Dec. 28, 1999
SAN DIEGO - Marques Tuiasosopo and the Holiday Bowl seem to be a perfect match.
Tuiasosopo, Washington's versatile junior quarterback, became major college football's first 300-200 player this year, passing for 302 yards and rushing for 207 in a 35-30 victory over eventual Pacific-10 Conference champion Stanford on Oct. 30.
And the Holiday Bowl has a reputation for big offensive nights and exciting finishes.
The catch, of course, is that the underdog Huskies (7-4) are playing No. 7 Kansas State (10-1) in Wednesday night's Holiday Bowl. The Wildcats have the country's second-stingiest defense - 108 places higher than Stanford in the NCAA rankings - and their leader is All-American linebacker Mark Simoneau.
So if Tuiasosopo has a big game, he will have earned it.
"Let's hope he falls into that category of great offensive performances," Washington coach Rick Neuheisel said Tuesday. "I know he's playing against one of the top defenses in all of the land. To come up with a great effort against these guys would be a great springboard into next season."
K-State's defenders are impressed with what they've seen of Tuiasosopo on videotape.
"He's the total package," Simoneau said. "He does a great job running the ball and he does a great job throwing it. That's what you want in a quarterback. You can't really prepare for what he's going to do in a game because he improvises so much."
Safety Lamar Chapman also is concerned about Tuiasosopo's versatility.
"He breaks tackles, he can run the option and he's a pure passer. I don't think I've ever seen a quarterback like him before," Chapman said. "I think it's going to be a challenge for us. I think the guys on defense are excited to get out there and play."
Tuiasosopo threw for 2,221 yards and 12 touchdowns this year, with 11 interceptions. He was Washington's No. 2 rusher with 541 yards, scoring six times.
The Wildcats say Tuiasosopo reminds them of a range of quarterbacks, including Texas' Major Applewhite, former Wildcats star Michael Bishop and Nebraska's Eric Crouch.
"He likes to keep the ball in his hands," Simoneau said. "He likes to be the guy that's going to make things happen."
Crouch, by the way, was the only quarterback to beat Kansas State this year, leading the Cornhuskers to a 41-15 victory Nov. 13.
Tuiasosopo, the son of former NFL defensive lineman Manu Tuiasosopo, is all too aware of what Simoneau can do.
"I'm trying to figure out how to stop that guy, because you see in play-action he gets blocked on one side, but ends up making the tackle on the other sideline," Tuiasosopo said. "He is a motor and we're going to have to match the way he plays."
Simoneau's stats were impressive. He had a team-high 91 tackles, 66 of them solo and 17 for losses totaling 91 yards. He tied with end Monty Beisel for the team lead with 6 1/2 sacks, recovered two fumbles and had two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown in a victory against Texas.
"Keeping Simoneau from having a Butkus-type of performance that he's capable of having is a big factor," Neuheisel said. Simoneau, a senior, was a finalist for the Butkus Award, named for former Chicago Bears linebacker Dick Butkus and given to the nation's top linebacker.
The Huskies have to watch out for another top Wildcats performer. Junior David Allen returned two punts for touchdowns this year to give him seven in his career, tying the NCAA record held by Oklahoma's Jack Mitchell and Nebraska's Johnny Rodgers.
Washington leads the overall series 4-0. Neuheisel, though, went 2-2 against Bill Snyder's Wildcats during his four years as Colorado's coach.
"We've played Kansas State for a fifth year in a row, so we have a little bit of an idea of who they are and what they like to do, and hopefully we'll play well."
In 1996, Neuheisel's Buffaloes rallied from 14 down to beat Washington 33-21 in the Holiday Bowl. The previous year, Kansas State beat Colorado State 54-21.
The Holiday Bowl is sponsored by Culligan.
By BERNIE WILSON
AP Sports Writer