The Spartans entered their game against Bowling Green with an overall record of seven wins and two losses (7–2), and it was speculated the winner of the game would be invited to compete in the Tangerine Bowl. This was the case as a Falcons victory would give them the MAC championship and an automatic bid to the game thus making a rematch against the Spartans unlikely. Tampa did win the game 29–22, and on November 20, they accepted a bid to play in the Tangerine Bowl. The appearance marked the first for the Spartans in a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sanctioned bowl game and their first postseason appearance since their victory in the 1954 Cigar Bowl.
See also: 1972 Kent State Golden Flashes football team
The Golden Flashes entered their game against Toledo with an overall record of five wins, four losses and one tie (5–4–1). With a victory over the Rockets, Kent State won their first all-time MAC Championship and secured the league's automatic bid to the Tangerine Bowl.
The 1972 edition of the Tangerine Bowl kicked off at 8:00 p.m. before what was the largest crowd to date for the game. The Spartans took a 14–0 first quarter lead on a pair of Buddy Carter touchdown passes to Paul Orndorff. The first was set up after Gerald Tinkerfumbled a punt at the Flashes' 15-yard line that was recovered by Terry Grantham. On the next play, Tampa led 7–0 with Orndorff's 15-yard touchdown reception. Later in the quarter, the second Spartans touchdown was set up by a Tommy Thomas interception return of a Greg Kokal pass to the Kent 38-yard line. Two plays later, Tampa led 14–0 with Orndorff's 35-yard touchdown reception. Tampa's final touchdown drive of the night was again setup by a Kent turnover. For the second time, Kokal threw an interception, and on the drive that followed Freddie Solomon gained 60 yards on five carries that included the final two for a touchdown and a 21–0 halftime lead.
Kent responded in the third quarter with their first touchdown on a 76-yard Kokal pass to Tinker, and after a missed extra point the score was 21–6. A pair of fourth quarter touchdowns on a ten-yard Kokal pass to Dooner and on a 78-yard Renard Harmon punt return made the final score 21–18. For his performance of 103 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown, Freddie Solomon was named a co-MVP of the game along with Kent State's Jack Lambert on defense.