When Arizona State, which had to beat Arizona to earn its first Rose Bowl berth, fell behind 26-0 in the third quarter, things looked bleak. They remained that way. The Sun Devils lost 28-18, which put UCLA in the Rose, Arizona State in the Fiesta and Washington in the Aloha. Tom Tunnicliffe of the Wildcats gave the Devils their first indication that they wouldn't be in Pasadena on New Year's Day when he started off the scoring by combining with Tailback Brian Holland on a 92-yard scoring pass play in the second period.
Penn State took advantage of the wind to beat Pitt 19-10, and Georgia got its second wind after the intermission as it defeated Georgia Tech 38-18, finishing as the only major team with a perfect record. Coming up: a national championship showdown between the Bulldogs and Penn State in the Sugar Bowl. Winds of up to 35 mph hampered the Panthers in the third period, during which they gained only 13 yards on 15 plays and got off punts of 21 and 32 yards. After the second of those kicks the Nittany Lions went ahead 10-7 when Flanker Kenny Jackson scored on a 31-yard pass from Todd Blackledge. Practice against strong breezes earlier in the week helped Penn State's "G Men" conquer the wind. Ralph Giacomarro kicked a vital 51-yard punt in the final period, and Nick Gancitano booted four field goals.
Georgia Tech trailed Georgia by only 7-6 at the half and wound up ahead in total offense (422 yards to 372) and first downs (26 to 12), but the Dawgs forced six turnovers. Herschel Walker rushed for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Robert Lavette gained 203 yards on the ground and scored twice for the losers.
Auburn also won despite being on the short end of the statistics against Alabama in Birmingham. Bo Jackson's one-yard dive into the end zone with 2:26 to go gave the Tigers a 23-22 victory. It was the third straight regular-season loss for the Crimson Tide, the first time it stumbled so badly in a quarter century. 'Bama lost even though it led 507 yards to 257 in total offense.
Notre Dame also had an edge in the stats, including a 392-297 margin in total offense, but lost 17-13 at Southern Cal. John Robinson of the Trojans, who had announced on Nov. 23 that he was retiring from coaching, asked his players to "Win one for the fat guy." They did just that, going 51 yards in 62 seconds and scoring on Michael Harper's one-yard leap with 48 seconds left.
Seven-time loser Tulane pulled off a 31-28 shocker at Louisiana State, where both teams got TDs in every period. The Green Wave, which had already marched 72, 76 and 80 yards for touchdowns, wrapped up a decisive 78-yard drive with Fullback Reggie Reginelli's touchdown on a 31-yard pass from Mike McKay with 5:15 remaining. That was McKay's third TD pass of the day.
Texas, exploiting its own Darwinian theory, drubbed Texas A&M 53-16. A study of game films had tipped off Longhorn coaches that Aggie Center Matt Darwin took a flat-footed stance on pass plays, and that he was up on the balls of his feet for runs. Texas also burned A&M's defense by scoring on its first play from scrimmage. That came when Tailback Darryl Clark took a pitchout and passed to Flanker Herkie Walls, who caught the ball at midfield and went on to complete an 87-yard play.
Another big day by Quarterback Todd Dillon carried Long Beach State to a 44-17 triumph over Utah State. Dillon lugged the ball 11 times for 66 yards and three touchdowns, hit on 26 of 49 passes for 246 yards, another TD and a two-point conversion. All of which made him the Division I-A leader in total offense for the season with 3,587 yards.
Clemson won the ACC title by beating Wake Forest 21-17 in the Mirage Bowl before a sellout crowd of 80,000 in Tokyo. North Carolina, down 7-6 at the half, overtook MidAmerican Conference champion Bowling Green 33-14. Vanderbilt, completing an 8-3 season, its best in 27 years, defeated Tennessee 28-21. Hawaii toppled Air Force 45-21 as Tailback Anthony Edgar rushed for 242 yards in 22 carries and three touchdowns. Memphis State ended its 17-game losing streak with a 12-0 win over Arkansas State.