Huff among Noles honored on Fiesta Bowl’s 50th anniversary teams

The Fiesta Bowl is celebrating 50 years of football and Florida State is listed frequently throughout the decades, beginning with the Fiesta Bowl’s inaugural shootout between the Seminoles and Western Athletic Champion Arizona State.

Florida State’s Gary Huff, who was the Offensive MVP, remembers seven lead changes in the Sun Devils’ 45-38 victory in December 1971 and bouncing off the turf 20 times thanks to Defensive MVP Junior Ah You.

“Jim Finks said that was the most exciting football game he ever saw,” Huff said.

Finks, who is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, served as General Manager with the Chicago Bears during Huff’s two years in the Windy City, as well as GM for the Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints. 

Danny White, who would quarterback the Dallas Cowboys, was under center for No. 8 Arizona State.

In an era of the running game and the proverbial “three yards in a cloud of dust” mentality, the Fiesta Bowl featured 979 yards of total offense and 83 points, which are high in the record books. 

Three Seminole receivers caught passes for 100 or more yards each in that game.

“Barry Smith, Rhett Dawson and Kent Gaidos each caught over 100 yards that day,” Huff said. “I’ve been told that was the first time that ever happened in a bowl game and may still be the only time it has happened.” 

Interestingly, those three receivers were named to the Fiesta Bowl’s first All Decade team.

While Danny White made the All Decade team, Huff was named Most Valuable Player in that 1971 game. Arizona State appeared in four of the first five Fiesta Bowls as WAC Champions and won all four games.

“Huff the Magic Dragon,” as he was known then, completed 25 of 46 passes for 357 yards. Gaidos, a receiver, also completed a touchdown pass to Dawson in the second quarter to put FSU ahead 21-14. Dawson had three TD receptions and is still tied with two other for most in a Fiesta Bowl game fifty years later. Frank Fontes kicked three field goals in the 1971 game, which remains tied for most field goals made, and his 12 points is tied for second with three kickers.

FSU returned eight kickoffs in the 1971 game. ASU returned eight as well. The two teams remain tied for fourth place in bowl history for most kickoffs returned and most in combined kickoff return yardage.  

“We set a passing record in that game that wasn’t broken for 19 years and then by another Florida State quarterback, I think Peter Tom Willis,” Huff said. 

In the record books

Willis broke the 1971 record with 422 yards in the 1990 Fiesta Bowl., a 41-17 win over Nebraska. FSU’s 1990 performance still ranks third in Fiesta Bowl history and Willis’ five touchdown passes remains a Fiesta Bowl record.

Danny McManus holds the record for most passing attempts in a thrilling come-from-behind win (31-28) over Nebraska in 1988 in which FSU had 19 passing first downs, second most in bowl history.

Five Seminoles were named to the All Fiesta Bowl second decade team including Willis, Ronald Lewis, who caught the game winning throw from McManus in the 1988 game, and center Michael Tanks who played in both the 1988 and 1990 games. Odell Haggins, who caused a Nebrasaka fumble at the FSU two yard line to set up the Seminoles winning touchdown drive, was named to the all decade team along with linebacker Kirk Carruthers.

Nebraska came into the 1990 Fiesta Bowl with an offense that led the nation in rushing (513 yard average) and was held to 322 much of it coming late.

“Our front four totally dominated their front four,” Carruthers, who had a game-high 12 tackles, told the Tampa Bay Times. “The knowledge of the game plan was our big asset. We knew what they were going to run because we had been drilled on it so hard for two weeks.”

“We just beat those guys,” said FSU nose guard Odell Haggins, who was voted the game’s most valuable defensive player. “We got penetration. When you get penetration on an option team, you can stop them. They would try to block me and I would run around them. They are big and strong, but we out-quicked them.”

While the 1990 team won the game, it found itself on the wrong end of several Fiesta Bowl records, including for most penalties (3rd with 13) and for penalty yardage (2nd with 135).

The Seminoles would rather forget the 1999 National Championship loss to Tennessee where Peerless Price enjoyed 199 receiving yards (second in Fiesta Bowl history), including a 79-yard reception (fourth longest) and Dwayne Goodrich logged the longest interception return for a touchdown (54 yards).

But, let’s end this story on a happy note. 

Next to FSU record-setting performances in the Fiesta Bowl, I noticed numerous dubious records by the Gators and none more memorable than their 62-24 loss to Nebraska in what was billed to be a National Championship shootout.

The Gators set the record for most kickoffs returned (10) and fewest punts returned (one) as well as fewest punt return yards (-8). You are usually losing big when setting those records.

It wasn’t a good day for Steve Spurrier’s team, which surrendered the most rushing yards (524) and rushing TDs (6) and gained the fewest rushing yards (-28) in Fiesta Bowl history. The UF defense gave up the second most net yards (629).

Wait. Did Tommie Frazier just score again?

All Decade Teams Celebrated

Games 1-10 (1971-1980)

Arizona State played in five of the 10 contests, including the first three and four of the first five games. The Sun Devils are well-represented on this All-Decade List with seven players, as is Penn State.


QB: Danny White (Arizona State) – 1971-73
RB: Woody Green (Arizona State) – 1971-73
RB: Tommy Reamon (Missouri) – 1972
RB: Curt Warner (Penn State) – 1980
WR: Rhett Dawson (Florida State) – 1971
WR: Greg Hudson (Arizona State) – 1973
TE: Kent Gaydos (Florida State) – 1971
C: Orrin Olson (BYU) – 1974
OG: Scott Anderson (Missouri) – 1972
OG: Greg Roberts (Oklahoma) – 1976
OT: Keith Dorney (Penn State) – 1977
OT: Bill Dugan (Penn State) – 1980
PK: Danny Kush (Arizona State) – 1975
KOR: Steve Holden (Arizona State) – 1971
KOR: Barry Smith (Florida State) – 1971


DL: Frank Case (Penn State) – 1980
DL: Phil Dokes (Oklahoma State) – 1974
DL: Gene Gladys (Penn State) – 1980
DL: Matt Millen (Penn State) – 1977
DL: Jimmy Walker (Arkansas) – 1978
LB: Larry Gordon (Arizona State) – 1975
LB: Marcus Marek (Ohio State) – 1980
LB: Jerry Robinson (UCLA) – 1978
DB: Kenny Easley (UCLA) – 1978
DB: Mike Haynes (Arizona State) – 1973, 1975
DB: Dave Liggins (Arizona) – 1979
DB: Terry Peters (Oklahoma) – 1976
P: Danny White (Arizona State) – 1971-73
PR: Jimmy Cefalo (Penn State) – 1977
PR: Mike Fink (Missouri) – 1972

Fiesta Bowl Game Results 1-10 (1971-1980)
12/27/71           Arizona State 45, Florida State 38
12/23/72           Arizona State 49, Missouri 35
12/21/73           Arizona State 28, Pittsburgh 7
12/28/74           Oklahoma State 16, BYU 6
12/26/75           Arizona State 17, Nebraska 14
12/25/76           Oklahoma 41, Wyoming 7
12/25/77           Penn State 42, Arizona State 30
12/25/78           Arkansas 10, UCLA 10 (tie)
12/25/79           Pittsburgh 16, Arizona 10
12/26/80           Penn State 31, Ohio State 19

Games 11-20 (1982-91)

The second decade in the Fiesta Bowl’s storied history arguably saw some of the Bowl’s biggest highlights. During the 10-year run, the Fiesta Bowl hosted two national championship games, played on  New Year’s Day for the first time, became the first Bowl to have an African-American president and had a game with the highest-rated TV viewership in college football history (24.9 rating in 1987). Penn State and Miami faced off in the first “created” national championship game, followed two years later by a national title game between Notre Dame and West Virginia. The All-Decade team features some of college football’s biggest names.


QB: Peter Tom Willis (Florida State) – 1990
RB: Marcus Dupree (Oklahoma) – 1983
RB: Alonzo Highsmith (Miami) – 1987
WR: Thad Jemison (Ohio State) – 1984
WR: Ronald Lewis (Florida State) – 1988, 1990
TE: Ken McKay (Louisville) – 1991
C: Michael Tanks (Florida State) – 1988, 1990
OG: Jim Lachey (Ohio State) – 1984
OG: Steve Wisniewski (Penn State) – 1987
OT: Bill Fralic (Pittsburgh) – 1984
OT: Andy Heck (Notre Dame) – 1989
PK: John Lee (UCLA) – 1985
KOR: Keith Byars (Ohio State) – 1984

DL: Odell Haggins (Florida State) – 1988, 1990
DL: Jim Jeffcoat (Arizona State) – 1983
DL: Mark Messner (Michigan) – 1986
DL: Frank Stams (Notre Dame) – 1989
LB: Kirk Carruthers (Florida State) – 1990
LB: Shane Conlan (Penn State) – 1987
LB: Pete Giftopoulos (Penn State) – 1987
LB: Mike Mallory (Michigan) – 1986
DB: Ray Buchanan (Louisville) – 1991
DB: Duffy Cobbs (Penn State) – 1987
DB: Todd Lyght (Notre Dame) – 1989
DB: Mike Richardson (Arizona State) – 1983
P: Jeff Feagles (Miami) – 1987
PR: Dana Brinson (Nebraska) – 1988

Fiesta Bowl Game Results 11-20 (1982-91)
1/1/82  Penn State 26, Southern Cal 10 
1/1/83  Arizona State 32, Oklahoma 21 
1/2/84  Ohio State 28, Pittsburgh 23      
1/1/85  UCLA 39, Miami 37        
1/1/86  Michigan 27, Nebraska 23          
1/2/87  Penn State 14, Miami 10
1/1/88  Florida State 31, Nebraska 28    
1/2/89  Notre Dame 34, West Virginia 21           
1/1/90  Florida State 41, Nebraska 17    
1/1/91  Louisville 34, Alabama 7

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