|1979 Orange Bowl|
|45th Orange Bowl|
|Date||January 1, 1979|
|MVP||Billy Sims (Oklahoma HB)|
Reggie Kinlaw (Oklahoma NG)
|Favorite||Oklahoma by 11½ points |
|Referee||Ken Faulkner (SWC)|
|United States TV coverage|
|Announcers||Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen|
The 1979 Orange Bowl was the 45th edition of the college football bowl game, played at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida, on Monday, January 1. Part of the 1978–79 bowl game season, it matched the fourth-ranked Oklahoma Sooners and #6 Nebraska Cornhuskers, both of the Big Eight Conference.
This matchup was something of an anomaly, as it featured a rare rematch of conference rivals that played every regular season. Nebraska had upset #1 Oklahoma 17–14 on November 11 in Lincoln, their first win in the rivalry since the Game of the Century in 1971, and appeared headed towards a national championship showdown with Penn State. But unranked Missouri (6–4) then stunned the #2 Huskers 35–31 in Lincoln the following week, dropping Nebraska into a tie with Oklahoma for the Big Eight championship and knocking them out of the national championship picture.
Penn State instead faced Alabama for the national title in the Sugar Bowl, and the Orange Bowl found itself with a selection dilemma. Nebraska earned the Big Eight's automatic Orange Bowl berth by virtue of its victory over the Sooners, but, with Penn State and Notre Dame (which accepted an invitation to the Cotton Bowl) off the board, the Orange Bowl committee decided to set up a bowl rematch with Oklahoma to create the best possible matchup. This was the last time a non-championship postseason bowl featured two teams from the same conference until the 2015 season at the Arizona Bowl, and remains (as of 2019) the last non-championship bowl to be a rematch of a regular-season conference game.
Despite the road loss to the Huskers in the regular season, Oklahoma was a double-digit favorite.
Main article: 1978 NCAA Division I-A football season
Main article: 1978 Oklahoma Sooners football team
Main article: 1978 Nebraska Cornhuskers football team
Underdog Nebraska scored first on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Tom Sorley to Tim Smith for a 7–0 lead. Oklahoma tied the score on a 3-yard scamper by Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims, and then went ahead in the second quarter when quarterback Thomas Lott scored on a three-yard run, and took the 14–7 lead into halftime.
The revenge-minded Sooners then took control. In the third quarter, Sims scored again an eleven-yard run. Field goals were traded, then Lott scored from two yards out, increasing Oklahoma's lead to 31–10.
Nebraska rallied late, with Rick Berns scoring on a one-yard run, and then Sorley threw a two-yard strike to tight end Junior Miller as time expired. Oklahoma prevailed 31–24 to finish at 11–1, avenging its only loss of the season.
The game was televised by NBC and the traditional halftime Festival of Lights show was a tribute to "the greatest entertainment phenomenon in America in 1978: Disco!" Besides dancing to recorded disco songs, there was an appearance by KC and the Sunshine Band.
Oklahoma (11–1) climbed to third in the final AP poll and Nebraska (9–3) fell to eighth.