The Pacific Life Holiday Bowl has been host to some incredible college football games. Of the 31 games, 10 have been decided by three points of less with one contest ending in a 13-all tie. This is a bowl that loves to see points scored. No team has ever been shutout in the Holiday Bowl. Here are some of the choicest games in this premium event.
1979: Indiana vs. BYU
In the second Holiday Bowl, the Indiana Hoosiers met the BYU Cougars. This was a knockdown drag-out contest that saw Indiana go into the locker room at halftime leading 21-17. In the third, BYU went up 34-31. But in the final stanza, after the Cougars had kicked a field goal widening their lead to six, the Hoosiers scored a touchdown that put them back on top by one-point. With seven seconds left to go in the game, it was all up to BYU kicker Brent Johnson. Earlier in the game, Johnson had hit field goals of 46, 29 and 28 yards. Now he was looking at a 27-yard shot for the win. But his attempt went wide and Indiana took the game 38- 37.
1980: SMU vs. BYU
The next year, the game ended once again with one team winning by a point. This Holiday Bowl featured SMU and BYU. The Mustangs of SMU went ahead quickly and by the end of the third quarter were in total control of the game. In the fourth, with just four minutes left in the game, they held a commanding 45- 25 lead.
Future NFL QB and Super Bowl Champion Jim McMahon led the Cougars. Undeterred by the huge deficit, McMahon tossed a 15-yard TD pass at 2:33. The two-point conversion failed. BYU's onside kick worked and after the Cougars recovered it, they drove quickly to the one-yard line. Running back Scott Phillips crossed the goal line and McMahon tossed a pass for the two-point conversion. The score stood at 45-39. There was just under two minutes left.
The Mustangs recovered the Cougars next onside kick. But SMU could not make a first down and their punt was blocked. BYU had the ball at SMU's 41-yard line with 13 seconds left to go. McMahon threw two incomplete passes before hauling a Hail Mary that Clay Brown caught despite being surrounded by SMU players. With the game tied at 45-45, BYU converted the extra point and was victorious 46- 45. It was an amazing reversal of fortune from the year before.
1985: Arizona State vs. Arkansas
The 1985 Holiday Bowl was yet another contest that was decided by one point. The game featured the Arizona State Sun Devils and the Arkansas Razorbacks. It was close throughout. At the half, the score was Arizona State 14 and Arkansas 7. In the fourth, the Sun Devils held a 17- 7 lead. Then the Razorbacks mounted an 11-point comeback that culminated with placekicker Kendall Trainor hitting a 37-yard field goal with 23 seconds left. Arizona State had one more shot at victory. Placekicker Kent Bostrom, who was three-for-three on field goal attempts that day, tried a 59-yard field goal as time expired. But it fell just short and the Razorbacks won 18- 17.
1986: Iowa vs. San Diego State
The next Holiday Bowl was also decided by one, lone point. In this game the Iowa Hawkeyes and San Diego State Aztecs squared off. It started well for San Diego State, as QB Todd Santos tossed three first half touchdown passes to give the Aztecs a 21- 13 lead at the break. On the first play of the fourth quarter, back Chris Hardy made a six-yard TD run and San Diego State led 35- 21. Then Iowa QB Mark Vlasic took over, throwing two touchdown passes and connecting on another pass for a two-point conversion. The score stood at 36- 35 in favor of the Hawkeyes.
But the Aztecs went ahead again on the 37-yard field goal by Kevin Harmon. The score stood 38- 36. The Hawkeyes got the ball for one more possession and with four seconds on the clock placekicker Rob Houghlin hit a 41-yard field goal to win the game 39- 38. Once again, the Holiday Bowl has hosted a real nail-biter.
1991: Iowa vs. BYU
Iowa was back in the Holiday Bowl again. This time they met BYU. The Hawkeyes led at the half 13- 6 and went into the fourth quarter with the same score intact. BYU scored a touchdown in the final period, tying the game at 13-all. With 4:19 left, Cougar QB Ty Detmer drove 77 yards in six plays to the Hawkeyes' 18-yard line. But then Detmer tossed his only pick of the game. The game ended in a tie, the only one in this bowl's history, and it went into the Holiday Bowl record books as the event's lowest scoring game.
2005: Oregon vs. Oklahoma
The 2005 edition of the Holiday Bowl saw the Oregon Ducks come in with an impressive 10- 1 record. The Oklahoma Sooners, who had a 7- 4 record, had a talented but young team and came into the game as the clear underdog. A record crowd of 65,416 filled the Holiday Bowl. Oregon was ahead 7- 3 in the first and then in the second quarter the defenses took over. Going into the third, the score still stood at 7- 3. The Oklahoma "D" shutout the Ducks in the third and the Sooners' offense, led by QB and Offensive MVP Rhett Bomar, scored 14 points. The Ducks, down by 10, came back with a 78-yard TD that got them to within three.
The next series saw the Sooners give up the ball on downs and punt. With three minutes left in the game, Oregon had the ball on their 22-yard line. The Ducks drove to the Sooners' 19-yard line. With 33 seconds left and down by three, it seemed certain that Oregon would, at the very least, tie the game on a field goal. But Sooner LB Clint Ingram picked off a Brady Leaf pass and Oklahoma kept possession of the ball for the 17- 14 upset victory.
The Holiday Bowl has a tradition of upset victories, fourth quarter rallies and last second wins. It has become a must-see event for college football fans, especially for those who enjoy the high quality play that defines the Pac-12 and Big 12 conferences.