1980 Fiesta Bowl
10th edition
1234 Total
Penn State 73714 31
Ohio State 61300 19
DateDecember 26, 1980
StadiumSun Devil Stadium
LocationTempe, Arizona
MVPCurt Warner (Penn State RB)
Frank Case  (Penn State DE)
FavoriteOhio State by 1 point[1]
RefereeKen Faulkner (SWC)
United States TV coverage
AnnouncersCharlie Jones, Len Dawson
Fiesta Bowl
 < 1979  1982

The 1980 Fiesta Bowl was the tenth edition of the college football bowl game, played at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona on Friday, December 26. Part of the 1980–81 bowl game season, it matched the tenth-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions and the #11 Ohio State Buckeyes of the Big Ten Conference. A slight underdog,[1] independent Penn State rallied in the second half to win, 31–19.[2][3][4][5]

This was the last Fiesta Bowl played in December until 1997.


Main article: 1980 NCAA Division I-A football season

Penn State

Main article: 1980 Penn State Nittany Lions football team

Penn State had played three ranked opponents during the regular season (#3 Nebraska, at #9 Missouri, and #4 Pittsburgh), and won only the second one. They were looking to beat a ranked opponent to finish their season in their first Fiesta Bowl appearance in three years.

Ohio State

Main article: 1980 Ohio State Buckeyes football team

Ohio State was the runner-up in the Big Ten Conference after losing to Michigan which dropped them from fifth to eleventh in the AP Poll. This was their first Fiesta Bowl appearance.

Game summary

The only bowl game on the day after Christmas, it kicked off shortly past 1:30 pm MST.[6]

Halfback Curt Warner started the scoring with a 64-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage, giving the Nittany Lions the early lead. Not to be deterred, Art Schlichter threw a touchdown pass to Doug Donley, but the Vlade Janakievski kick missed. The Buckeyes responded again with a Gary Williams touchdown catch from Schlichter to give the Buckeyes the lead, though the two-point conversion attempt failed as the pitchout went astray. Schlichter threw another touchdown pass to Donley to increase the lead to 19–7, as backup kicker Bob Atha converted. Herb Menhardt kicked a 38-yard field goal for Penn State to make it 19–10 at halftime.[2][3]

Ohio State appeared to be in control, with Schlichter connecting on 15 of 22 for 244 yards and three touchdowns while Penn State had just one early touchdown.[7] But the second half was a different story as the Nittany Lions came alive. Sophomore quarterback Todd Blackledge, despite throwing 8 for 22 for only 117 yards the whole game, scored early in the third quarter on a three-yard run to narrow the lead to 19–17. Schlichter went 5 for 13 in the second half for 58 yards with an interception (and no touchdowns) as the Buckeyes were shut out. Penn State turned on the running game, as Jonathan Williams scored from four yards out early in the fourth quarter to gain the lead; fullback Booker Moore broke free for a 37-yard touchdown run with less than a minute remaining to seal the 31–19 victory.[4][5][8]

Warner rushed for 156 yards on eighteen carries (8.7 avg.) and was the game MVP on offense; lineman Frank Case took the defensive honor.[9]


First quarter

Second quarter

Third quarter

Fourth quarter



Statistics Penn State Ohio State
First Downs 22 23
Yards Rushing 56–351 39–110
Yards Passing 117 302
Passing 8–22–0 20–35–1
Return Yards 74 10
Total Offense 78–468 74–412
Punts–Average 5–40.8 7–38.7
Fumbles–Lost 1–1 1–0
Turnovers 1 1
Penalties–Yards 2–10 2–30


The Nittany Lions won all three Fiesta Bowl appearances in the 1980s. They returned the following year to defeat the USC Trojans, then won the national championship in January 1987, in prime time over the top-ranked Miami Hurricanes. The Buckeyes' next Fiesta appearance was three years after this game, in January 1984, a win over Pittsburgh.

In the developing rivalry with the Buckeyes, Penn State had now taken the last two meetings and was 6–2 overall. As of 2020, this is the only bowl meeting between these two; Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993 and they play annually in the regular season.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Latest line". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. December 26, 1980. p. 16.
  2. ^ a b c d Fink, David (December 27, 1980). "Lions' better half overcomes Ohio State". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 9.
  3. ^ a b c d "Buckeyes haunted by a frosh quarterback". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). wire service reports. December 27, 1980. p. 1B.
  4. ^ a b c d "Shunned frosh leads Lion win". Wilmington Morning Star. (North Carolina). Associated Press. December 27, 1980. p. 1D.
  5. ^ a b c d "Second-half scoring leads PSU to Fiesta win". The Bulletin. (Bend, Oregon). UPI. December 27, 1980. p. 13.
  6. ^ "Quarterbacks may decide Fiesta". Wilmngton Morning Star. (North Carolina). Associated Press. December 25, 1980. p. 5E.
  7. ^ Rapoport, Ron (December 27, 1980). "Penn State festive in Fiesta Bowl, 31–19". Youngstown Vindicator. (Ohio). Filed News Service. p. 12.
  8. ^ "1980 Fiesta Bowl - Penn State vs. Ohio State". Archived from the original on December 30, 2014. Retrieved November 30, 2014.
  9. ^ Taylor, Jim (January 27, 1980). "Buckeyes 'bowled' over". Toledo Blade. (Ohio). p. 12.