January 3, 2000
by Russ Paris
Pat Conniff and former Woodinville High School teammate Marques Tuiasosopo, along with the rest of the UW Huskies, gave the #7-nationally-ranked Kansas Wildcats all they could handle before losing the Holiday Bowl, 24-20.
In front of 57,118 UW and Kansas fans and an ESPN-TV audience, the Huskies earned a lot of national respect by leading most of the game after coming in as 11 1/2-point underdogs. "They're better than their 7-4 record," said Kansas coach Bruce Snyder.
The Wildcats had trouble stopping the Huskies. Tuiasosopo made several brilliant plays in the face of a crushing rush, creating the magic he did all season. He completed 18 of 27 for 197 yards passing and rushed 11 times for 53 yards including the 23 yards he lost on sacks.
The Huskies scored early on two John Anderson field goals. Then Tuiasosopo threw a 42-yard pass to Dane Looker which led to a three-yard touchdown run by Pat Conniff to give the Huskies a 13-10 halftime lead.
Conniff was the player of the game for the Huskies. He was the most consistent running back, catching four passes and making several key blocks, as well as scoring a rushing touchdown. It was Conniff's block on Kansas State's All-American corner Lamar Chapman that brought "oohs" and "ahs" from the crowd. Conniff also made the block that sprung Maurice Shaw for the Huskies' second touchdown and a 20-17 lead going into the 4th quarter.
"He played the finest game of his Husky career; and to think he did it while being under the weather all week with the flu," said head coach Rick Neuheisel about Conniff's game.
Opposing head coach Bruce Snyder said, "Their fullback [Conniff] really hurt us with his blocking and getting open on swing passes." Of Tuiasosopo, Snyder said he was the greatest athlete he had coached against.
After the game, Conniff said, "We came to win, not just play." And the Huskies accomplished that until Kansas put together a 10-minute 4th quarter drive to go ahead, 24-20.
"We showed we can play with a top-10 team," Tuiasosopo said. "We belong up there with them and we'll use this as a springboard for next year."
With both Conniff and Tuiasosopo back for their senior seasons at Washington next year, there is a realistic chance for another bowl game on New Year's Day in 2001.