The snow began to fall in the second quarter, the sky over the Franklin Mountains turning considerably whiter as the University of Miami’s season got considerably darker.
Aided by Miami’s porous offensive line, undisciplined play and overall sloppiness, Washington State scored 13 second-quarter points Saturday to break open a first-quarter tie and survive with an eventual 20-14 victory in the Sun Bowl.
The Hurricanes finished their season 8-5 and have now lost six consecutive bowl games — the Sun on Saturday, the Independence Bowl last year, the Russell Athletic in 2013, the Sun in 2010, the Champs Sports in 2009 and the Emerald in 2008.
Washington State finished 9-4.
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“We came here to win, and we didn’t,” Hurricanes receiver Braxton Berrios said softly. “Obviously, it’s disappointing to send the seniors out that way. It’s disappointing to send Coach [Larry] Scott and everybody else out that way.
What appeared to be a 5-yard touchdown pass from Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya to Stacy Coley with 5:14 left — a touchdown that would have tied the game at 20 and likely put UM ahead with the extra point — was called back when receiver Herb Waters was flagged for a block in the back.
Plenty of groans could be heard from the crowd of 41,180.
Two plays later from the 5-yard line, Miami had another chance, but freshman Mark Walton fumbled the ball after a 1-yard gain, and Washington State recovered.
Before that, Coley’s 65-yard would-be touchdown with 4:34 left in the third quarter was negated by a clipping penalty called against UM tackle Trevor Darling.
Another example of UM futility: Early in the second quarter, Washington State cornerback Charleston White stripped Rashawn Scott of a would-be completion in the end zone, and the ball fell into the hands of linebacker Peyton Pelluer.
UM died for good at first-and-10 from the WSU 28-yard line with 3:13 left, when coaches called a halfback pass from Joe Yearby instead of letting Kaaya lead the way. Yearby’s pass was weak and wobbly, making it an easy interception for the Cougars’ Shalom Luani.
“It’s kind of an all or nothing deal,” WSU coach Mike Leach said. “I think it’s worth taking a shot, but we did have two guys on it. … No guts, no glory.”
UM, the most penalized team in the country, finished the game with nine penalties for 105 yards.
Scott, UM’s interim coach before Mark Richt takes over immediately, said he was proud of his players for not giving up but “at the end of the day there’s no such thing as moral victories. We didn’t make enough plays to win the game.”
Scott said the Yearby pass “slipped out of his hands” and was a play they worked on for “a week and a half, two weeks” and was called in the appropriate situation. “It slipped out.”
Richt didn’t travel to the game but announced during the CBS broadcast that he has almost completed assembling his new coaching staff, likely making dejected Canes fans a bit more hopeful.
“There are a lot of decisions that have been made and there’s a couple more to be made,” Richt said. “But a great majority of it — I’m in pretty good shape right there.”
Miami began to come back in the fourth quarter with a two-play touchdown drive that began with a Wildcat handoff from running back Yearby (who earlier in the game reached 1,000 rushing yards for the season) to Berrios, who sprinted 60 yards down the right sideline for the Canes’ longest run of the year. Walton then plowed the 5 yards to make it 20-14 with 13:10 left in the game.
But Kaaya was sacked for the fourth time on the ensuing drive, then threw an incompletion, and Washington State took over.
“Our goal coming in was to get penetration on their line,” defensive end Darryl Paulo said. “And we did it all game [Saturday].”
Kaaya completed 17 of 31 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown, with one interception. His Canes were 3 of 13 on third-down chances.
WSU quarterback Luke Falk, who leads the No. 1 passing offense in the nation, finished 29 of 53 for 295 yards and two touchdowns.
“I thought we were playing in the Sun Bowl, and it ended up being the Snow Bowl,” said Falk, who added that his teammates were used to the snow but it likely hurt Miami more.
Down 7-0, UM took two daring chances on its opening drive and capitalized on both. On fourth-and-3 from the WSU 36, Kaaya hit Coley for 4 yards.
And on fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line, Kaaya connected with Coley again for the touchdown at 5:45.
Near the end of the first half, UM safety Rayshawn Jenkins was ejected from the game for targeting. But the Cougars did not score again.
UM has now lost six consecutive bowl games — which is double the previous longest losing streak in program history: