EL PASO, Texas – Lew Nichols III ran for 130 yards and a touchdown, leading late replacement Central Michigan to a 24-21 victory over Washington State in the Sun Bowl on Friday.
The Chippewas (9-4) ended a five-game bowl losing streak with their fifth consecutive victory this season. When Boise State opted out of the Arizona Bowl because of COVID-19 issues, Central Michigan switched about 300 miles east from Tucson, Arizona, to the Texas border city of El Paso.
Miami skipped the Sun Bowl for COVID-19 reasons as well. Central Michigan stayed in Arizona before bussing to El Paso the day before the game.
It was the first bowl victory for the Chippewas since beating Western Kentucky in the 2012 Little Caesars Bowl.
Washington State (7-6) never could get its offense going in the first half, finishing with just 53 yards and trailing 21-0 at the break. The Cougars dropped to 8-9 all-time in bowls.
The Cougars rallied in the second half behind backup quarterback Victor Gabalis, scoring three times to make it close. Gabalis was 12 of 23 passing for 180 yards and two TDs.
After a 13-yard scoring toss to Lincoln Victor pulled the Cougars within three points with 3:13 remaining, they had another chance starting at their 14-yard line with 2:41 remaining. Central Michigan stopped Joey Hobert a yard short on a catch on fourth-and-5.
Marshall Meeder kicked three field goals for Central Michigan, including a 52-yarder for a 6-0 lead and a 43-yarder for a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
Central Michigan: It was the first victory in a bowl against a Power Five opponent for the Mid-American Conference team. The Chippewas were seven-point underdogs.
Washington State: The Cougars were without starting tackles Liam Ryan and Abe Lucas for coach Jake Dickert‘s first game on the sideline since having the interim tagged removed. Running backs Max Borghi and Deon McIntosh also opted out.
Central Michigan: The Chippewas will return 10 starters on offense and eight on defense next season. They open on Sept. 3 at Oklahoma State.
Washington State: The Cougars will return eight starters on offense and eight on defense. They open the 2022 season on Sept. 3 at home against Idaho.