"That's pretty exciting," Campbell, the small, speedy Navy slotback, said after being told he had matched Sanders' five-TD performance that came 17 years earlier on the same field.
Campbell's thrilling performance, which included 290 all-purpose yards, led Navy to a 51-30 win over Colorado State in the San Diego Country Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium.
The 5-foot-6 sophomore had touchdown catches of 55 and 34 yards and scoring runs of 22, 2 and 21 yards.
Sanders scored five touchdowns and ran for 222 yards in the 1988 Holiday Bowl, leading Oklahoma State to a 62-14 win over Wyoming at what was then called Jack Murphy Stadium. Sanders won the Heisman Trophy that year.
"I feel honored, almost, because Barry Sanders is one of the guys I always looked up to as a running back," Campbell said.
The other players with five TDs in a bowl were Michigan's Neil Snow against Stanford in the 1902 Rose Bowl, San Jose State's Sheldon Canley against Central Michigan in the 1990 California Bowl and Steven Jackson of Oregon State, who did
it in the 2003 Las Vegas Bowl.
Campbell was spectacular practically every time he touched the ball for Navy (8-4), which was playing in a third straight bowl game for the first time in academy history.
He ran 16 times for 116 yards, caught two passes for 89 yards and returned four kickoffs for 85 yards. Navy, the nation's top-ranked rushing team with an average of 305.2 yards, ran for 467 yards and had 611 yards in total offense.
The Rams (6-6) had 572 total yards as the teams combined for a bowl-record 1,183 offensive yards.
"Reggie makes plays. We've been saying that all year," quarterback Lamar Owens said. "Everybody tries to say we're undersized, everyone tries to say we're real small and call us 'Smurfs,' whatever. You see how it goes when our offense is
Campbell's first TD was a stunner, a 55-yard reception on Navy's first play from scrimmage.
Already hard to stop because of its triple-option rushing attack, Navy surprised everyone, especially Colorado State's defense, when Owens faked a handoff and threw deep to Campbell, who had gotten behind the coverage and scored easily for a 7-7 tie 4:07 into the game.
"The coaches wanted to catch them off-guard," Campbell said.
Owens said he was told earlier in the week by coach Paul Johnson that he'd be throwing on the first play.
"It worked to perfection," Owens said.
"It's just part of our offense," Johnson said. "They talked about us running the ball and that's all we did. So I thought they might be run-supporting. We took play action and the safety got lost."
Campbell was already warmed up, having returned a kickoff 28 yards after the Rams scored on the opening drive.
Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick said the Midshipmen "were precision out there."
Navy's offense "puts a lot of pressure on you," Rams quarterback Justin Holland said. "We thought we had to score on every drive, especially in the second half. When you get down to a team as good as their offense is, it's just hard to come back."
Navy totally fooled Colorado State midway through the second quarter, when Campbell took a pitch and ran 22 yards untouched through a huge hole in the right side of CSU's defense to put the Middies ahead 20-10.
Just before halftime, Campbell had the most pedestrian of his TDs, taking a toss and running in from 2 yards out a 27-10 lead.
Campbell capped the first drive of the second half with a razzle-dazzle 21-yard TD run, when he took a pitch and started outside before cutting inside to put Navy up 34-10.
Colorado State pulled within 10 late in the third quarter after Dustin Osborn caught touchdown passes of 10 and 20 yards from Holland on consecutive possessions. Holland was 26-of-33 for 381 yards.
But Navy came right back and Campbell caught a 34-yard scoring pass from Owens for a 41-24 lead.
Navy was coming off a 42-23 win over Army in which it rushed for 490 yards, including a 54-yard TD run by Campbell.
Navy's other slotback, Marco Nelson, had touchdown runs of 22 and 21 yards.
Holland threw three TD passes for CSU, setting the school single-season record with 23. He hit Johnny Walker on a 22-yarder early in the fourth quarter.
Colorado State's Kyle Bell had 122 yards on 22 carries, including a 1-yard TD run on the game's first possession.
It was over when... Marco Nelson's 22-yard touchdown run gave Navy a 48-24 lead with just under 12 minutes left in the game.
Gameball goes to... Reggie Campbell. Campbell had 116 yards rushing, 89 yards receiving and 108 yards on kickoff returns. While those numbers alone might have gotten Campbell the gameball, also scored five touchdowns.
Stat of the game... 1,182. That is the number of combined yards put up by these two titanic offenses.