Dec. 27, 1999
SAN DIEGO (AP) - One of the nation's most powerful defenses looks to shut down one of the country's most explosive quarterbacks as No. 7 Kansas State faces Marques Tuiasosopo and unranked Washington in the Holiday Bowl on Wednesday.
Led by Butkus Award finalist Mark Simoneau, Kansas State (10-1) put together its third straight 10-win season thanks mainly to a defense which allowed just 235 yards per game to rank second in the country. The Wildcats' only blemish was a 41-15 loss in Nebraska, perhaps costing them a shot at the national championship.
Washington (7-4) opened the season with back-to-back defeats before Tuiasosopo led the Huskies to victory in seven of their final nine games. They missed a chance at a Rose Bowl berth with a 23-20 overtime loss at UCLA on Nov. 13 and now play the role of underdog against Kansas State.
Simoneau, one of only two unanimous All-Big 12 Conference selections, amassed 91 tackles and 6 1/2 sacks to lead a defense that posted three shutouts during the season. This will be Simoneau's final game before becoming a likely first-round pick in this summer's NFL draft.
"He is a great football player and I am sure he will get to play a lot more after his days at Kansas State," Huskies coach Rick Neuheisel said.
Neuheisel is plenty familiar with Simoneau and the rest of the Wildcats, as he coached Colorado in the Big 12 the last four years before taking over the reins in Washington this season.
"It may be an advantage to have faced them before if I had ever found a weakness," Neuheisel said. "It is not an accident that they have had the type of success they have enjoyed over the past several years."
The Huskies have been a successful team this decade but endured a relatively disappointing campaign. The bright spot was Tuiasosopo, whose monstrous effort in a 35-30 win over Stanford on Oct. 30 made him the first player in Division I history to throw for 300 yards and run for 200 in the same game.
When able to throw with accuracy, Tuiasosopo can be one of the most dangerous weapons in college football. His 2,762 yards of total offense set a single-season school record and his 2,221 passing yards were the fifth-highest total in Huskies history.