The Cornhuskers won their first ten games of the season and climbed to second in the AP poll; they were set up for a Big Eight title and potential national championship until a fourth consecutive loss to Oklahoma on November 22. The Sun Devils won all eleven games in the regular season and took their fifth WAC title in six years; it was their fourth Fiesta Bowl appearance in five years. This was Nebraska's first appearance in the Fiesta Bowl; the Huskers had won their previous six bowl games, and the last five were major bowls.
Placekicker Danny Kush started and ultimately ended the scoring in this game that arguably put the Fiesta Bowl on the map. He gave ASU an early lead in the first quarter, but Monte Anthony gave Nebraska the lead on his touchdown run. With less than a minute remaining in the half, the Sun Devils drove down the field and narrow the lead to a point with another Kush field goal.
Anthony added in another touchdown run in the third quarter to make Nebraska's lead 14–6. Trailing once again, wide receiver John Jefferson caught a ten-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Fred Mortensen, who had taken over after sophomore starter Dennis Sproul was briefly hurt on a sneak earlier in the game. Head coach Frank Kush opted to tie the game up at fourteen, and Larry Mucker caught a pass from Mortensen for the two-pont conversion. After Nebraska failed to make a successful drive, Sproul was ready to return. He drove the Sun Devils down the field and Kush kicked a 29-yard field goal for a three-point lead with 4:50 remaining. The Sun Devils held Nebraska scoreless the rest of the game and ASU won their fourth Fiesta Bowl. Jefferson was named Offensive MVP with eight receptions for 115 yards. Nebraska led in rushing yards, but ASU outyarded them in passing and total yards, had one less turnover, and scored just one touchdown.
Arizona State (12–0) was second in the final AP poll, their best finish ever; Nebraska dropped to ninth. ASU won another WAC title in 1977 and moved to the Pac-10 in 1978. Both teams returned multiple times to the Fiesta Bowl, Nebraska five times and ASU twice.