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Holiday History: 8 Cougs who turned San Diego bowl into personal showcase

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.

When the brain trust at convened in 2013 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 (pictured above) also returned a kickoff 89 yards for a TD against Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl the season before?

As WSU prepares for its third trip to the Holiday Bowl (Dec. 27 vs. Minnesota at 4 pm Pacific), we recount some of the incredible performances Cougar players unleashed in San Diego in the two previous appearances.

None stands taller than Moore. He racked up 193 all-purpose yards in the 2003 Holiday Bowl -- 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 Moore was named the game's offensive MVP.

Here are seven other Cougs who turned the Holiday Bowl into a personal showcase:


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 returned for a TD, and making eight total tackles (seven solo), including a sack. 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 (pictured below) 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.


How good was the Pride of Elma 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. In later years he was inducted into the Holiday Bowl Hall of Fame.

RB/KR DON LaBOMME, 1981: The Bomb was another bowl renaissance man, rushing for 79 yards on 14 carries and booming two punts for 101 yards, but it is his 106 yards on 4 kickoff returns -- a 26.5 average -- that make him one to remember.

DEFENSIVE END D.D. ACHOLONU, 2003: He 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.

RUNNING BACK JONATHAN SMITH, 2003: "J. Smooth" rushed for 110 yards on 21 carries (5.2 avg.), including a 12-yard TD run. He also caught five Matt Kegel passes for another 51 yards.

DEFENSIVE BACK JOE TAYLOR, 1981: One of the most unsung of the outstanding DBs in WSU history, this New Jersey native 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.

Ricky Turner shows off the rump-turn option in 1981 ...

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