Photos & story by Herman Delgado
The 2021 Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl Game is in the books and one we won’t soon forget. The Sun did not show up and neither did the University of Miami, but the Central Michigan Chippewas did, played hard and defeated Washington State 24-21, in the 88th annual game. The Chippewas came to play and stunned the crowd as they walked up the tunnel with a 21-0 halftime lead. No surprise to the Chippewas, as an assistant coach working the sidelines pumped his fist and stated, “We came to play, we don’t have time for any of this underdog (expletive)!” True to his words, the Chippewas came through and at the end of the day, they were the ones holding up the Sun Bowl Trophy at midfield of the UTEP Sun Bowl Stadium.
The Chippewas were scheduled to take on Boise State in the Arizona Bowl in Tucson on December 31st, but due to Covid complications that game was cancelled. The University of Miami was scheduled to take on the Washington State Cougars, but the U of M was another victim of Covid protocols days before the game in El Paso. In stepped the Chippewas to replace the U of M and take on the Cougars, and as the old saying goes, the rest is history! The Chippewas boarded team buses for a 300-plus mile drive to El Paso the day before the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl game. Thanks to the great effort, long hours, teamwork, and perseverance by the Sun Bowl Association, they came through and another successful bowl game was in the books.
After making a great comeback in the second half to narrow the score to 24-21, it all came down to a pass play on fourth down and the Cougars came short by inches of continuing a successful comeback drive. Fans left the stadium feeling the effects of the rain and cold temperatures but were not disappointed with the game. Central Michigan head coach Jim McElwain had nothing but positive things to say about the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl, the Sun Bowl Association, Arizona Bowl, and Barstool Sports. “I’m just proud of these guys, proud of our team. We don’t get opportunities to play power five teams very often and to get a win…especially in a bowl game as historic as this one…I’m just really proud of our guys,” said McElwain.
Non-stop rain throughout the day and cold temperatures kept many from attending the game, but faithful football fans dawned their parkas, rain boats, and thermals and endured the elements. Despite the cold weather, fans continued cheering, drinking cold beer, and cheering for the Chippewas and Cougars. With all the pre-game activities and events leading up to this Sun Bowl game and the previous ones, I’m looking forward to the excitement and surprises that the 2022 Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl game will bring us.