1981 Holiday Bowl
|1981 Holiday Bowl|
|Date||December 18, 1981|
|Stadium||Jack Murphy Stadium|
|Location||San Diego, California|
|MVP||Jim McMahon (QB, BYU)|
Kyle Whittingham (LB, BYU)
|Favorite||BYU by 3 points |
|Halftime show||Marching bands|
|Payout||US$286,179 per team|
|United States TV coverage|
The 1981 Holiday Bowl was a college football bowl game played on December 18 in San Diego, California. It was part of the 1981 NCAA Division I-A football season, and was the fourth edition of the Holiday Bowl. The Friday night game was the third of sixteen games in this bowl season and featured the 14th-ranked BYU Cougars, champions of the Western Athletic Conference, and the #20 Washington State Cougars of the Pac-10 Conference.
It was the fourth straight year in the Holiday Bowl for BYU, but the first bowl appearance in 51 years for Washington State, who used a two-quarterback system: junior Clete Casper was the passer and sophomore Ricky Turner the runner. BYU's quarterback was consensus All-American and future Super Bowl champion Jim McMahon, the fifth overall pick of the 1982 NFL Draft. He was backed up by sophomore Steve Young, a future member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and also a Super Bowl champion.
Favored BYU scored first on a 35-yard pass from McMahon to Dan Plater, the only scoring of the first quarter. McMahon threw a 7-yard pass to Gordon Hudson to increase BYU's lead to 14–0. Washington State got on the board after quarterback Turner scored on a two-yard run. BYU's Kurt Gunther kicked a 20-yard field goal and Waymon Hamilton ran in from a yard out to give BYU a 24–7 lead at halftime.
Early in the third quarter, BYU cornerback Tom Holmoe intercepted a Casper pass and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown, but WSU scored three unanswered touchdowns. Running back Matt LaBonne scored on an 18-yard run, Robert Williams scored on a 5-yard run, and Turner scored again on a 13-yard run to close the BYU lead to three points (31–28) at the end of the third quarter.
McMahon fired an 11-yard touchdown pass to Scott Pettis to take the lead back to ten points at 38–28. WSU fullback Mike Martin scored from a yard out and Turner added a 2-point conversion to close the gap to two points (38–36) with five minutes remaining. Late in the game, McMahon fumbled a third-down snap but picked up the ball and ran for a first down that helped to clinch the victory for BYU. 
The players of the game, both from BYU, were McMahon and middle linebacker Kyle Whittingham, the future head coach at Utah. BYU evened its record in the bowl at 2–2, and played in the next three.
- BYU – Dan Plater 35 pass from Jim McMahon (Kurt Gunther kick)
- BYU – Gordon Hudson 4 pass from McMahon (Gunther kick)
- WSU – Ricky Turner 4 run (Ward Leland kick)
- BYU – Field goal, Gunther 20
- BYU – Waymon Hamilton 1 run (Gunther kick)
- BYU – Tom Holmoe 35 interception return (Gunther kick)
- WSU – Matt LaBomme 18 run (Pat Beach pass from Clete Casper)
- WSU – Robert Williams 5 run (pass failed)
- WSU – Turner 13 run (Leland kick)
- BYU – Scott Pettis 11 pass from McMahon (Gunther kick)
- WSU – Mike Martin 1 run (Turner run)
Statistics BYU WSU First Downs 22 23 Rushes–yards 32–69 53–245 Passing yards 368 106 Passes 28–44–0 8–25–2 Total yards 437 351 Punts–average 8–37 8–41 Fumbles–lost 5–0 0–0 Turnovers by 0 2 Penalties-yards 9–86 5–45
- "The latest line". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. December 18, 1981. p. 17.
- "Holiday Bowl Game History". Archived from the original on 2008-05-17. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
- Van Sickel, Gary (December 18, 1981). "Holiday's history short, wild". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). p. 22.
- "McMahon passes for 342 yards". Reading Eagle. (Pennsylvania). UPI. December 19, 1981. p. 6.
- Barrows, Bob (December 19, 1981). "Washington State almost has a curtain call". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). p. 1C.
- Van Sickel, Gary (December 19, 1981). "Happy Holidays – for BYU". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). p. 21.
- "McMahon makes Holiday happy one for BYU, 38-36". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. December 19, 1981. p. 2B.
- Robinson, Doug (December 19, 1981). "Y. wins another Holiday heartstopper". Deseret News. (Salt Lake City, Utah). p. A3.
- "WSU, BYU go 'bowling' tonight". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). December 18, 1981. p. 21.
- "WSU got here via the 1-2 punch". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. December 18, 1981. p. 22.
- "Polls agree that Tigers are No. 1". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). wire services. January 3, 1982. p. 3E.
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