College Football: Top 5 Fiesta Bowl Games Of All Time
Last year, I became a fan of the Knights of UCF. The state of Florida’s school – deep in the heart of Mickey’s playground, took the college scene by storm. If not for a close loss to South Carolina, we may have been talking about Blake Bortles and Storm Johnson playing FSU for a national title.
The Knights were the darlings of NCAA last season and proved as a mid-major, they could play with anyone in the country. UCF defeated Baylor by a score of 52–42, in the process overcoming the largest spread in BCS history. Baylor had gone into the game as a 16.5 point favorite. That record was broken the following day during the 2014 Sugar Bowl.
The game was part of the final year of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). In 2015, the Fiesta Bowl will become one of the six bowls that comprise the College Football Playoff. This contest will end the Fiesta Bowl's 16-year tie-in with the Big 12; since 1999, the Big 12 champion has hosted the Fiesta Bowl when it is not playing in the national championship game. Starting with the 2014 season, the Big 12 champion will face the Southeastern Conference (home to two former Big 12 members) champion in the Sugar Bowl as part of the College Football Playoff.
In most years the Fiesta Bowl is not a semifinal, it will attract two at-large teams.
Here are the five greatest Fiesta Bowl games ever played.
2007: Boise State 43 Oklahoma 42 (Overtime)
Oklahoma was the designated home team and was favored by 7½ points, but the Broncos won in overtime, 43–42. Oklahoma wore their red home jerseys, while Boise State wore their road white jerseys. Both Boise, Idaho and Norman, Oklahoma are about 15 hour trips from the bowl site.
The game featured a series of "fantastic finishes" – Oklahoma scoring 25 unanswered points to take its first lead with just over one minute remaining in the game, the teams scoring 22 points in the final 1:26 of regulation and 15 points in overtime, culminating with Boise State completing three do-or-die trick plays (the first of which was called with 18 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter) to win the game.
2003: National Championship - Ohio State 31 Miami 24 (2 Overtimes)
It also served as the BCS National Championship Game for the 2002 NCAA Division I-A football season. The game was the second overtime result in either the Bowl Championship Series, or its predecessors, the Bowl Alliance or the Bowl Coalition, the first being the January 1, 2000 Orange Bowl between Alabama and Michigan.
Miami had to score a touchdown to tie the game and send it to a 3rd overtime. The Hurricanes drew a couple of blanks to put them in a 4th and 3 situation where Dorsey completed a 7-yard pass to Winslow for a 1st down. A facemask penalty was called on Ohio State during the play to make it 1st and 5 for Miami from the Buckeye 6-yard line.
Ken Dorsey then threw an incomplete pass to Andre Johnson but a pass interference call on the Buckeyes defender gave Miami a 1st and goal from the 2-yard line. The Buckeye defense held Miami to only one yard in the next 3 plays to bring up a big 4th and goal on the 1-yard line. Ken Dorsey threw a pass as he was being hit by linebacker Cie Grant; it was incomplete, ending the game with Ohio State winning the BCS National Championship 31–24
1978: Arkansas 10 UCLA 10
It was a game between the #8 Arkansas Razorbacks from the Southwest Conference, and the #15 UCLA Bruins from the Pacific-10 Conference. The game ended in a 10-10 tie.
Jim Howard sacked UCLA QB Steve Bukich, but he fumbled, and Arkansas recovered at the UCLA 37. Roland Sales would punch it in from four yards out to give the Hogs a 7-0 advantage. The Razorbacks added a field goal from Ish Ordonez, stretching the lead to 10. UCLA took the second half kickoff and drove it for a field goal from Peter Boermaester.
Down 10-3, UCLA was set to field a Razorback punt in the fourth quarter. An interference penalty added yardage, giving the Bruins the football at midfield. Severne Reece caught a Bukich pass at the Hog 14, and Bukich would rush it in on the following play. The game was tied at 10-10 with 8:32. Neither team could get the ball past midfield again, and the tie stood.
1996: National Championship - Nebraska 62 Florida 24
The Nebraska Cornhuskers won the national championship for the 1995 college football season by defeating the Florida Gators, 62-24. Played on January 2, 1996, at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, the game matched the #1 and #2 ranked teams in the nation, respectively, Nebraska and Florida. The game was part of the 1995-1996 Bowl Alliance.
The defining moment in the game happened in the third quarter. On second down from the NU 25, Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier ran an option play to the right, and decided to keep the ball rather than pitch. He gained 11 yards before being met by a group of Florida defenders at the 36-yard line, which he then dragged approximately 10 yards before shrugging them off and breaking free, streaking 75 yards down the sideline to give Nebraska a 49-18 lead. Frazier had broken no less than seven tackles on the play. Frazier would finish the game with 199 yards rushing. Nebraska also set records for most rushing yards in a bowl game, with 524, and the most points in the second quarter of a bowl game, with 29.
1999: National Championship - Tennessee 23 Florida State 16
Tennessee entered the contest undefeated and number one in the major polls. Florida State sophomore QB, Chris Weinke was injured in Florida State's final ACC game of the regular season and did not participate in the championship game. Ultimately, Tennessee won their third National Championship after a gap of forty-seven years by beating the Seminoles by a score of 23–16. The game was the first BCS National Championship.
The Vol defense, as a unit, also held its own. Once again, both teams failed to score for an entire quarter. After the scoreless third quarter, the Vols got back on the scoreboard again. Tee Martin fired a 79-yard touchdown pass to Peerless Price, and the Vols claimed a 20–9 lead after a missed extra point by K Jeff Hall.
Later, Tennessee added a 23-yard field goal by Hall, and the lead extended to 23–9. But Florida State was not conceding the outcome yet. Seminole quarterback Marcus Outzen scrambled for a 7-yard touchdown, capping a Florida State drive, and the lead was cut to 23–16. With less than 2 minutes to go in the game, Tennessee RB Travis Henry fumbled and turned the ball over to Florida State. However, Florida State was intercepted by CB Steve Johnson, and the Vols ended with a victory.
1987: National Championship - Penn State 14 Miami 10
This particular Fiesta Bowl was played on January 2, 1987 and pitted the #1 Miami Hurricanes against the #2 Penn State Nittany Lions, with the national championship going to the winner. Due to this implication, the organizers of the Fiesta Bowl — which, since it established itself as a January bowl, had been played in the afternoon — agreed to push the game back one day from its usual January 1 date.
Miami vastly out gained Penn State on the field, 445 yards to 162, with 22 first downs compared to the Nittany Lions' 8. However, the Hurricanes were hampered by 7 turnovers, including 5 interceptions of the Heisman-winning Testaverde.
The majority of the game was a seesaw battle. Miami's only touchdown was the result of a John Shaffer fumble that the Hurricanes recovered at the Penn State 23. Miami then took four plays to score the go-ahead touchdown.
The Nittany Lions responded with their only sustained drive of the night, going 74 yards in 13 plays, culminating in Shaffer's 4-yard scamper into the end zone. The halftime score was a 7-7 tie.
After Miami scored a field goal to retake the lead, Shane Conlan grabbed his second interception of the night, returning it 39 yards to the Miami 5. The first Penn State snap was fumbled, but the Nittany Lions recovered. D.J. Dozier then followed with a 6-yard run for the go-ahead touchdown.