1987 Fiesta Bowl
Offensive Player of the Game: D.J. Dozier, Penn State
Defensive Player of the Game: Shane Conlan, Penn State
Sportsmanship Award: Paul O’Connor, Miami
Head Coaches: Joe Paterno, Penn State - Jimmy Johnson, Miami
Payout Per Team: $2,400,000
Head coach Jimmy Johnson brought his powerful Miami Hurri-canes to Tempe to oppose legendary Penn State coach Joe Paterno and the Nit-tany Lions on Jan. 2, a day set aside by NBC to spotlight the top college football game
of the year.
Dubbed the “Battle for Number 1,” the 1987 Fiesta Bowl featured top-ranked Miami and second-ranked Penn State, who dueled to the final nine seconds of the game when Penn State’s Pete Giftopoulos intercepted a Vinny Testaverde pass to preserve the Nittany Lions’ victory and the national championship.
With the victory, Penn State claimed its second national title in five years. The Nittany Lions intercepted Heisman Trophy winner Testaverde five times, but none was bigger than the fourth and goal play with just nine ticks on the clock.
The Hurricanes began the potential go-ahead drive at their own 23-yard line with 3:09 left on the clock. Testaverde threw two incomplete passes before hitting Brian Blades with a crucial 31-yard pickup on a fourth-down play.
With the completion to Blades, Testaverde connected on six straight completions to take the ball to PSU’s six-yard line. Giftopoulos picked off the pass three plays later at the one and returned it to the 11, where players and fans ran onto the field.
Miami scored first in the second quarter on Melvin Bratton’s one-yard dive. After the kickoff, Penn State quarterback John Shaffer drove his team 74 yards, capping the drive with a four-yard touchdown run to even the score at halftime.
The stalemate continued into the second half until Miami took an early lead on Mark Seelig’s 38-yard field goal. An interception by PSU’s Shane Conlan, the defensive player of the game, set up a six-yard touchdown run by D.J. Dozier, the offensive most valuable player, to put the Lions ahead, 14-10, which would end up being the final margin of victory