Cougars whirl Hurricanes in ‘Snow Bowl’

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Michaela Roman

Washington St. Cougars defeat Miami 20-14 in The 2015 Sun Bowl

Adrian Broaddus, Sports Editor

Washington State quarterback Luke Falk completed 29 out of 53 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns in the Cougars 20-14 victory over the Miami Hurricanes in the 2015 Hyundai Sun Bowl.

This was the first bowl game that Washington State has won since 2003, and the first bowl game won under head coach Mike Leach. Falk was named the Sun Bowl’s Most Valuable Player.

However, it was the defense that finished the game for the Cougars. In the late fourth quarter when the Hurricanes stormed back into the game, the Cougar defense forced two Miami turnovers, which could have been the deciding factor of the game.

“As a team we compliment each other,” Leach said. “Offense started quick, defense started slow. I thought all sides picked up – our defense at the end. We developed into a team that plays together.”

In the first half, both teams squared off quickly. Receiving the ball first, Falk and the offense orchestrated a six play, 75-yard drive resulting in running back Jamal Morrow finding the end zone off a 31-yard touchdown pass.

The Hurricanes answered the Cougars touchdown the following drive. The next seven minutes consisted of a 15 play, 69 yard drive ending in a four-yard touchdown pass from Brad Kaaya to Stacy Coley on fourth-and-goal. This would be the last time Miami would rack up points in the half.

After a 30-yard field goal from Erik Powell of the Cougars, Falk was successful in hitting Gabe Marks for a 25-yard touchdown pass. Then, the Cougars recorded 10 points with 1:10 left in the half, extending the lead over Miami to 13.

Miami led the majority of the first quarter in total offense, but in the second quarter, the Cougars took the reigns. Falk was able to finish the half throwing 16-for-27 for 176 yards and two touchdowns. The Cougar defense held the Hurricanes to only 21 total yards of offense in the second quarter.

The Canes offense came out of the half just as slow. Kaaya only completed three-of-eight passes for 20 yards. It was not until the fourth quarter when Miami seemed to wake up and lead a comeback. The U ran a seemingly desperate reverse in the wildcat formation, which resulted in a 60-yard run by receiver Braxton Berrios. On the next play, Miami scored on a five-yard Mark Walton run.

The Hurricane defense dominated most of the fourth quarter and put a cap on Falk’s cannon. Midway into the fourth quarter, the defense held Falk to only completing four-of-12 passes.
After back-to-back shots to wideout Rashawn Scott into Cougar territory, Kaaya connected with Stacy Coley for a touchdown; but, the play was called back for illegal block in the back. To make matters worse for the Hurricanes, running back Mark Walton fumbled the ball within the five-yard line and Washington State took over on downs.

After the turnover, Miami held the Washington State offense, and forced the Cougars to punt. After a nice return by Berrios, the offense was set at the Washington State 30 yard line. However, running back Joseph Yearby of the Hurricanes failed a half back pass, which resulted in an interception for Washington State. The Cougars drained the rest of the clock and held on for the victory.

“At the end of the day we didn’t make enough plays to win the game,” interim head coach Larry Scott of Miami said. “I’m proud of the way this team fought to come back into this game. They did everything we asked them to do.”

Former Georgia football coach Mark Richt will take over as head coach next season for Miami. Scott went on to comment on his status with the program as “having no idea about the future and what’s in store.”

Even though he won the player of the game, Falk credits the defense for coming in clutch multiple times. Throughout the game, the defense forced three fumbles, took two interceptions and stunted Miami’s offense to converting only three times out of 13 on third down.

“The defense got the game winner today,” Falk said. “They were practicing well all week. The defense had my back.”

Falk, who has two years left of eligibility, foresees a promising future for him and his program for years to come.

“(The win) was awesome and only the stepping stone,” Falk added. “This program is on the rise. A growing point for next year would be finishing the game.”

Coach Leach celebrated with his group after the victory, saying he is “proud of his team for hanging in there.”

“The message after the game was thanking seniors,” Leach added. “We are a tough team that finds a way to win, but we have to develop the ability to put teams away. This isn’t an average team. The University of Miami is a great team.”

The game’s attendance recorded at 4,180 in the Sun Bowl. However, after snow flurries in late second quarter, most of the fans left the game. Coach Leach claims that the weather was evidently a factor in the fourth quarter.

“Weather impacted second half,” Leach said. “It was both swirling and slippery. The biggest thing is it affects consistency.”

Leach finished explaining the significance of the game because “the last one is always important to win.”

Adrian Broaddus may be reached at [email protected]