1988 USF&G Sugar Bowl
54th edition
1234 Total
Auburn 7306 16
Syracuse 0736 16
DateJanuary 1, 1988
StadiumLouisiana Superdome
LocationNew Orleans, Louisiana
MVPDon McPherson (Syracuse QB)
FavoriteAuburn by 2½ points[1]
RefereeJohn McClintock (Big Eight)
United States TV coverage
AnnouncersKeith Jackson, Bob Griese
Sugar Bowl
 < 1987  1989

The 1988 Sugar Bowl was the 54th edition of the college football bowl game, played at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, on Friday, January 1. Part of the 1987–88 bowl game season, it featured sixth-ranked Auburn Tigers of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) and the undefeated #4 Syracuse Orangemen, an independent.[1][2]

The game ended in a 16–16 tie after slightly-favored Auburn made a thirty-yard field goal in the final seconds.[3][4][5][6]


Main article: 1987 NCAA Division I-A football season


Main article: 1987 Auburn Tigers football team

The Tigers (9–1–1) tied Tennessee on the road in September and lost 34–6 to independent Florida State at home in early November.[7] They defeated Florida, Georgia, and Alabama to take the SEC title,[8] and did not play LSU.


Main article: 1987 Syracuse Orangemen football team

Unranked at the start of the season, the Orangemen won all eleven games and were unbeaten for the first time since winning the national championship in 1959. The most notable win was at home, 48–21 over defending national champion Penn State in mid-October.[9] Quarterback Don McPherson was a consensus All-American and was the runner-up in the balloting for the Heisman Trophy.[10]

Game summary

Both televised by ABC, the game followed the Florida Citrus Bowl and kicked off shortly after 2:30 p.m. CST,[1] two hours after the Cotton Bowl (CBS) and Fiesta Bowl (NBC) started, and over an hour before the Rose Bowl (NBC).[11]

Auburn cracked the scoreboard first, following a 17-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jeff Burger to wide receiver Lawyer Tillman, who had six receptions for 125 yards. In the second quarter, Syracuse tied the game at seven on a twelve-yard touchdown pass from Don McPherson to wideout Deval Glover. Auburn added a forty-yard field goal from Win Lyle to take a 10–7 lead into halftime.

In the third quarter, Tim Vesling kicked a 27-yard field goal to tie the game at ten. In the fourth quarter, Lyle's second field goal was good from 41 yards, giving Auburn a three-point lead, but two field goals by Vesling put Syracuse ahead, 16–13. With four seconds remaining and the ball on the Syracuse thirteen, Auburn head coach Pat Dye opted for three points; Win Lyle kicked a thirty-yard field goal for Auburn and the game ended in a 16–16 tie.[3][4]

The game was a defensive battle, and the tie helped Syracuse cap an unbeaten season. McPherson was named the game's outstanding player, going 11-of-21 for 140 yards and one touchdown; he was sacked five times by the Auburn defense.


First quarter
Second quarter
Third quarter
Fourth quarter


Statistics   Auburn   Syracuse
First Downs 14 23
Rushes–yards 22–41 55–174
Passing yards 229 140
Passes 25–34–1 11–21–0
Total Offense 56–270 76–314
Return yards 0 38
Punts–average 6–44.8 5–35.6
Fumbles–lost 1–0 2–0
Turnovers 1 0
Penalties–yards 5–43 2–20
Time of possession 22:25 37:35


Syracuse fans were outraged by Auburn's decision to tie the game, while Auburn fans found the choice uncontroversial. In protest of the decision by Auburn to tie the game, a Syracuse radio station mailed Auburn coach Dye 2,000 ugly ties, which Dye autographed and auctioned off, raising $30,000 for the Auburn general scholarship fund.[12]

Syracuse remained at fourth in the final AP poll, while Auburn dropped one spot to seventh.

Syracuse and Auburn did not play again until the schools agreed to a home and home series in 2001 and 2002. Syracuse won the 2001 game in the Carrier Dome 31-14, and Auburn won the 2002 game at Jordan-Hare Stadium 37-34 in double overtime.


  1. ^ a b c Bouchette, Ed (January 1, 1988). "One goal our of Syracuse's reach". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. p. 27.
  2. ^ Oates, Bob (January 1, 1988). "Orange looking for 12-0 season". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). (Los Angeles Times). p. 3D.
  3. ^ a b c d Bouchette, Ed (January 2, 1988). "Syracuse fit to be tied with 16-16 Sugar Bowl outcome". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  4. ^ a b c d Oates, Bob (January 2, 1988). "Dye settles for a tie with Syracuse". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). (Los Angeles Times). p. 3B.
  5. ^ Shearer, Ed (January 2, 1988). "Last play FG allows Auburn to tie Syracuse". Wilmington Morning Star. (North Carolina). Associated Press. p. 1B.
  6. ^ Goldgerg, Dave (January 2, 1988). "Tigers' Searels upset with decision to tie". Tuscaloosa News. (Alabama). Associated Press. p. 14.
  7. ^ "FSU stuffs the Tigers, 34-6". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. November 8, 1987. p. 8B.
  8. ^ Hurt, Cecil (November 28, 1987). "The numbers are harsh on Bama". Tuscaloosa News. (Alabama). p. 15.
  9. ^ "Syracuse strikes early to shock Penn State". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. October 18, 1987. p. 9B.
  10. ^ "Notre Dame receiver wins the Heisman". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. December 6, 1987. p. 1F.
  11. ^ "Sport scoreboard: Television". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). January 1, 1987. p. 4D.
  12. ^ Olin Buchanan, "Auburn's Dye has no regrets about tie Archived 2008-12-09 at the Wayback Machine", June 13, 2006.