5 Greatest Bowlers in Cougar history

SAMMY MOORE always seemed to be in the middle of the action ... grabbing a long Jason Gesser pass late to help WSU defeat USC in 2002 ... going acrobatic in the end zone in South Bend to send the Cougs into overtime with Notre Dame. And most memorable of all, turning in a remarkable, multi-dimensional performance to help knock off No. 5 Texas and Vince Young in the 2003 Holiday Bowl.

So when the brain trust at Cougfan.com sat down to pick the five most memorable performers in Washington State's bowl history, Sammy Moore -- at least on the offensive side of the ball -- was the runaway choice for top cat. Of course, his selection wasn't just about performance on the field. It was also about the importance of the game in which he did his work. Defeating the heavily favored Longhorns arguably ranks as one of the five greatest wins in school history.

Oh, and did we mention that Sammy also returned a kickoff for a TD against Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl?

Without further ado, here are CF.C's choices for the five greatest bowlers in WSU history ...


Let us count the ways. In the 2003 Holiday Bowl, Moore (pictured above) racked up 193 all-purpose yards -- 66 in receptions, 68 in punt returns and 59 in kickoff returns – and scored two TDs on pass receptions from Matt Kegel of 12 and 54 yards. The Cougs won 28-20 and he was named the game's offensive MVP. The year before, in the Rose Bowl against Oklahoma, he returned a kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown late in the game. In the two bowl games combined, he touched the ball 11 times, scoring three TDs and averaging 18.9 yards per touch.


It's hard to imagine a bigger defensive day than Thompson's in the 2001 Sun Bowl, when the Cougs defeated Purdue and Kyle Orton 33-27. Thompson, who was named the game's MVP, intercepted two passes, deflected five more and collected eight total tackles. Four years earlier, the Cougars' thriller against No. 1-ranked Michigan and Brian Griese in the Rose Bowl, Thompson posted one interception and six total tackles. After his WSU days, he was drafted in the second round of the NFL draft and played with the Bengals, Titans and Jaguars. In case you missed it, CF.C caught up with Thompson recently for a Where Are They Now? feature.


Choosing the 5-10, 162-pounder out of Seattle's Franklin High wasn't a question of quantity, though he did collect a head-turning 228 all-purpose yards in WSU's dramatic 24-22 win over Houston and Andre Ware in the 1988 Aloha Bowl. Nope, with Victor it was all about instantaneous impact. In the span of five minutes on that Christmas Day in Hawaii he put the Cougars on the path to victory. With Houston leading 3-0, the Cougars had marched to the Houston five after Vernon Todd had intercepted Ware. And then the Cougar Nation lost its collective breath as a handoff between Timm Rosenbach and Steve Broussard was bobbled. The ball was on the ground -- and suddenly Wood was there to grab it up and dart into the end zone to put the Cougs up 7-3. Exactly five minutes later, he capped an 80-yard Cougar drive with a 15-yard TD reception from Rosenbach to put the Cougs up 14-3. In all that day, Woods caught 48 yards worth of passes, racked up 52 yards in punt returns, "rushed" the one time for five yards, and collected 123 yards on kickoff returns.


The Pride of Spokane played in three bowl games during his WSU career, but his work in the Cougars' 28-20 win over No. 5 Texas in the 2003 Holiday Bowl was truly something special. He was a thorn to the Horns all night, blocking a punt, breaking up four passes, forcing a fumble that Jason David retuned for a TD, and making eight total tackles (seven solo), including a sack. In his other two bowl appearances, he posted 10 tackles against Oklahoma in the Rose, and in the Sun as a sophomore he collected 77 yards in punt and kick returns. Coleman was a first-team All-Pac-10 selection and honorable mention All-American choice in that 2003 season, as well as a Nagurski Award contender. He went on to a long career in the NFL with the Jets, Falcons and Lions.


The 1981 Holiday Bowl was WSU's first appearance in the post-season since the 1931 Rose Bowl, and fans on both sides of this two-Cougar battle – WSU vs. BYU – got their money's worth. With star QB Jim McMahon leading the BYU offense, they jumped to a 14-0 lead. That's when Turner came off the bench and proceeded to run the veer in circles around BYU. Turner rump-turn-optioned his way to 92 rushing yards and two TDs, while orchestrating a running back attack of Don LaBomme, Robert Williams, Tim Harris and Mike Martin that fired up another 157 hashes. His entrance into the game triggered a turnaround that was nothing less than stunning: BYU scored 31 of the game's first 39 points, WSU 29 of the next 36. To put Turner's work into greater perspective, consider that the sophomore from Compton found out shortly before kickoff that his grandmother was in intensive care in Los Angeles following a car accident. The Cougars closed to within 38-36 with 5:12 remaining but a key BYU sack of Clete Casper on WSU's last possession helped seal the deal for BYU.


QB:      Drew Bledsoe, 1992 Copper Bowl

The future No. 1 NFL draft pick carved up the Utah secondary with 30 completions in 46 attempts for a record 476 yards.

RB:      Jonathan Smith, 2003 Holiday Bowl (2003 Rose Bowl)

"J. Smooth" rushed for 110 on 21 carries (5.2 avg.), including a 12-yard TD run. Also caught five Matt Kegel passes for another 51 yards. (Caught five passes for 38 yards and returned three kick-offs for 24 more in the 2003 Rose Bowl.)

RB:       Shaumbe Wright-Fair, 1992 Copper Bowl

The back with the "strength of a lion," picked up 123 ground yards, scored twice, and caught 6 of Bledsoe's passes for another 21 yards.

RB:       Carl "Red" Dietz, 1916 Rose Bowl

The toughs-as-nails fullback fought through a field of thick mud, rushing for 105 yards, scoring the decisive TD, outshining Brown All-American Fritz Pollard, and being named the game's MVP.

C:         Mel Hein, 1931 Rose Bowl

Hein played every play of every game like an all-star, the Rose Bowl was no exception.      

G:         Hack Applequist, 1916 Rose Bowl

The Cougs pounded out 313 yards against the Bruins, due largely in part to the finesse and fierceness of Hack. Those rushing yards stood as a Rose Bowl record for many years.

G:         Mike Utley, 1988 Aloha Bowl

When the All-American wasn't pancaking Houston defenders he was insuring no one laid a glove on Timm Rosenbach.

T:         Turk Edwards, 1931 Rose

The Tide used the new-fangled forward pass to defeat the Cougs, but the marquee battle in the trenches between ‘Bama All-American Fred Sington and WSC All-American Edwards was won by the Turk.

T:         Ace Clark, 1916 Rose Bowl

The team captain joined Applequist and company in opening holes and wearing down the Brown defense. The Los Angeles Times reported afterward the Crimson Soldiers "tore the Brown line to shreds."

WR:      Tim Stallworth, 1988 Aloha Bowl

The third-team All-American was Rosenbach's favorite target, catching eight of his tosses for 120 yards.

WR:      Jerome Riley, 2003 Rose Bowl, 2001 Sun Bowl

Riley was in top form in Pasadena in January 2003, catching nine (8th best in Rose history) Jason Gesser passes for 139 yards and a touchdown. Two more catches for crucial first downs were negated due to silly penalties. He also caught 6 balls for 65 yards at El Paso in 2001.

WR:      Chris Jackson, 1998 Rose Bowl

The most loquacious member of the Fab Five averaged a whopping 17.8 yards every time he and Ryan Leaf connected vs. No. 1 Michigan. He finished the day with 5 catches for 89 yards.

WR:      Phillip Bobo, 1992 Copper Bowl

Talk about big games, Bobo scored twice on Bledsoe passes that covered 87 and 48 yards. He finished with seven grabs for 212 yard and even ran the ball twice, gaining another 16 yards on two carries.

K:         Drew Dunning 2001 Sun, 2003 Rose Bowl, 2003 Holiday

The All-Pac-10 kicker was a perfect 4 for 4 on field goals - - including a 47 yarder - - and an equally perfect 3 for 3 on point-afters against Purdue in the Sun. Fittingly, he was named the Sun's special team MVP. (Kicked two points-after in Pasadena and two in San Diego.)

KR:       Don LaBomme, 1981 Holiday Bowl

The Bomb was another bowl renaissance man, rushing for 79 yards on 14 carries and booming 2 punts for 101 yards, but it is his 106 yards on 4 kickoff returns -- a 26-5 average -- that make him one to remember.


DE:       D.D. Acholonu, 2003 Holiday Bowl, 2003 Rose, 2001 Sun

Harassed Texas QBs all night in the 2003 Holiday Bowl, recording four tackles -- three of them sacks. One of the sacks caused a fumble that was recovered by Cougar Will Derting in the fourth quarter as the Longhorns drove for the tying score. His final sack ended the game. (Also had four tackles in the Sun Bowl.)

DE:      Clarence Zimmerman, 1916 Rose Bowl


Zim was said to have been the team's best athlete and played a huge role is slowing down the All-American Pollard.

DT:       Tony Savage, 1988 Aloha

Savage helped render the Houston running game non-existent, notching seven tackles as WSU held the Texan Cougars to just 68 rushing yards. He also enjoyed a timely sack of their QB.

DT:       Mark Ledbetter, 1988 Aloha

The Leaded One was just as hungry as teammate Savage, partaking in eight stops and recording a sack of his own.

LB:       Brandon Moore, 1998 Rose

Moore was almost more than Michigan could handle, tallying 9 tackles (8 solo), including one sack and four tackles for a loss.

LB:       Steve Gleason, 1998 Rose

Gleason is forever remembered for the collision-heard-round the state with Cam Cleland in the Apple Cup victory that helped get the Cougs to Pasadena, but his work in this thrilling was exceptional: nine total tackles and every one of them solo. Like so much about this game, his work was overshadowed by the controversial conclusion to the game.

LB:       Raonall Smith, 2001 Sun Bowl

Smith punished Purdue all afternoon, leading Wazzu with 11 defensive stops, including a QB sack. And, in his final play as a Coug, he batted down a last chance pass by Purdue, thus sealing the victory for WSU.

LB:       Ron Childs, 1994 Alamo Bowl, 1992 Copper Bowl

Ron gave the term "child's play" new meaning in the 1994 Alamo Bowl. Against Baylor, he posted 10 tackles – eight solo – and two tackles for a loss. Two years earlier, against Utah in the Copper Bowl, he was in on nine stops, eight of which were solo.

DB:       Jason David, 2001 Sun  (2003 Rose, 2003 Holiday)

The sophomore seemed to read Purdue QB Kyle Orton's mind, intercepting him twice – returning the first 45 yards to start the scoring – and swatting down several more pass attempts. (Made four tackles and broke-up two passes against Oklahoma in '03; made three stops and returned a fumble for a touchdown in '03 Holiday Bowl.)

DB:       Joe Taylor, 1981 Holiday Bowl

One of the most unsung DBs in WSU history, Taylor was all over Jack Murphy Stadium, playing a part in 11 tackles, including one for an 8-yard loss, and setting up WSU's first score with a blocked punt deep in BYU territory.

P:         Kyle Basler, 2003 Holiday Bowl (2003 Rose Bowl)

How good was Basler in the 2003 Holiday Bowl? So good that he was named the game's defensive MVP and Texas coach Mack Brown declared his performance the difference maker. Four of his seven punts were downed inside the five-yard line. He also averaged 46 yards on six punts in the '03 Rose Bowl.

Coach: Lone Star Dietz, 1916 Rose Bowl

He won the only Big One in WSU history, over a heavily favored Brown and he won it convincingly. Oh, and he did it wearing a silk hat, yellow gloves, and striped pants. ‘Nuff said.




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