EL PASO, Texas – There is one thing fans have come to expect when the University of Miami comes to play in the Sun Bowl, snow. The 82nd edition of the Hyundai Sun Bowl saw the Washington State Cougars defeat the Hurricanes 20-14 on Friday in front of 41,180 fans that braved through a cold snowy day.
But it wasn’t the snow or even the Washington State high-powered offense that doomed Miami. On this day it would be turnovers and penalties, many of the untimely variety that sealed the fait for the team from South Florida. The Hurricanes finished with three turnovers and nine total penalties for 105 yards.
The Cougars (9-4) finish the season with their best record since 2003 and won their first bowl game since defeating Texas in the Holiday Bowl, also in 2003. Head coach Mike Leach, in his fourth season at Washington State, picked up his first bowl victory with the university.
“As a team I think we complement each other to play a little better. I thought the offense started pretty quick and defense started slow,” Leach said. “And I thought special teams was reasonably steady. This weather makes it challenging for everybody.
“The challenging part isn’t to make the play but instead it’s to be consistent when you are battling some of that. I thought all sides picked up for everybody. I thought defense at the end played well together and we were a tough group of guys.”
Miami (8-5), meanwhile, loses in a bowl game for the sixth time in a row, including the last three seasons. The last time the Hurricanes won a bowl game was in 2006 when they defeated Nevada in the MPC Computers Bowl.
Washington State quarterback Luke Falk, who was named the C.M. Hendricks Most Valuable Player, finished 29-of-53 for 295 passing yards and two touchdowns. Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya also finished with over 200 yards passing after finishing 17-of-30 for 219 passing yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Cougar defensive lineman Hercules Matta’afa was recognized as the Jimmy Rogers, Jr. Most Valuable Lineman, while his teammate and place kicker Eric Powell, was named the game’s John Folmer Most Valuable Special Teams Player.
Washington State marked all of its points in the first half and held a 20-7 halftime lead, which it took into the fourth quarter as no one scored in the third frame.
But after the Hurricanes finally broke through with a touchdown early in the fourth to cut the lead to 20-14, their comeback efforts were thwarted, not once, but twice in the final minutes of the game by those turnovers and penalties.
With 8:22 left in the game, Miami began its seventh drive of the second half at its own 22-yard line. The Hurricanes would start moving the ball down the field to try and take over the lead and after a 36-yard hookup between Kaaya and senior wide receiver Rashawn Scott, Miami found itself at the Cougar 5-yard line.
It seemed the Hurricanes had taken their first lead of the ball game with about five minutes left when Kaaya hit receiver Stacy Coley for a touchdown, but a block in the back penalty negated the score and put the ball back at the 11-yard line.
A couple of plays later Miami running back Mark Walton fumbled the ball inside the 5-yard line and saw Marcellus Pippins scoop it up for Washington State.
But the Hurricanes’ defense, as it had the entire second half, held strong and forced a Cougar punt from their own end zone. Miami would get one more try at a victory as it got the ball back at the Washington State 28-yard line with 3:13 left.
But on the very first play from scrimmage running back Joe Yearby attempted a half-back pass to a wide open receiver running down the field. Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, the weather finally came into effect as the slippery ball came out of Yearby’s hand like a wounded duck and fell into the hands of Washington State safety Shalom Luani for the Hurricanes’ final turnover of the day.
The Cougars would run out the clock after picking up a couple of first downs, the final one on a Falk quarterback keeper.
“End of the day we didn’t make enough plays or the plays that we needed to make to win the game in the second half,” Miami interim head coach Larry Scott said. “But I am proud of the way this team fought and came back in the second half. The attitude of the team decided that they weren’t going to let the weather or anything like that be a distraction or change our focus or what we came here to do. I am proud of the way that we came back and fought. We just didn’t finish a couple plays that could have made a difference in the game.”
The game began by living up to its billing as a matchup between two high-powered offenses as each team scored a touchdown on its opening possession.
Washington State received the opening kickoff and proceeded to drive down the field from its own 25-yard line. After a two-yard loss on the first pass play of the game, Falk connected with wide receiver John Thompson for a 29-yard pass play that placed the ball in Miami territory.
Four plays later at the Miami 31-yard line, Falk flipped a short five-yard pass to running back Jamal Morrow who did the rest after scampering 25 yards into the end zone to mark the first points of the game.
The pass play capped off a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive for the Cougars as they led 7-0 just a couple of minutes into the game.
But the Hurricanes’ offense answered with a touchdown on its opening drive as well. Miami had a more methodical method to their matriculation down the field. It took the Hurricanes 15 plays and almost seven minutes to march 69 yards for the game-tying score.
Miami was aided by two fourth-down conversions along the way, the second coming on a fourth-and-goal from the four-yard line that resulted in a touchdown pass from Kaaya to Coley.
After the offenses highlighted the opening moments of the game, it would be defenses that would take center stage beginning with the first play of the second quarter.
After a Cougar punt, the Hurricanes would take the ball at their own 17-yard line and move down the field all the way to the Washington State 15-yard line. But during that first second-quarter play Kaaya threw a ball into the end zone that ricocheted up in the air and was grabbed by Cougar linebacker Peyton Pelluer for an interception.
The Hurricanes quickly got the ball back, however, after Washington State running back Gerard Wicks fumbled the ball three plays later. Miami defensive back Deon Bush recovered the ball at the Cougar 30 yard line.
The Hurricanes, however, could do nothing with the turnovers as they gave the ball back to the Cougars after going for it and failing on fourth-and-10.
Washington State, meanwhile, would score on its final three possessions of the half as a Falk to Gabe Marks 25-yard touchdown pass was sandwiched in between two Powell field goals, the last one coming as time expired in the first half as the Cougars led 20-7 at the break.
While the first half saw only three total punts, the second saw 10 as the game became a defensive battle.
The only scoring drive took two plays and 33 seconds as Miami scored on a Walton 5-yard touchdown run one play after sophomore wide receiver Braxton Berrios scrambled 60 yards to set the Hurricanes in the red zone. It was the longest run of the season for Miami.
Unfortunately, it would be as close as the Hurricanes would get as they fell for the second time in five years on a snowy day in El Paso.
“They are upset and hurt because they fought,” Scott said. “One thing they did not do was give in or give up or quit. They fought to the bitter end.
“When you fight and you keep believing things are going to work out, a loss hurts. I told them they had nothing to be ashamed of. They needed to hold their heads high. I told them from the very beginning that there is a lesson in everything and another decision they are going to have to make from this.”
EL PASO, Texas – The UC Irvine Anteaters defeated Norfolk State 80-62 on Saturday in the Don Haskins Center to take home their first ever WestStar Bank Sun Bowl Invitational. UTEP won 87-68 in the consolation game over Sam Houston State for third place.
Members of the 2015 All-Tournament Team included Norfolk State guard Charles Oliver, Sam Houston State forward Aurimas Majauskas, UC Irvine center Mamadou Ndiaye and the Barry Kobren Most Valuable Player Award went to UC Irvine’s Luke Nelson, who scored 17 points in the title game. UTEP guard Dominic Artis was awarded the Don Haskins Award.
Championship Game Recap
UC Irvine junior center Mamadou Ndiaye put up 21 points and junior guard Luke Nelson scored 17 leading the Anteaters to an 80-62 championship victory over Norfolk State on Tuesday night.
UC Irvine senior forward Mike Best and junior guard Jaron Martin added 10 each as the Anteaters improved to 10-4, the program’s best start since a similar record to open the 2002-03 season.
Tuesday’s victory was the 100th career win for sixth-year head coach Russell Turner at UCI.
Ndiaye, who also had nine rebounds and five blocked shots in the championship game, was named to the all-tournament team.
Trailing 12-10 early, UCI went on a 22-4 run over a span of less than 10 minutes to take a 32-16 lead on a 3-pointer by Nelson with 5:42 left in the first half.
UCI led 39-23 at halftime and built its largest lead of the night at 77-52 on a basket by Ndiaye with 4:43 remaining.
UCI senior guard Alex Young had six assists and moved within one of tying Raimonds Miglinieks for the program record (475).
The Anteaters, who outrebounded the Spartans, 47-33, shot 53 percent in the first half and 47 percent for the game. Norfolk State shot 28 percent from the field as UCI improved to 8-0 this season when limiting the opposition to less than 40 percent.
Jeff Short led Norfolk State (5-8) with a game-high 24 points, while Charles Oliver added 18.
Consolation Game Recap
UTEP improves to 7-5 on the season and breaks a five-game losing streak after bouncing back and defeating Sam Houston State 87-68 on Tuesday night in the Don Haskins Center.
UTEP forward Lee Moored posted a game-high 17 points as the Miners used an early 23-0 run and never looked back. SHSU actually held a 4-0 lead to start the game but the Miners caught fire and played well on both ends of the court taking a 23-4 lead. The Bearkats, who fall to 5-7 this season, kept fighting and got to within six at 32-26 but UTEP was too powerful and extended its lead to 45-30 heading into the locker room at the half.
UTEP extended its lead to as many as 24 points at 81-57 with 6:38 left in the game, although the Bearkats did pull to within nine with the score was 51-42 early in the half.
The closest Sam Houston State could get in the second half was nine points, as UTEP’s lead reached as many as 24 points.
The Miners played well defensively holding SHSU to only 40 percent shooting from the floor and outrebounded the Bearkats 42-36. Dominic Artis, who earned the Don Haskins Award, tallied a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
“It was defensive stops, it was open floor play, it was next easy pass,” head coach Tim Floyd said. “I thought that we kept them out of the lane. They had to settle for jump shots. We were very good in the open floor in terms of our decision making, probably the best we have been this year.”
EL PASO, Texas – Day one of the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational is complete with UC-Irvine defeating Sam Houston State 63-53 in game one and Norfolk State defeating UTEP 85-76 in game two at the Don Haskins Center on Monday, Dec. 21.
UC-Irvine faces Norfolk State in the Championship at 7 p.m. (MT) and the consolation game is set for a 5 p.m. (MT) tip-off in the Don Haskins Center.
UC-Irvine Bounces Back in Second Half to Defeat Sam Houston State 63-53
The UC-Irvine Anteaters (9-4) trailed 30-25 heading into the locker room but outscored SHSU (5-6) by 15 points in the second half to win game one of the tournament 63-53. UCI guard Luke Nelson led his team with 16 points on 5-of-12 shooting while hitting two treys in the contest. Fellow Anteater forward Mike Best shot 70-percent from the field and added 14 points in 24 minutes of play.
UCI took an early 6-2 lead but lost the lead for the first time when Bearkat forward Torry Butler made a layup with 12:46 left in the first half. SHSU went up by as many as eight with 5:09 on the clock as Butler hit a nice jumper.
The 29-percent shooting by UCI helped the Bearkats take a 30-25 lead at halftime.
UCI’s Nelson started the second half with a three pointer as his team used a 12-6 point run to take a 37-36 lead with 15:14 left in the game. The Anteaters went up by 10 when Alex Young hit a jumper with 5:49 left to play. UCI finished the second half shooting 55.6 percent in the second half and took advantage of turnover scoring 16 points off of turnovers.
UC-Irvine, who was a 2015 NCAA Tournament participant, takes on Norfolk State in the Championship Game of the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational on Tuesday at 7 p.m. (MT) in the Don Haskins Center.
UTEP Falls to Norfolk State in High Scoring Affair
Norfolk State defeated UTEP 85-76 behind the shooting of guard Charles Oliver who went 4-of-8 from the field and finished the night with 22 points in game two of the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational, Monday night.
NSU guard Jeff Short finished the night with 18 points while forward Preston Bungei added 15 to lead the Spartans to victory in front of over 7,000 fans.
The Spartans, who are now 5-7 on the year, jumped out to an early 9-1 lead. They ended up going into the locker at halftime with a 40-35 lead but the Miners fought back in the second half and pulled to within six at 69-63 with 5:51 left to play. NSU answered with a 6-0 run while guard Zaynah Robinson made eight free throws down the stretch to secure the win.
UTEP’s Dominic Artis went 4-of-7 from beyond the arc for 18 points and Omega Harris added 16 for the Miners, who have dropped five straight games and are now 6-5 on the year.
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EL PASO, Texas – The 54th edition of the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational is set for tip-off on Dec. 21-22, with four games scheduled to be played at the Don Haskins Center.
Game 1 is Monday, Dec. 21 at 5 p.m. (MT) with Sam Houston State taking on UC-Irvine. Game 2 follows at 7 p.m. (MT) as Norfolk State faces UTEP.
The winners of Game 1 and Game 2 meet on Tuesday at 7 p.m. for the championship game, and the consolation game is scheduled for 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 22.
Tickets for the 2015 WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational are on sale at the Sun Bowl Association office or the ticket office at the Don Haskins Center.
The Bearkats (4-5) out of the Southland Conference will be making their second appearance at the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational, as they went 1-1 in the 2010 tournament. This season, Sam Houston State has garnered wins against St. Thomas, Bethune Cookman, Sul Ross, LeTourneau and lost an overtime decision to Southern Illinois. The Bearkats also faced Texas Tech and SMU, who both were top-20 teams, on the road.
Sam Houston State averages 78.4 points per game and is being led by junior guard Dakari Henderson, who puts up 15.5 points per game.
The Anteaters from the Big West Conference are currently 7-4 and face Chapman on Friday, before heading to El Paso to make their first appearance at the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational. UC-Irvine is among the favorites to win the Big West this season, mainly in part of 7-foot-6 junior center Mamadou Ndiaye’s play. Ndiaye is leading the team in points and rebounds, as he’s averaging 12.3 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game.
UC-Irvine defeated ACC opponent Boston College, 80-67, on Nov. 27 and took down Utah State, 73-63, last Saturday.
The Spartans of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference look to go into their second WestStar Bank Don Haskins Invitational appearance with momentum as they face Evansville on Thursday night. Norfolk State currently garners a 4-6 record with wins against Washington Adventist, Northern Arizona, Mercy College and Coppin State. The Spartans are led by redshirt senior guard Jeff Short, who is averaging 16.0 points per game this season.
The Miners, of Conference USA, average 78.0 points per game and will face New Mexico State at home on Saturday before making their record 31st WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational appearance. They will also look to snap a three-game losing streak against NMSU. UTEP is currently 6-3 and has garnered solid wins against Southern Illinois (Nov. 27) and Colorado State (Nov. 28).
Junior guard Lee Moore leads UTEP with 16.3 points per game, as senior center Hooper Vint leads the team in rebounds with 6.0 per game.
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EL PASO, Texas – Washington State head coach Mike Leach and Miami interim head coach Larry Scott have both coached in El Paso before, and both are excited to return to the Sun City to lead their respective squads during the 82nd Annual Hyundai Sun Bowl on Dec. 26.
Leach and Scott were in town on Monday for the annual coaches’ press conference, which kicks off the Sun Bowl festivities leading up to next week’s game. Both spoke of the joy of being a part of the Sun Bowl tradition, the second-oldest bowl game in the nation.
“The kids understand what it (the Sun Bowl) is, they understand the tradition of it and how long it has existed and that they’re some of the best in the business at putting on bowls,” Scott said. “People of this city rally around the bowl and that’s a big piece to it and a critical piece to it being successful.”
“When you have an opportunity to play in one of the oldest bowl games, it is tradition meeting tradition. We at the University of Miami have a long-standing tradition of producing really good football players and an awesome football program. So it’s an opportunity for our tradition-rich program to come play in a tradition-rich bowl. And to young people, when you take the time to explain to them what that truly means, it takes on a different meaning.”
Leach also understands the tradition of the game and recalls watching the Sun Bowl since he was a young child.
“I can’t say enough about the opportunity to be here and to be a part of one of the oldest bowls in the country, our entire team is excited and our entire program is excited,” Leach said. “As a kid you’d watch the Sun Bowl. Every coach that I looked up to, all these guys that inspired me to get into coaching, as a kid you’d sit and watch TV and they all coached in the Sun Bowl.”
Both teams will be making their second appearance in a Sun Bowl. The Cougars defeated Purdue 33-27 during the 2001 Sun Bowl, a Washington State team coached by Mike Price, who later became the head coach at UTEP (2004-12) and still resides in El Paso. The Hurricanes, meanwhile, lost to Notre Dame 33-17 in 2010 in front of a sellout Sun Bowl crowd.
Although Scott was not part of the Miami coaching staff in 2010, he has coached in the Sun Bowl before. He was an assistant coach on the South Florida team that lost to Oregon 56-21 during the 2007 Sun Bowl.
“It’s great to be here and come back to El Paso and bring the 2015 Miami Hurricanes football team back,” Scott said. “I had an awesome opportunity to be here a few years ago when I came with the University of South Florida. We’re looking for a different result from when we came that time, but what an awesome experience it was.
“There are certain things when you go to bowls that just stick out and that you remember, especially as a young coach. The hospitality and the service and what you got from the people here, the staff and all the volunteers, made it such a great experience for our coaches, our families and most importantly our players. To have that experience and be able to share that with this year’s team is awesome.”
This will be the first Sun Bowl for Leach, but the Washington State head man is no stranger to West Texas and El Paso. Leach coached for 10 seasons at Texas Tech in Lubbock, a stint that included a couple of games versus UTEP.
The first of those two games came in 2006 inside Sun Bowl Stadium when a then 24th-ranked Red Raiders team defeated the Miners, led by Coach Price, in an overtime shootout, 38-35. Leach has fond memories of El Paso and of coaching versus one of his mentors.
“I continue in my pursuit of following Coach Price around,” Leach said. “I got reeled into Washington State University where Coach Price was a part of such a great tradition there. I’ve known Coach Price for a long time. He’s the type of guy that would talk to the GA’s, hang out with the GA’s and was just kind of always a warm example. He’s just been a great coach, a great example and a great guy to have as a friend and mentor.
“Anyway, it wouldn’t be El Paso without him as far as I’m concerned. I have great memories of El Paso and the other thing is I enjoy the history and it’s got such a unique landscape. It had such a unique setting for the stadium, atop of that box canyon, which was really unique and incidentally really loud.”
Both coaches went through some trials and tribulations en route to El Paso. Leach and the Cougars started the season 2-2, including a season-opening loss to FCS member Portland State. Washington State then won six-of-seven games including wins at Oregon and versus a ranked UCLA team.
“Early in the year there were some teams that were just literally better than us at that point in the year because we had so many freshman,” Leach said. “We’re a team predominately of freshmen and sophomores and we had a lot of guys that had never played a college football game. I think focus and hard work, as we are a team that really does have a good work ethic, got us through that patch as we kind of developed and got synchronized as a team.”
Scott, meanwhile, started the season as Miami’s tight ends coach but was pegged to take over the head coaching reigns, after Al Golden was fired midway through the season following the program’s worst loss in its history, a 58-0 loss to Clemson, that dropped the ‘Canes to 4-3. Scott led the Hurricanes to a 4-1 record down the stretch.
“The kids really did a good job of rallying around our staff,” Scott said. “I can’t thank our staff enough, our coordinators, our position coaches, all of our GA’s, quality control people, volunteers, our administration and all other people that played a pivotal part in us being able to really take on the adversity that we faced in the middle of the season and really hone in on what we needed to do to make the young men realize that there was still an opportunity to turn the corner.”
With the early adversity behind them, Leach and Scott will now focus on preparing for one another and participating in one of the oldest traditions in college football, the Sun Bowl.
“It’s great to be here, any bowl in the state of Texas is always going to have a lot of enthusiasm because there is such great football tradition in Texas,” Leach said “The University of Miami is going to have a lot of respect just based on their tradition. They’re a great football team. As soon as you say the word Miami it gets people’s attention. We just want to worry about playing the best game that we can play and we’re excited at the chance.”
“We know we have one more (game) left, so we’re super excited about having the opportunity to come out here and put our product and who we are out on the field and a chance to compete against a very good Washington State team,” Scott added. “You turn on the film and there’s no doubt, you know why they are here as well and why they have the success they had as well. They play hard, they play with passion, and they play with a lot of energy. It’s going to be a very good game, it’s going to be a challenge for our guys and I think we’ll be up for the challenge and we’re really looking forward to it.”
The 82nd Annual Hyundai Sun Bowl is set for kickoff on Saturday, Dec. 26 at noon. Tickets are now available by calling (915)-533-4416 or on the web on www.sunbowl.org. Follow the Hyundai Sun Bowl in its social media platforms: Facebook (Hyundai Sun Bowl), Twitter (HyundaiSunBowl), Instagram (Hyundaisunbowl) and Snapchat (sunbowl2015).
Story by Eddie Soriano for the Sun Bowl Association