1981 Holiday Bowl

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1981 Holiday Bowl
1234 Total
BYU 71777 38
Washington State 07218 36
DateDecember 18, 1981
StadiumJack Murphy Stadium
LocationSan Diego, California
MVPJim McMahon      (QB, BYU)
Kyle Whittingham (LB, BYU)
FavoriteBYU by 3 points [1]
Halftime showMarching bands
PayoutUS$286,179 per team[2]
United States TV coverage
NetworkESPN, Mizlou
Holiday Bowl
 < 1980  1982

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.[3] 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.[4][5][6][7][8]

It was the fourth straight year in the Holiday Bowl for BYU, but the first bowl appearance in 51 years for Washington State,[9] who used a two-quarterback system: junior Clete Casper was the passer and sophomore Ricky Turner the runner.[10] 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.

Game summary[edit]

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.[5][6][7]

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.[5][6][7]

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. [11][12]

The players of the game, both from BYU, were McMahon and middle linebacker Kyle Whittingham,[6] the future head coach at Utah. BYU evened its record in the bowl at 2–2,[3][8] and played in the next three.

BYU moved up one spot to thirteenth in the final AP poll, and Washington State slipped out of the top twenty;[13] their next bowl appearance was seven years later.


First quarter

  • BYU – Dan Plater 35 pass from Jim McMahon (Kurt Gunther kick)

Second quarter

  • 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)

Third quarter

  • 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)

Fourth quarter

  • 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


  1. ^ "The latest line". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. December 18, 1981. p. 17.
  2. ^ a b "Holiday Bowl Game History". Archived from the original on 2008-05-17. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
  3. ^ a b Van Sickel, Gary (December 18, 1981). "Holiday's history short, wild". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). p. 22.
  4. ^ "McMahon passes for 342 yards". Reading Eagle. (Pennsylvania). UPI. December 19, 1981. p. 6.
  5. ^ a b c d e Barrows, Bob (December 19, 1981). "Washington State almost has a curtain call". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). p. 1C.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Van Sickel, Gary (December 19, 1981). "Happy Holidays – for BYU". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). p. 21.
  7. ^ a b c d e "McMahon makes Holiday happy one for BYU, 38-36". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. December 19, 1981. p. 2B.
  8. ^ a b Robinson, Doug (December 19, 1981). "Y. wins another Holiday heartstopper". Deseret News. (Salt Lake City, Utah). p. A3.
  9. ^ "WSU, BYU go 'bowling' tonight". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). December 18, 1981. p. 21.
  10. ^ "WSU got here via the 1-2 punch". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. December 18, 1981. p. 22.
  11. ^ http://www.deseretnews.com/article/230012403/1981-Holiday-Bowl-BYU-38-Washington-State-36.html
  12. ^ http://byucougars.com/files/media_guides/m-football/2010/tradition/bowl-1981.html
  13. ^ "Polls agree that Tigers are No. 1". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). wire services. January 3, 1982. p. 3E.