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Central Michigan beats Washington State 24-21 in Sun Bowl

The Cougars were held scoreless for two quarters before walk-on QB Victor Gabalis took over for an injured Jayden de Laura.
Credit: AP
Central Michigan wide receiver JaCorey Sullivan (11) is stopped by Washington State defensive lineman Christian Mejia (93), edge rusher Quinn Roff (20) and defensive back Tyrone Hill Jr. (1) during the first half of the Sun Bowl NCAA college football game in El Paso, Texas, Friday, Dec. 31, 2021. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

EL PASO, Texas — Despite a valiant comeback in the second half, Washington State was not able to overtake Central Michigan in the Sun Bowl. Lew Nichols III ran for 130 yards and a touchdown, leading the late replacement Chippewas to a 24-21 victory over the Cougars.

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 bussed about 300 miles west from Tucson, Arizona to El Paso, Texas. Miami skipped the Sun Bowl for COVID-19 reasons. 

Washington State (7-6) couldn't get its offense going in the first half, finishing with just 53 yards and trailing 21-0 at the break.  The loss of quarterback Jayden de Laura and receiver Calvin Jackson Jr. in the second half did not help matters for WSU.

Despite the rocky start, WSU walk-on QB Victor Gabalis helped spearhead a gripping comeback in the second half. Travell Harris scored on a 5-yard run, followed by a 5-yard touchdown pass from Gabalis to De'Zhaun Stribling. That cut the deficit to 21-14 while the WSU defense held the Chippewas scoreless in the third quarter.

Late in the fourth quarter, Gabalis hit Lincoln Victor on a 16-yard touchdown pass to make it 24-21. However, Central Michigan kicker Marshall Meeder’s earlier three-point field goal proved to be the deciding factor in this year’s Sun Bowl.

This nail-biter of a bowl game brings an end to a headline-making year for WSU. From Nick Rolovich’s firing to winning the Apple Cup for the first time in several years, this will definitely go down as one of the most memorable seasons in Cougars history.

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