1972 Sugar Bowl
39th edition
1234 Total
Penn State 0000 0
Oklahoma 0707 14
DateDecember 31, 1972
StadiumTulane Stadium
LocationNew Orleans, Louisiana
MVPTinker Owens (Oklahoma FL)
FavoriteOklahoma by 14 points [1]
United States TV coverage
AnnouncersChris Schenkel,
Bud Wilkinson
Sugar Bowl
 < 1972 (Jan) 1973

The 1972 Sugar Bowl (December) was the 39th edition of the college football bowl game, played at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, Louisiana, on Sunday, December 31. Part of the 1972–73 bowl game season, it featured the second-ranked Oklahoma Sooners of the Big Eight Conference and the independent #5 Penn State Nittany Lions.[3] It was played for the first time on New Year's Eve, at night, and Oklahoma shut out Penn State, 14–0.[4][5][6]

The shutout was the first for Penn State in over six years, and it was their first bowl loss in a decade.[4]

This was the only Sugar Bowl between 1950 and January 1995 without a team from the Southeastern Conference (SEC).


Main article: 1972 NCAA University Division football season


Main article: 1972 Oklahoma Sooners football team

The Sooners' only loss was at Colorado. They broke a three-year losing streak to rival Nebraska.

Penn State

Main article: 1972 Penn State Nittany Lions football team

After dropping their opener at Tennessee, Penn State had won ten straight.

Game summary

The game kicked off on New Year's Eve at 8 pm CST. ABC rejected the Sugar Bowl's request for a 7 pm CST kickoff in order to televise The F.B.I. New Orleans and Baton Rouge were blacked out.[3]

Penn State was without their leading rusher, junior running back John Cappelletti, who was suffering from a virus and a temperature of 102 °F (39 °C). Without the future Heisman Trophy winner, the Lions' defense was forced to step up and it held the Sooners explosive Wishbone offense to only 14 points while forcing eight fumbles, recovering five. However, Oklahoma out gained the Lions 543 to 196 yards, 278 to 49 on the ground.[4][5][6]


First quarter

No scoring

Second quarter

Third quarter

No scoring

Fourth quarter


Statistics  Oklahoma  Penn State
First Downs 20 11
Rushes–Yards 76–278 28–49
Yards Passing 175 147
Passes 7–12–0 12–31–1
Total Yards 88–453 59–196
Punts-Average 8–32.8 10–42.9
Fumbles–Lost 8–5 6–4
Turnovers 5 5
Penalties–Yards 3–55 3–15


Oklahoma was forced to forfeit nine games from the 1972 season after they had used two ineligible freshmen. Despite the forfeit, Penn State refused to accept the win in the 1972 Sugar Bowl, thus the NCAA does not recognize the Penn State forfeit win over Oklahoma. The NCAA also stated that forfeits were not part of the NCAA sanctions levied against the Sooners. The NCAA says it only restricted OU's scholarships, TV appearances, and bowl appearances.[7]

The scandal however, prevented the Sooners from playing in bowl games for two seasons after Chuck Fairbanks's departure to the New England Patriots. Offensive coordinator Barry Switzer, who spearheaded Oklahoma's adoption of the Wishbone formation during the 1970 season, succeeded Fairbanks.

The 1974 Sooners were named national champions by the Associated Press, but could not be ranked by the coaches' poll, due to a rule adopted following the 1973 season by the American Football Coaches Association which prohibited teams on major NCAA probation from the rankings.

The Sooners were allowed to appear on television in 1973, but were banned in 1974 and the 1975 regular season. Oklahoma returned to television with the Orange Bowl on January 1, 1976, when it defeated Michigan 14-6 to secure its second consecutive national championship.

Oklahoma did not return to the Sugar Bowl until after the 2003 season, losing in the Bowl Championship Series championship game to LSU 21-14.

Penn State lost the Sugar Bowl twice more in the 1970s to Alabama before breaking through vs. Georgia in the 1983 game to win the national championship for 1982.


  1. ^ "Oklahoma 2-TD favorite to outclass Nittany Lions". Toledo Blade. (Ohio). Associated Press. December 31, 1992. p. 4B.
  2. ^ "Year-by-Year Results". Archived from the original on May 11, 2008. Retrieved May 14, 2008.
  3. ^ a b "It all ends with the big ones". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. December 31, 1972. p. 6B.
  4. ^ a b c d Parascenzo, Marino (January 1, 1973). "Sugar not so sweet for State". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 61.
  5. ^ a b c "Paterno mum on move to pros after Sugar Bowl loss". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. January 1, 1973. p. 4B.
  6. ^ a b c "Sooners win and wait". Spokane Daily Chronicle. (Washington). Associated Press. January 1, 1973. p. 24.
  7. ^ "After Further Review...The NCAA Weighs-In". Archived from the original on September 30, 2008. Retrieved May 14, 2008.