2002 Fiesta Bowl
Oregon 38, Colorado 16
Offensive Player of the Game: Joey Harrington, Oregon
Defensive Player of the Game: Steve Smith, Oregon
Sportsmanship Award: Roman Hollowell, Colorado
Head Coaches: Mike Bellotti, Oregon - Gary Barnett, Colorado
Weather: Clear, warm
Payout Per Team: $11,700,000
At the beginning of the 2001 college football season, the University of Oregon purchased a 10-story billboard in New York City to promote senior quarterback Joey Harrington for the Heisman Trophy.
On the day of the 2002 Fiesta Bowl, Harrington must have looked at least that big to the Colorado Buffaloes, as he threw four touchdown passes to lead the Ducks to a convincing 38-16 victory in one of the most anticipated games of the year.
The game was billed as the “Just in Case National Title Game.” Oregon entered the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl ranked second in the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN polls, while Colorado was a close third in both polls. But it was Nebraska that got the nod to play Miami in the Rose Bowl when the Cornhuskers edged the Buffs in the final Bowl Championship Series poll.
With the win, the Ducks had a chance to claim a split national championship, but Miami was able to defeat Nebraska two days later and cap an undefeated season and consensus national championship.
On this day, however, it was all about Joey “Heisman.” The senior razzled and dazzled the sold-out crowd of 74,118 with pinpoint passes and flawless composure, as he led the Ducks to a 38-7 lead before the Buffs knew what had hit them.
Harrington finished the day with 350 yards passing and four touchdowns, including a 79-yard dart to Samie Parker, tying a record for longest pass reception in Fiesta Bowl history. He also hooked up on touchdown passes with Keenan Howry (28 yards), Onterrio Smith (six yards) and Justin Peelle (four yards).
The performance by Harrington was convincing, but what was even more impressive was the way the Ducks defense clamped down on the potent Colorado running attack. The Buffs entered the game as the hottest team in the country, after knocking off Nebraska, 62-36, and Texas, 39-37, in the Big 12 Championship game.
The Ducks defense limited Colorado to just 49 yards rushing, recorded four sacks and had three interceptions, all by cornerback Steve Smith, to completely shut down the Buffalo offense.