Washington State caps its unique football season with a rare bowl rematch on New Year’s Eve.
WSU (7-5) and Miami (7-5) meet again in the Sun Bowl – six years removed from their last matchup.
Kickoff is set for 9 a.m. PST in El Paso on Dec. 31. CBS will broadcast the game from Sun Bowl Stadium.
On Dec. 26, 2015, in gusts and heavy snowfall, WSU picked up the first of two bowl victories in former coach Mike Leach’s tenure and improved to 9-4, topping the Hurricanes 20-14.
Since then, the Cougs have played in a bowl every winter – excluding coronavirus-affected 2020. They are 8-8 in bowl appearances dating back to 1915, including a 33-27 Sun Bowl win over Purdue with coach Mike Price in 2001.
“This year’s team has worked tremendously hard to carry on the bowl tradition at Washington State and we look forward to writing the final chapter of our 2021 season,” recently hired coach Jake Dickert said in a press release.
The Cougars went 6-3 in conference play this year and had a slim chance of earning a bid to the Pac-12 championship after their final game of the season. They were picked in preseason polls to finish last in the Pac-12 North.
They’ve been playing sound football since early October, and they’ve been especially good late.
“There is real excitement about this 2021 football team, and the expectation is there’s a motivated group of Cougs that want to go celebrate this team and hopefully meet us out at a bowl game,” athletic director Pat Chun said during a news conference Sunday.
WSU has won its past two games, well-rounded blowouts of Arizona and Washington. Roughly a day after the Cougs’ most lopsided Apple Cup triumph of all time, Jake Dickert was lifted from interim to permanent coach.
The Hurricanes were competitive in Atlantic Coast Conference play all season, but fell in a couple of seesaw contests and suffered big losses to ranked foes Alabama – the top seed in the College Football Playoff bracket – and Michigan State.
Reports began to emerge this weekend that Miami coach Manny Diaz may be replaced by Oregon’s Mario Cristobal. Hurricanes offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee was hired to coach SMU last month, and he brought a few offensive assistants along to Dallas.
“The U” is also conducting a search for an athletic director.
WSU is in the midst of a program makeover as well, but the Cougars are a bit further along in the process. Dickert has reportedly hired new coordinators, and assistants to lead the offensive line and defensive tackles.
It seems more likely than not that the Sun Bowl marks the final game in crimson for several assistants.
“There’s never been more movement in the history of probably college football, relative to coaching, but to my best understanding, we’ll have all our coaches that were a part of our last game,” Chun said.
It’ll be the second-ever game between the two programs.
In the first, WSU quarterback Luke Falk’s poised play through swirling second-half snowfall boosted the Cougars to their first bowl win since 2003.
In their most recent postseason showing, the Cougs couldn’t stop Air Force on the ground during a Cheez-It Bowl loss in Phoenix in December 2019.
Chun told media members the entire WSU football team will be allowed to travel and the Cougars will arrive in El Paso on Dec. 26.
“From a future standpoint, we get relatively young really fast after this football season, so these 15 practices – there’s a reason why teams that typically get to bowl games always stay in bowl games,” Chun said. “December is a month used for player development.”
Tickets for the Sun Bowl can be ordered at wsucougars.com, or by calling the WSU ticket office as early as 9 a.m. Monday morning at 1-800-GO-COUGS.
Arizona State was picked to play Wisconsin in the Las Vegas Bowl, a destination Cougar fans seemed to be hoping for.