HONOLULU — Quarterback Timm Rosenbach had another performance that showed why he was college football's most-efficient passer this season, but it was No. 18 Washington State's much-maligned defense that clinched a 24-22 victory over No. 14 Houston Sunday in the Aloha Bowl.
Rosenbach threw for 1 touchdown and ran for another as Washington State scored all of its points in the second quarter, building a 24-9 lead. He completed 19 of 36 passes for 306 yards with 1 interception.
Houston rallied behind reserve quarterback David Dacus, but Washington State's defense stopped a Houston drive late in the fourth quarter to preserve the victory. Linebacker Tuineau Alipate hit Houston wide receiver James Dixon at the Washington State 5-yard line, causing a fumble that was recovered by safety Artie Holmes with 2:44 left.
"It wasn't a big hit, just the way I had the ball tucked," said Dixon, who had caught a pass from Dacus before the fumble. "I saw the first tackler and shook him off, but I didn't see the other guy coming from the blind side."
Washington State's defense, rated the worst in the Pacific 10 Conference, stifled Houston's run-and-shoot offense.
Starting quarterback Andre Ware completed only 8 of 28 passes for 44 yards with 2 interceptions. Dacus completed 7 of 11 passes for 153 yards and suffered a possible broken jaw with 4:40 remaining after being hit by Washington State tackle Mark Ledbetter.
Houston's passing offense was rated second in the nation, averaging 377 yards a game.
Washington State Coach Dennis Erickson said he wasn't surprised with the strong performance by his defense.
"Our secondary played very well," Erickson said. "It's not that we don't see the pass in our league, we see it every day. Someone coming in throwing the football is not an earthshaking event to us in the Pac-10."
It was Washington State's first bowl victory since 1916. It was only Washington State's fourth bowl appearance in the school's 93-year football history.
Washington State running back Steve Broussard rushed for 139 yards and wide receiver Victor Wood caught a touchdown pass and ran for another score after catching a fumble.
Dacus, who took over for Ware late in the second quarter, brought Houston back with a 53-yard scoring pass to Kevin Mason with 4:25 left in the third quarter and a 2-yard pass play for a touchdown to Chuck Weatherspoon with 13:16 remaining. Houston failed on a two-point conversion pass after Mason's touchdown.
The game ended on a sour note when a fight broke out among several players. Both benches cleared and the altercation drew boos from those remaining from the announced crowd of 35,132.
Washington State and Houston each finished the season 9-3.