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Central Michigan holds off Washington State in Sun Bowl

NCAA Football: Sun Bowl-Washington State at Central Michigan
Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

Lew Nichols III rushed for 111 yards and a touchdown as Central Michigan ended its strange postseason odyssey with a 24-21 Sun Bowl victory against Washington State on a rainy Friday in El Paso, Texas.

Marshall Meeder added three field goals for the Chippewas (9-4), who were originally scheduled to play in the Arizona Bowl until Boise State pulled out Monday due to a COVID-19 outbreak. With Miami having to exit the Sun Bowl for the same reason, Central Michigan struck a deal to bus 300-plus miles from Tucson, Ariz., to El Paso to meet the Cougars.

Nichols scored on a 1-yard run with 57 seconds left in the first quarter to give CMU a 13-0 lead. That followed 49- and 52-yard field goals by Meeder.

A 45-yard punt return by Kalil Pimpleton to WSU’s 9-yard line set up a 15-yard touchdown pass from Daniel Richardson to tight end Joel Wilson with 1:48 remaining in the second quarter. A two-point conversion gave the Chippewas a 21-0 halftime lead.

The Cougars (7-6), who were without their top two running backs and three starting offensive linemen between opt-outs, transfers and injuries, finally got going late in the third quarter behind backup quarterback Victor Gabalis, who replaced the injured Jayden de Laura at the half.

The Chippewas had a chance to extend their lead in the third, but a red-zone fumble and a missed field goal thwarted drives.

WSU got on the board with 4:02 left in the quarter on a 5-yard run by wide receiver Travell Harris out of the wildcat formation. That came after the Chippewas were called for roughing the passer on an incomplete pass on fourth-and-4 to extend the drive.

Travion Brown’s interception gave the Cougars the ball at CMU’s 23-yard line. They took advantage, with Gabalis hitting De’Zhaun Stribling on a 5-yard slant on fourth-and-goal to make it 21-14 with 2:24 left in the third.

WSU’s Ron Stone Jr. blocked a 25-yard field-goal attempt to keep it a one-score game with 12:40 remaining.

The Cougars were stopped on fourth-and-1 from their own 32 on their next possession and Meeder connected from 43 yards to make it 24-14 with 9:11 left.

Gabalis threw a 13-yard scoring strike to Lincoln Victor to cap the scoring with 3:13 remaining.

–Field Level Media