Cougars will play Big 12 team

Updated: December 2, 2003, 3:22 AM ET
Associated Press

SAN DIEGO -- Washington State (No. 14 ESPN/USA Today, No. 15 AP) is coming back to the Holiday Bowl for the first time in 22 years, a consolation prize following another bitter loss to archrival Washington.

The No. 15 Cougars (9-3) accepted the invitation on Monday, immediately after being released from BCS consideration. They'll play a team from the Big 12 on Dec. 30 at Qualcomm Stadium.

The Holiday Bowl hopes to invite Nebraska (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today, No. 23 AP) but won't get to make its pick from the Big 12 until Sunday, after the BCS fills its slots and the Cotton Bowl makes its choice.

Cougars quarterback Matt Kegel is a cousin of Ryan Leaf, a former WSU quarterback who had a tumultuous three-year career with the San Diego Chargers from 1998-2000.

The invitation came less than two weeks after the Cougars lost to Washington for the sixth consecutive year. That 27-19 defeat cost WSU a good chance to make a repeat trip to the Rose Bowl, because Southern Cal has a shot at playing Oklahoma for the national title in the Sugar Bowl.

"I don't think there's a level of disappointment of going to the Holiday Bowl,'' first-year coach Bill Doba said during a conference call. ``The level of disappointment is in losing your last game and not getting a 10-win season and not tying for the Pac-10 championship. That's what we as a coaching staff have to put behind us and look forward to an excellent experience down at the Holiday Bowl.

``As far as bowls and cities, it's as good as any I've been too.''

Doba was an assistant coach with Indiana in 1979 when the Hoosiers beat Brigham Young 38-37 in the second Holiday Bowl.

Two years later, WSU ended a 50-year bowl drought when it played in the Holiday Bowl, losing 38-36 to BYU. Washington State was coming off a loss to Washington that cost it a Rose Bowl berth.

This will be WSU's third consecutive bowl appearance.

Doba was named head coach last year after Mike Price accepted the Alabama job, but Price coached in the Cougars' 34-14 Rose Bowl loss to Oklahoma. Price was later fired by Alabama before he coached a game.

Kegel benched himself in the last two games due to a sore throwing shoulder.

WSU officials said they've sold the school's allotment of 11,500 tickets and asked for 2,000 more.

The Holiday Bowl is sponsored by Pacific Life.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press