The Worst: Orange Bowls


During this postseason of The Worst, we’re going to go through the big bowl games and choose some less than stellar moments for certain teams. For this edition, we’re kicking off the bowl fun with the Orange Bowl.

This is a bowl that has been around for 80-plus years. Throughout that time, it has become one of the biggest New Years Day bowl games. ACC teams have been making the appearances at the Orange Bowl, including the Hurricanes, who will make their 10th appearance in the game. However, Oklahoma and Nebraska have been there more than any other teams. They’ve made a combined 36 appearances (19 for the Sooners, 17 for the Cornhuskers).

Obviously, there have been memorable moments in the Orange Bowl, but you’ve read this column enough times to know that we’re not showcasing the best. So, let’s have some fun.

5. Bucknell shuts out Miami in the first Orange Bowl- 1935

The first Orange Bowl game indeed featured the Miami Hurricanes. They started the season winning three straight, but tied 6-6 against Stetson and lost 14-0 to Rollins. Miami would win two of its last three and get the Orange Bowl berth.

Bucknell, meanwhile, went 6-2-2 and would get the berth to the Orange Bowl berth, despite losing to undefeated Western Maryland, who turned down the opportunity. One of the Western Maryland players participated in the East-West Shrine Game along with a future US President.

The Bison took a couple of days to think about it before accepting the invitation. To prepare for the heat, they reportedly brought 280 gallons of drinking water.

Bill Wilkinson set the tone for Bucknell with a touchdown run in the second quarter. From there, the Bison defense shut down the Hurricanes, allowing 28 total yards. Bucknell won the game 26-0.

It’s the only bowl win for the Bison, who currently play in FCS.

4. Notre Dame knocks off Alabama– 1975

I’m a big fan of prime numbers. They’re important! Not every number needs to be divided by multiple numbers. It helps keep order in the world of the numbers. That said, this game ended with a prime number score…13-11 in favor of Notre Dame.

Alabama came into the game undefeated with hopes of a national title on their mind. Notre Dame came in 9-2, coming off a loss to USC. The Fighting Irish still had a lot to play for. This would be Ara Parseghian’s last game on the sideline for Notre Dame.

Wayne Bullock and Mark McLane scored touchdowns to give Notre Dame a 13-0 lead. Alabama added a field goal before the half to cut the lead to 13-3.

The Tide closed the gap with a Richard Todd 48-yard touchdown pass to Russ Schauman. Alabama made the conversion and suddenly they had a chance to win the game and claim a national title.

They had one more chance. However, Todd threw a pass picked off by Reggie Barnett, ensuring that Notre Dame would win. The loss cost Alabama a chance at a national title.

3. Colorado avenges previous Orange Bowl loss to Notre Dame– 1991

In the 1990 Orange Bowl, Notre Dame knocked off the top-ranked Buffaloes to keep Colorado from winning a national title.

Obviously, revenge would be on Colorado’s mind, but they needed to replicate the success they had in 1989 if they wanted another shot. That didn’t come easy for Colorado, however. The Buffaloes started the season with a 31-31 tie against Tennessee.

Just a couple weeks later, they got knocked off on the road against Illinois. Colorado turned it around and started winning. Along the way included the infamous “Fifth Down Game” versus Missouri.

After that close call, Colorado cruised through, winning the Big 8 and once again reaching the Orange Bowl for a shot at a national title against Notre Dame.

In the end, the difference was a blocked extra point attempt in the second quarter. Colorado’s Eric Bienemy scored on a one-yard touchdown run and it would be enough as the Buffaloes win 10-9. They finished as the AP Poll national champions, while Georgia Tech claimed the Coaches Poll title.

2. Sooners rush for 350-plus yards to defeat Arkansas– 1987

The 1986 Oklahoma Sooners were a dominating football team. Take away the loss to Miami and they just wreaked havoc on everyone. During a five-game stretch, Oklahoma’s defense allowed a combined three points.

The wins over Nebraska and Colorado gave the Sooners the Big Eight title and a trip to the Orange Bowl against Arkansas.

Oklahoma dominated on the ground, rushing for a team total 366 yards. Spencer Tillman had 109 yards and two rushing touchdowns, including one that went for 77-yards.

Because of the loss to Miami, Oklahoma missed out on a national title. They finished ranked third in both the AP and Coaches Poll.

1. Alabama easily defeats Syracuse in first televised Orange Bowl– 1953

The Orange Bowl had never been televised in the first 17 years of its existence. That changed with the 1953 game on New Year’s Day between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Syracuse Orangemen. CBS handled the broadcast for the game.

Alabama came into the game with a 9-2 record. Losses to Tennessee and Georgia Tech prevented them from clinching any share of an SEC title. Despite that, they still got the Orange Bowl berth.

Syracuse overcame a blowout loss to Michigan State to win four straight, including an upset of Penn State to finish the regular season 7-2.

Alabama came into the game as a 13-point favorite. For viewers who watched the game on CBS, it wouldn’t be a close competitive game. Okay, it might have been close for a quarter. However, Alabama scored 54 unanswered to win 61-6, at that time it was the largest bowl blowout in college football. In other words, Alabama covered.

Alabama scored on offense, defense, even special teams. Cecil Ingram ran a punt 80-yards for a touchdown. Even freshman quarterback Bart Starr got to throw a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

I can’t imagine how hungover Syracuse fans felt watching the game on TV. Your team is losing in much nicer weather. That’s gotta be the worst.