NCAA Football

Miami faces uncertain road to meet Wazzu in Sun Bowl

It appears the Miami Hurricanes won't get to take part in most of the Sun Bowl's pregame trappings -- if they even make it to El Paso, Texas, at all.

A COVID-19 outbreak, with more than 10 players reportedly testing positive, cast a doubt on whether the Hurricanes (7-5) would be able to meet Washington State (7-5) on New Year's Eve in one of college football's oldest bowl games.

The Hurricanes were scheduled to travel to El Paso this weekend, but now they might make the trip as late as Dec. 30, Sun Bowl chairman John Folmer told the Miami Herald.

"We're not looking for anyone else to play but Miami. The people in El Paso are buying tickets because of Miami. People in El Paso follow Miami," Folmer said.

"If the game was (the week before Christmas), we wouldn't have them. We told them we'd wait until whenever they could get here, and they responded by saying, 'We're going to do the best we can to make it happen, and we'll arrive when we can, even if it's one day before the game."

The Hurricanes will be led by interim coach Jess Simpson, even though Mario Cristobal has already been hired to replace the fired Manny Diaz.

Miami has won five of its past six games, scoring 31 or more points in each of the victories.

Freshman quarterback Tyler Van Dyke averaged 365.6 passing yards and threw for 20 touchdowns and just three interceptions in those six games, earning the Atlantic Coast Conference's Newcomer of the Year award.

"I told myself I was just going to go out there and start playing with confidence," Van Dyke said. "My teammates have supported me and helped me the rest of the way. I'm very grateful for that."

Leading receiver Charleston Rambo (79 catches for 1,172 yards and seven touchdowns) has opted out of the bowl game to prepare for the NFL draft, as has defensive tackle Jon Ford.

The same can be said for Washington State's leading rusher, Max Borghi (880 yards and 12 touchdowns), right tackle Abraham Lucas and cornerback Jaylen Watson.

"We had a lot of conversations about it, and we obviously wish them the best of luck, and we support them," Cougars coach Jake Dickert said. "Everyone has their own individual situations."

Deon McIntosh, a Miami-area native, is expected to get most of the carries in Borghi's absence.

The Cougars could be missing two other members of their offensive line, as left tackle Liam Ryan has been dealing with an unspecified injury and right guard Cade Beresford transferred to Boise State.

Washington State won six of their last eight regular-season games, including snapping a seven-game losing streak in the Apple Cup with a 40-13 victory against rival Washington. Borghi rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns in that game.

Dickert became the interim coach after Nick Rolovich was dismissed Oct. 18 for failing to comply with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's mandate that all state employees be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Dickert was named the permanent coach the day after the Apple Cup.

The Cougars and Hurricanes have met once before, in the 2015 Sun Bowl. Washington State built an early lead and held on to win 20-14 as the fourth quarter was played in blizzard-like conditions.

--Field Level Media

Updated December 24, 2021