The 88th Annual Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl narrowly avoided having its annual Bowl Game canceled for a second straight year by landing the Mid American Conference’s Central Michigan Chippewas who early in the week had their Arizona Bowl Game versus Boise State canceled. The Chippewas the unlikeliest of foes for the Pac 12’s Washington Huskies made the most of their opportunity with a 24-21 victory.
The Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl failed to live up to its name as the Sun was nowhere to be found in a cloudy, wet, and cold game but the lively crowd stayed for all the game despite the wet conditions to witness what turned out to be an entertaining edition of the New Year’s Eve Classic.
Central Michigan would utilize their defense to propel them to good field position on their early drives. The Central Michigan defense held Washington State to 9 Punts and 1 Turn Over of downs and no points on the Cougars first 10 possessions. Central Michigan Kicker Marshall Meeder would connect on his first two field attempts from 49 and 52 yards to give the Chippewas an early 6-0 first quarter lead.
Washington State would fumble the kickoff after the second CMU Field goal giving the Chippewas the deep in Cougar territory and 3 plays later CMU Running Back Lew Nichalas III would score the games first Touchdown on a 1 yard run, giving Central Michigan a 13-0 lead as the first quarter expired.
Late in the second quarter Central Michigan’s Kailil Pimpleton would return a WSU punt 45 yards to the Cougar 9 Yard Line setting up Daniel Richardson to Joel Wilson 15 yard touchdown pass and after a successful 2-Point conversion the Chippewas would take a 21-0 lead into halftime.
CMU seemed poised to put the game away in the 3rd quarter driving down to the Washington State 3 yard line but would turn the ball over on a fumble giving the Cougars some life. Washington State would finally get on the score board on a 7 play drive capped off by a 5 yard Travell Harris Touchdown Run making the score 21-7 with 3:05 left to play in the 3rd quarter.
On the very next play from scrimmage CMU Quarterback Daniel Richardson would be intercepted b WSU’s Travion Brown on the Chippewas 23 yardline. The turnover would set up the second Cougar score of the game, a 5-yard Victor Gabalis pass to De’Zhuan Shibling making the score 21-14 with just over a minute to play in the 3rd Quarter.
Central Michigan would drive into Cougar Territory on their next possession and have a 45 yard field goal attempt blocked by the Cougars. The Cougars would fail to capitalize on the opportunity to tie the game after a the blocked field goal, turning the ball over to the Chippewas who drove the ball into WSU Territory and would where Marshall would hit on his 3rd field goal of the game a 43 yarder giving CMU a 24-14 lead.
The Cougars would score on a 4 play 75 play drive punctuated by a 16 yard Touchdown pass from Victor Gabalis to Lincoln Victor making the score 24-21 with 3:13 to play. The Cougars would force the Chippewas to punt on their next possession using all 3 of their timeouts to preserve the clock. Facing a 4th and 4 on their own 19 yardline Washington State would complete a 4 yard pass to Joey Holbert that would be measured and be and fall inches short of allowing the drive to continue.
Central Michigan would take over with 2:04 left and take 3 knees to end their improbable victory in the 88th Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl. The Chippewas found themselves early in the week in Arizona making preparations to play against the Mountain West’s Boise State but when COVID 19 forced the Broncos to bow out of the Arizona Bowl the Sun Bowl was able to get them to replace the Miami Hurricanes of the ACC to keep the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl from a second cancelation in a row.
Central Michigan as a result became the first team from outside of the Power 6 to play in the game since Army in 1988 and the first to win the Sun Bowl since UTEP defeated Ole Miss in 1967.
Chris Gomez Reporting