In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
Penn State wins their second National Championship beating Miami 14-10 in the Fiesta Bowl. The game traditionally played on New Years Day was moved to the second to stand alone. The game drew record ratings, as the Nittany Lions upset the heavily favored Hurricanes, interception Heisman Trophy winner Vinny Testaverde five times. Miami arrived at the game in full swagger dressed in army fatigues, while Penn State took the subtle approach and emerged victorious.
The Miami Hurricanes were at their dominant best in 1986, posting the first 11-0 regular season in school history. It was Jimmy Johnson's third season, and the U began to take on his personality with personalities like Jerome Brown and Michael Irvin leading the way in swagger. Vinnie Testaverde won the Heisman Trophy for the Hurricanes, the first such honor in school history as he set the career record at Miami with 48 touchdowns.
Penn State posted an unbeaten season for the second straight season for coach Joe Paterno. A year earlier, they lost to Oklahoma with the National Championship on the line at the Orange Bowl. Despite being the runner-up in 1985, Penn State was often overlooked in 1986, as Miami claimed the top spot in the rankings after beating defending champion Oklahoma on September 27th.
With both Penn State and Miami playing as independents, the path was open for them to meet in a bowl game. The Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Arizona, which had grown in stature in recent years, landed the right to host the National Championship Game. A decision was made to move the game from January 1st to January 2nd so the game could air in primetime as a standalone championship. Miami added to the game's hype by arriving in Tempe dressed in full combat fatigues, stating that the game would be a war.
The Hurricanes dominated the game on the field, but the Penn State defense kept them in the game, forcing seven turnovers as Miami outgained the Nittany Lions 445-162. After a scoreless first quarter, Miami opened the scoring with a one-yard run by Melvin Bratton. Penn State answered with their best drive of the game as John Shaffer had a four-yard touchdown run to tie the game 7-7 at the half.
Miami continued to move the ball, but the turnover continued to mount as they were unable to take control of the game. The Hurricanes got a 39-yard field goal by Mark Seeling to take a 10-7 lead in the fourth quarter. However, with a chance to extend their lead, Testaverde was picked off by Shane Conlan for the second time in the game, returning the ball to the Miami five. The interception set D.J. Dozier for a six-yard touchdown run to give Penn State a 14-10 lead. Miami had their chance to win the game, as Vinny Testaverde drove the Hurricanes into the red zone but was picked off by Pete Giftopoulos to end the game. It was the second interception by Giftopoulos and the fifth in the game for the Lions.