Washington State's defense picked the perfect time to play its best game of the season.

No. 18 Washington State, ranked third in the nation in total offense, stalled in the second half, but the defense held off a rally by No. 14 Houston for a 24-22 victory in Sunday's Aloha Bowl."That's the best they've been," Coach Dennis Erickson said of WSU's defense, which was ranked last in the Pacific-10 against the pass. "It wasn't our best day of the season offensively, but it was our best day defensively."

Timm Rosenbach, the nation's most efficient passer, threw for 306 yards and one touchdown and ran for another score, but the biggest play belonged to middle linebacker Tuineau Alipate.

Alipate hit wide receiver James Dixon and caused a fumble that stopped a long Houston drive at the Washington State 5 yard line with less than three minutes left.

Washington State limited quarterback Andre Ware to eight completions in 28 attempts for 44 yards and intercepted him twice in the first half. Ware was replaced in the third quarter by David Dacus, who threw two touchdown passes to rally Houston from a 24-9 halftime deficit.

Houston's passing offense was rated second in the nation, averaging 377 yards a game. Dacus completed eight of 11 passes for 153 yards and stayed in the game despite a possible broken jaw sustained on a hit by Mark Ledbetter with 4:40 left in the game.

Washington State scored all of its points in the second quarter. The win was Washington State's first bowl victory since 1916. It was only WSU'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, named WSU's most valuable player, caught a touchdown pass and ran in a fumble for another score.

Dacus, named Houston's most valuable player, brought his team back with a 53-yard scoring pass to Kevin Mason with 4:25 left in the third quarter and a 2-yard shovel pass for a score to Chuck Weatherspoon with 13:16 remaining in the game. Houston failed on a two-point conversion pass following Mason's touchdown.

A fight broke out after the game among several players and both benches cleared. The altercation drew boos from those remaining from the announced crowd of 35,132. Washington State and Houston both finished the season 9-3.