Longhorns head to Holiday Bowl with mixed feelings

AUSTIN -- The chaos atop the BCS turned into a bonanza
for the Holiday Bowl, which picked the No. 5 Texas Longhorns to
face No. 15 Washington State on Dec. 30 at Qualcomm Stadium.

The Longhorns (10-2) will play in the Holiday Bowl for the third
time in four years. And just as in 2001, the Longhorns will be
coming to San Diego after it looked as if they would be heading to
a BCS Bowl. That year, the Longhorns had their national
championship hopes wrecked with a loss to Colorado in the Big 12
championship game.

This time, it was Kansas State's 35-7 upset over then-No. 1
Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game on Saturday night that
knocked the Longhorns out of a BCS bowl bid.

"I think we're headed toward playoffs," Texas coach Mack Brown
said. "As you look at our system, there are some obvious issues,
not only looking at Nos. 1 and 2, but this is the second year in a
row that we've been in the top eight and are not in the BCS. It's
just some things you need to look at."

The Longhorns were ranked No. 6 in the final BCS standings.

Fiesta Bowl executive director John Junker said his bowl
probably would have selected Texas had Kansas State not upset
Oklahoma. The Big 12 champion gets an automatic Fiesta berth if
it's not playing in the national championship game. Oklahoma will
play LSU in the Sugar Bowl despite its loss.

After the Cotton Bowl invited No. 22 Oklahoma State as its Big
12 representative, the Holiday Bowl wasted no time in taking the

"The system is what it is and we live within the system,"
Holiday Bowl executive director Bruce Binkowski said. "It's very
rare that we have a bad matchup."

Before this weekend, the Holiday Bowl had been hoping to invite
the No. 21 Nebraska Cornhuskers, whose fans travel well.

But once the Longhorns were out of the BCS picture, "We found
it very difficult to pass on a team that's ranked fifth in the
nation," Binkowski said.

"I think some people will be disappointed today because they
had their hearts set in other places," Brown said. "But there's
no better place to be unless you can be in the BCS."

The Holiday Bowl has a history of wild finishes, and the
Longhorns helped provide two in their previous visits.

In 2000, the Longhorns lost 35-30 to Joey Harrington and the
Oregon Ducks as a desperation pass from Chris Simms fell incomplete
in the end zone as time ran out.

A year later, the Longhorns beat Washington 47-43 after Major
Applewhite led a thrilling fourth-quarter comeback in his final
college game. Trailing 36-20, Applewhite led the Longhorns to four
fourth-quarter touchdowns, including the game-winner with 38
seconds left. Applewhite threw for 473 yards and four TDs, with
three interceptions.

"I laughed with our defensive staff this morning," Brown said.
"I said, 'Hang on guys. You know where we're going.' You go back
through the history of this game, and it's been great. Our guys
will get excited about this challenge and the trip."

Washington State (9-3), knocked out of BCS contention two weeks
ago, accepted a Holiday Bowl bid last Monday.

The Holiday Bowl is sponsored by Pacific Life.