1986 Sunkist Fiesta Bowl
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Date January 1, 1986
Season 1985
Stadium Sun Devil Stadium
Location Tempe, Arizona
MVP Jamie Morris   (RB, Michigan)
Mark Messner (DT, Michigan)
Favorite Michigan by 3 points [1][2][3]
Attendance 72,454
United States TV coverage
Network NBC
Announcers: Charlie Jones, Sam Rutigliano
Fiesta Bowl
 < 1985  1987

The 1986 Sunkist Fiesta Bowl was a college football bowl game played on January 1 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. It was the 15th edition of the Fiesta Bowl and matched the fifth-ranked Michigan Wolverines of the Big Ten Conference and the seventh-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers of the Big Eight Conference.[2] Both teams were runners-up in their respective conferences.[2]

Behind by eleven points at halftime, Michigan took advantage of Nebraska turnovers, scored 24 points in the third quarter, and prevailed 27–23;[4] running back Jamie Morris and defensive tackle Mark Messner, both Wolverines, were named the game's MVPs.[3][5]

Game summaryEdit

Michigan opened the game and offense and scored on a 42-yard field goal from Pat Moons with less than four minutes elapsed. In the second quarter, Nebraska scored on a 5-yard pass from quarterback McCathorn Clayton to running back Doug DuBose to give Nebraska the lead. DuBose scored again on a 3-yard run to give Nebraska a 14–3 advantage at the half.

Michigan dominated the third quarter, in part due to a couple of Husker miscues. DuBose fumbled on the third play of the second half and the Wolverines recovered at the Husker 21. Gerald White scored four plays later on a 1-yard touchdown run to pull Michigan to within four points. Clayton fumbled on Nebraska's ensuing possession, and Michigan quickly capitalized again, this time on Jim Harbaugh's 1-yard quarterback sneak, putting Michigan ahead 17–14 just over four minutes into the third quarter. Following a blocked Nebraska punt, Moons kicked his second field goal of the game, a 19-yarder. Later in the third, Harbaugh scored his second rushing touchdown of the game, a 2-yard run, to give Michigan a comfortable 27–14 advantage.

In the fourth quarter, Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne decided to spark his sputtering offense by inserting talented freshman quarterback Steve Taylor into the game. Taylor drove the Huskers 64 yards from their own 3-yard line driving deep into Michigan territory before turning it over on downs. However, Nebraska forced a three and out and was able to drive 77 yards in 12 plays, capped by Taylor's 1-yard touchdown run to cut Michigan's lead to six points at 27–21.[3]

Michigan found itself backed up in the shadow of its own goal post. Rather than risk disaster, they decided to take an intentional safety with 1:22 remaining in the game, and punter Monte Robbins deliberately ran out of the end zone. Trailing by four points and no time outs, the Huskers set out from their own 46. The Wolverines intercepted an errant Taylor pass in the end zone to kill Nebraska's final threat.

The win improved head coach Bo Schembechler's bowl record to .231; Michigan (10–1–1) climbed to second in the final AP poll, and Nebraska fell to eleventh. In the previous season, unranked Michigan lost the Holiday Bowl (to top-ranked BYU) and finished at 6–6.[4]

The attendance of 72,454 at this Fiesta Bowl was a record for a sporting event in Arizona.[3]


First quarter

  • Michigan – Field goal, Pat Moons 42

Second quarter

  • Nebraska – Doug DuBose 5 pass from McCathorn Clayton (Dale Klein kick)
  • Nebraska – DuBose 3 run (Klein kick)

Third quarter

  • Michigan – Gerald White 1 run (Moons kick)
  • Michigan – Jim Harbaugh 1 run (Moons kick)
  • Michigan – Field goal, Moons 19
  • Michigan – Harbaugh 2 run (Moons kick)

Fourth quarter

  • Nebraska – Steve Taylor 1 run (Klein kick)
  • Nebraska – Safety, Michigan punter Monte Robbins purposely ran out of end zone


Statistics  Nebraska   Michigan 
First Downs 20 16
Rushes–yards 60–304 49–171
Passing yards 66 63
Passes 6–15–1 6–16–0
Total yards 370 234
Punts–average 3–40 5–44
Fumbles–lost 6–3 2–0
Turnovers by40
Penalties-yards 7–46 8–43
Time of possession 32:0127:59


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