USA Today Images/Camporeale

Cougars beat Miami 20-14 in the Sun Bowl as the defense comes up with two late takeaways

WASHINGTON STATE won its first bowl game since 2003, surviving a second-half snowstorm Saturday as the Cougars rode their defense to a 20-14 win over Miami in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Tex.

Luke Falk passed for 295 yards and two touchdowns, but it was the Cougar defense that rose up and won the game with two takeaways during the final five minutes.

Weather conditions in El Paso were wet at the game's outset, and completely fell apart with a driving snow storm in the second half.

Falk was named Sun Bowl most valuable player of the game, Hercules Mata'afa the lineman of the game and Erik Powell special teams player of the game.

Washington State (9-4) scored all of its points during the first half. By then, the Cougars defense found itself and gave Miami's offense and quarterback Brad Kaaya fits from there.

The Cougars defense had three takeaways and four sacks against Miami, which managed just 344 yards.

The biggest defensive plays for WSU's defense came late in the fourth quarter, with the Cougars milking a 20-14 lead.

First, with Miami at the WSU 4, Marcellus Pippins recovered a fumble by the Hurricanes' Mark Walton. Miami got the ball back less than two minutes later, but the Cougar' D foiled the Hurricanes again, as Shalom Luani intercepted a pass from running back Joe Yearby. That was it, after Washington State's offense got two first downs to seal the win.

Washington State dominated most of the first half in taking a 20-7 halftime lead.

The Cougars took a 7-0 lead on their opening drive, when Falk completed five consecutive passes, capped by a 31-yard catch and run by Jamal Morrow for a touchdown.

Miami, sensing a possible track meet, passed up a short field goal on its opening drive, and instead on fourth down tied the game 7-7 on Kaaya's 4-yard touchdown pass to Stacy Coley.

The Cougars' defense stoned Miami the rest of the half, allowed the offense to put up 13 points to take a commanding halftime lead.

Falk added to a 10-7 lead with 1:10 remaining in the second quarter with a 25-yard touchdown strike to Gabe Marks. Erik Powell, who earlier in the second quarter booted a 30-yard field goal, closed out the first half with a 25-yarder.

Following a scoreless third quarter, Miami's lifeless offense showed a spark when Braxton Barrios, playing as a wildcat quarterback, ripped off a 60-yard run. On the following play, the Hurricanes cut the deficit to 20-14 on a 4-yard touchdown run with 13 minutes remaining.

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