Buckeye thriller among top Arizona title games


Bob Baum - AP Sports Writer



Bob Baum

AP Sports Writer

PHOENIX — Twenty-nine years ago, the ‘bad boys’ of No. 1-ranked Miami stepped off the plane in combat fatigues, one-touchdown favorites to beat No. 2 Penn State in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl.

Joe Paterno’s Nittany Lions upset Jimmy Johnson’s Hurricanes and a national football champion was crowned in the desert.

When No. 1 Clemson and No. 2 Alabama met for the title Monday night, it was the eighth time a national football championship was determined here.

Five times from 1987 to 2003, the national title was determined in the Fiesta Bowl. On two more occasions, Glendale’s University of Phoenix Stadium was the site of the BCS championship game.

Here they are, with the best of them listed first.

1987: PENN STATE 14, MIAMI 10

The Fiesta was not considered one of the top tier bowls before circumstances conspired to feature the top two teams in the country meeting on Jan. 2, 1987.

The Hurricanes set the tone when they arrived dressed for combat, declaring the upcoming matchup with Penn State the equivalent of war.

Miami outgained the Nittany Lions 445 yards to 162, but the Hurricanes’ Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde was intercepted five times.

Pete Giftopolous picked off Testaverde at the 1-yard line to preserve the win.

2003: OHIO STATE 31, MIAMI 24 (2 OT)

The Hurricanes had won 34 consecutive games and were 11 1/2-point favorites over the No. 2 Buckeyes but Ohio State led 17-7 in the third quarter. Miami got a touchdown from Willis McGahee before Todd Sievers’ 40-yard field goal as regulation ended sent the game into overtime.

On the first possession of OT, Miami scored when Ken Dorsey threw a seven-yard TD pass to Kellen Winslow Jr.

Ohio State converted a fourth-and-14 on its turn but on fourth-and-goal from the 3-yard line, Craig Krenzel’s pass fell incomplete. Miami players stormed the field, assuming they had won.

But there was a flag in the end zone. Field judge Terry Porter had called pass interference.

Three plays later, Krenzel scored on a 1-yard run to force the second overtime.

Maurice Clarett’s touchdown put Ohio State up 31-24.

The game came down to fourth-and-goal from the 1, and Dorsey, under severe pressure, threw incomplete and the Buckeyes won.

2011: AUBURN 22, OREGON 19

Wes Byrum kicked a 19-yard field goal as the game ended to give Cam Newton-led Auburn the tight victory over the Ducks.

Darron Thomas’ two-yard shovel pass to LaMichael James for an Oregon touchdown and two-point conversion pass to Jeff Maehl tied it at 19-19 with 2:33 to play.

A bizarre play helped set up the winning field goal. Michael Dyer appeared to be stopped after a short gain but he had fallen on a teammate and was not ruled down. No whistle blew and he started running again for what proved to be a 37-yard play.

1999: TENNESSEE 23, FLORIDA STATE 16

The Fiesta Bowl was designated as the site of the first Bowl Championship Series championship.

No. 1 Tennessee scored the first two touchdowns of the game and led 20-9 after Tee Martin’s 79-yard touchdown pass to Peerless Price.

The Volunteers fumbled the ball away at the Seminoles’ 10 to give Florida State a final chance but Steve Johnson’s interception preserved the win.

1996: NEBRASKA 62, FLORIDA 24

Coach Tom Osborne’s Cornhuskers might have been the best college football team of all time and they played that way in manhandling the Gators for their second straight national championship.

Nebraska rushed for 524 yards behind the play of option quarterback Tommie Frazier. Frazier gained 199 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown run that put the Huskers up 49-18 after three quarters.

2007: FLORIDA 41, OHIO STATE 14

With Chris Leak and Tim Tebow sharing time at quarterback, the No. 2-ranked Gators dominated the heavily favored No. 1 Buckeyes from the start.

Ted Ginn Jr. returned the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown for Ohio State, but it was all downhill from there for the Buckeyes.

1989: NOTRE DAME 34, WEST VIRGINIA 21

For the second time in three years, the Fiesta crowned a national champion as coach Lou Holtz’s Irish dominated the No. 3 Mountaineers.

Notre Dame led 16-0 before West Virginia managed a first down.

Bob Baum

AP Sports Writer

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