in 2001, while the Hurricanes fell to Notre Dame 33-17 in front of a sold-out crowd in 2010. Miami is looking for its first bowl win since 2006, while Washington State hasn’t won a bowl game since the 2003 Rose Bowl.

Here’s a look at both squads and how they made it to El Paso.

THE ‘CANES

The Hurricanes or as fans call them, The U, is a program in search of the route to return to their elite status among the college football ranks. Miami, and their fans, look to add to their five National Championships, a feat they haven’t achieved since 2001. Miami produced 26 NFL first round picks from 2000-2008, success they’re looking to replicate with new Head Coach Mark Richt.

This year’s team is in transition, much like their last visit to the Sun Bowl, and  are welcoming a new head coach. The Al Golden era ended after worst loss in program history to Clemson, 58-0 on October 24. That loss dropped them to 4-3, after beginning the season with three straight victories. Interim Head Coach Larry Scott, held down the fort for the Canes’ new head man Richt, going 4-1 to end the regular season.

It was the game that followed their loss to Clemson that helped spark their 4-1 finish, as Miami was down 27-24 to Duke with six seconds left in the game; the ‘Canes would need eight laterals on the game’s final kickoff to win the game 30-27 in thrilling fashion.

The Hurricanes offense is led by Quarterback Brad Kaaya, who threw for 3,019 yards, 15 touchdowns against four interceptions. Behind him are running backs Joseph Yearby and Mark Walton who combined for over 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns.

The defense that has  allowed 28-points per game and more rushing yards than passing yards on a per game average, will have its hands full with Washington State’s high-octane offense.

THE COUGS

The Washington State Cougars are led by Mike Leach, formerly the head coach at  Texas Tech, who – along side Stanford’s David Shaw – were awarded the 2015 PAC-12 Co-Coach of the Year. Leach is in his fourth year with the program, improving the team from a 3-9 season in 2014.

Leach has established an offense that’s reminiscent of what he had at Tech – averaging 32-points per game – and has produced yet another 4,000-yard passer in Luke Falk who ranks fifth in the nation in passing yards adding 36 touchdowns, with only eight interceptions.

Falk missed the Cougars’ last game of the season against Washington after suffering a head injury against Colorado on Nov. 21. Falk will return to the starting lineup against Miami.

The Cougars also have a pair of wide receivers with double-digit touchdown catches: Gabe Marks who has over 1,100 receiving yards and Dom Williams who’s three yards shy of 1,000 yards.

Their defense, like Miami’s, is allowing 28-points per game; a troubling stat as it is the same point total the Hurricane’s offense averages.

The Cougars have not had consecutive losses all year, after losing their season opener, they managed to win back-to-back games before suffering their second loss followed by a pair of three-game win streaks in between their final two losses.

THE PREDICTION

Expect points to be scored here, with both teams giving up four touchdowns. While the Cougars’ fast-paced offensive attack will be on display, Miami has the talent at the skill positions to keep up with the Cougars.

I see the Canes outdueling the Cougars in a high-scoring affair that ends with The U on top 38-32; signaling a Sun-ny future as Miami enters the Richt Era.

Head Coaches talk about 82nd Annual Hyundai Sun Bowl

The Sun Bowl Association hosted a press conference featuring Miami interim head coach Larry Scott and Washington State head coach Mike Leach on Monday morning at the DoubleTree Downtown in El Paso, Texas.

Hyundai Sun Bowl Football Selection Committee Chairman John Folmer

Opening Statement…

“I appreciate the coaches for coming in here. Needless to say, all you have to do is look at the map to realize that they both came from a long way away. This is a good place for them to meet in a scenario that we thank and are very proud of. I think although our sales have been very brisk and very good, this is really the kick off of our ticket sales and the kick off for lots of enthusiasm and excitement that our game has brought to this community for so many years. I want to say before we introduce the coaches that it wouldn’t be possible for us to stay in business for as long as we have without all of the volunteers. I have been fortunate enough to have been involved for over 45 years. We do this because we love El Paso and that’s why we’re able to bring two good football teams like we’ve got this year from Miami and Washington State.”

Miami Interim Head Coach Larry Scott

Opening Statement…

“It’s great to be here and to have the opportunity to come back to El Paso and bring the 2015 Miami Hurricane football team. I had the chance and the opportunity to be here a few years ago when I came with the University of South Florida. We played the Oregon Ducks here and we’re looking for a different result this time around. What an awesome experience it was and there are certain things when you go to bowls that stick out that you remember and that you hold to.

Especially as a young coach, it was the hospitality and the service from the staff, the volunteers and all the people that made it such a great experience for our coaches, our families and our players. To have that experience and be able to share that with this year’s team, and share what it’s all about coming to the Sun Bowl. The kids understand the tradition of it and how long it’s existed and it’s some of the best in the business that put on the bowl. People around the city rally around the bowl and that’s a big piece to it being successful. The way that I explained it is that it’s all about tradition and it takes on a different meaning.

You set their mindsets and attitude; they understood what this means and what it’s all about and they are really excited to have the opportunity to play in one of the oldest bowl games. The last time we played was the day after Thanksgiving; we spent Thanksgiving in a hotel and this time we’re spending Christmas in a hotel. The only difference is, we’ll have our wives and our families with us and so it makes it special for the coaches.”

On what he learned leading his team…

“First thing I learned is that, it takes everybody. No one man can do it all alone or can do it by themselves. It’s a true team and takes a lot of team work and joining people together and putting people behind the same message to accomplish putting ourselves in the position to be successful. That’s the first thing I learned and there’s a lot of pieces that come into play and there’s a certain amount of appreciation you have to have for the job for the people all the way up from the top to the bottom. There’s an appreciation that goes into changing the attitude and mindset in the locker room so, that’s one of the biggest things that I’ve learned.”

On how he’s grown as a coach…

“Uh, very fast! Very fast to say the least, but I had some really good people, some really good coaches that I work with. Along the way, I had an awesome opportunity to as a player be a part of the start of a startup program in the University of South Florida to play for and coach for a man that I got a lot of appreciation for in Jim Levy and what he did for that program and had a chance to develop under him as a young coach. Some of the other coaches like Rod Smith who’s at Arizona now.

You know, a lot of really good coaches and of course Al Golden. At the University of Miami, we appreciate all that he started for the program there, and just a couple of days being around Coach Mark Richt. The things that you learn if you have an open mind and willing to learn, there’s always something that you can digest and learn from every situation that you face and are a part of. You know, I am fortunate enough to be around a lot of really good football coaches that I had the opportunity to learn from.”

Washington State Head Coach Mike Leach

Opening Statement…

“Well, and I continue in my pursuit of following Coach Price around. You know, I mean when I was at Tech, they dragged me into all these games and they tried to beat up on our teams and pound on us and so I followed him there and then just as I thought I could escape, I went all the way down to South Florida, just three and a half hours South of Miami actually, I got reeled into Washington State University where Coach Price was a part of such a great tradition there.

So, it wouldn’t be El Paso without him as far as I’m concerned, and then of course H&H Car Wash and all those guys, you know you walk in and this guy walks in and bear hugs you and carries you around until his arms get tired but you know, it’s worth it cause afterwards you get some tacos. I have great memories of El Paso and the other thing is, I enjoy the history; it’s got some unique history and unique landscape. You know every coach that all these guys that I look up to, all these guys have inspired me to get into coaching and stuff like that.

You know, as a kid you’d sit and watch TV you know, there’d be this coach and there’d be that coach and I mean all of them were in the Sun Bowl, and as a kid you’d watch the Sun Bowl. And plus, they had such a unique settings of the stadium. It’s unique and incidentally really loud. Anyway, I can’t say enough about the opportunity to be here to be a part of one of the oldest bowls in country and at Tech, we never did get the opportunity to come to the Sun Bowl. It’s great to be here, our entire team is excited and our entire program is excited.”

 

On having a reputation for putting the fun into football…

“It’s not really as conscience as that. I mean the most exciting thing really with the team is the different personalities. Football teams are a huge melting pot of people and you know their background interests and where they’re from and the different locations they’re from. You have all these practices and watch film and just exchange, getting to know the guy next to you it’s all fun and then uh, if you’re a little loose with it, there’s less to keep track of. You know, I’m not a guy that can keep track of too much. So, between staying out of trouble and not having to keep track of stuff, we just talk about it and discuss it like it is.”

On injuries…

“We’re 100% healthy as always, and I’m not a guy that talks about injuries but I can tell you, this will be the one thing I say which is slightly stepping over my line on that thing. I read about all these injuries and all of a sudden someone tries to hide behind injuries and it’s a pre-prepared excuse to lose. I don’t like that running through the players head you know? Well, if we lose we’ll have a good excuse, you know I kept reading all these articles and all these guys are injured, I don’t like that. You need to empower that guy and we expect to win. I can tell you sincerely that all of our roster will be expected to be available.”

On quarterback Luke Faulk…

“He studies film all the time and my quarterbacks in general have done that, but him, he’s pretty methodical about it all. He has it systemized and is focused on it, I mean, he’s focused on football right now I am certain of it. I thought he did a really great job as far as inspiring our off season and a lot of other players when our team first came together. I think that you know, he’s had the ability to really improve and develop.”

Author: Sun Bowl Association

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