|1979 Orange Bowl|
|Date||January 1, 1979|
|MVP||Billy Sims (RB, Oklahoma) & Reggie Kinlaw (NG, Oklahoma)|
|Favorite||Oklahoma by 11½ points |
|Referee||Ken Faulkner (SWC)|
|United States TV coverage|
|Announcers||Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen|
This matchup was something of an anomaly, as it featured a rare rematch of conference rivals that played every regular season. Nebraska had upset #1 Oklahoma 17–14 on November 11 in Lincoln, their first win in the rivalry since the Game of the Century in 1971, and appeared headed towards a national championship showdown with Penn State. But unranked Missouri (6–4) then stunned the #2 Huskers 35–31 in Lincoln the following week, dropping Nebraska into a tie with Oklahoma for the Big Eight championship and knocking them out of the national championship picture.
Penn State instead faced Alabama for the national title in the Sugar Bowl, and the Orange Bowl found itself with a selection dilemma. Nebraska earned the Big Eight's automatic Orange Bowl berth by virtue of its victory over the Sooners, but, with Penn State and Notre Dame (which accepted an invitation to the Cotton Bowl) off the board, the Orange Bowl committee decided to set up a bowl rematch with Oklahoma to create the best possible matchup. This was the last time a non-championship postseason bowl featured two teams from the same conference until the 2015 season at the Arizona Bowl, and remains (as of 2017) the last non-championship bowl to be a rematch of a regular-season conference game.
Despite the loss to the Huskers in the regular season, Oklahoma entered the game as a double-digit favorite.
Underdog Nebraska scored first on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Tom Sorley to Tim Smith for a 7–0 lead. Oklahoma tied the score on a 3-yard scamper by Heisman Trophy winner Billy Sims, and then went ahead when Thomas Lott scored on a 3-yard touchdown run to take a 14–7 lead into the locker room.
The revenge-minded Sooners then took control. In the third quarter, Sims scored his second TD on an 11-yard touchdown run. Both sides traded field goals before Lott scored on a 2-yard touchdown run, increasing Oklahoma's lead to 31–10.
Nebraska rallied late, with Rick Berns scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run, and then Sorley threw a 2-yard strike to tight end Junior Miller, but by then the game had ticked down to its final seconds. OU prevailed 31–24 to finish at 11–1, avenging its only loss of the season, and was third in the final AP poll. With consecutive losses, Nebraska ended at 9–3 and dropped to eighth in the rankings.
The game was televised by NBC and the traditional halftime Festival of Lights show was a tribute to "the greatest entertainment phenomenon in America in 1978: Disco!" Besides dancing to recorded disco songs, there was an appearance by KC and the Sunshine Band.
Statistics Oklahoma Nebraska First Downs 17 27 Rushes–Yards 53–292 54–217 Passing Yards 47 220 Passes 2–3–0 18–31–2 Total Yards 339 437 Punts-Average 3–39.3 2–37.5 Fumbles–Lost 1–1 0–0 Turnovers by 1 2 Penalties–Yards 6–50 8–96
- "The Latest Line". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. January 1, 1979. p. 34.
- "Oklahoma takes Big 8 rematch". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. January 2, 1979. p. 15.
- "Oklahoma feels it's No. 1 after avenging only loss". Pittsburgh Press. UPI. January 2, 1979. p. B5.
- Putnam, Pat (January 8, 1979). "Orange Bowl". Sports Illustrated. p. 14.
- Looney, Douglas S. (November 20, 1978). "Nebraska was on the loose". Sports Illustrated. p. 22.
- "Grid frustration ends in Huskers' triumph". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. November 12, 1978. p. C4.
- "Powers' Tigers upset Nebraska". Lewiston Morning Tribune. (Idaho). Associated Press. November 19, 1978. p. 5B.
- "Orange Bowl lands Nebraska, Oklahoma". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. (Florida). UPI. November 19, 1978. p. 1C.
- "Bowl roundup". Sunday Star-News. (Wilmington, North Carolina). Associated Press. November 19, 1978. p. 1C.
- Lyell, Kelly (December 6, 2015). "Colorado State heads to Arizona Bowl to face MW foe Nevada". Fort Collins Coloradoan. Retrieved December 6, 2015.
- unknown (Jan 13, 1979). "Football Turns To Disco Acts, Lights". Billboard. Retrieved March 6, 2017.