The Perfect Season: How Penn State Came to Stop a Hurricane and Win a National Football Championship

Overview

The 1987 NCAA championship game between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the University of Miami Hurricanes is often considered the most memorable championship game in all of college football history. Both teams were undefeated going into the game, but the Hurricanes were heavily favored, as they had demolished each of their opponents during the regular season. On January 2, 1987, Penn State pulled off one of the most surprising upsets in college football by handing the University of Miami team its only loss of ...

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Overview

The 1987 NCAA championship game between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the University of Miami Hurricanes is often considered the most memorable championship game in all of college football history. Both teams were undefeated going into the game, but the Hurricanes were heavily favored, as they had demolished each of their opponents during the regular season. On January 2, 1987, Penn State pulled off one of the most surprising upsets in college football by handing the University of Miami team its only loss of the season. In The Perfect Season, with help from the Penn State players involved, M. G. Missanelli retells the story not just of this championship game but also of Penn State’s entire season.

Beginning with its Orange Bowl loss in 1985 (Penn State’s only loss that year), Missanelli recounts the glorious 1986 season through the eyes of those Penn State athletes. The book also focuses on the media’s buildup of the national championship, explaining why the University of Miami team was considered the villain in this battle. Numerous anecdotes stories are included, such as the incident where the University of Miami team arrived at the Fiesta Bowl wearing combat fatigues in an attempt to wage psychological war on its opponents. But such tactics appeared to have little effect the Penn State Nittany Lions, whose tenacity resulted in victory in the final minutes of the game.

Drawing on interviews as well as his own recollections, the author relates the vivid story of one of the most triumphant seasons in the history of Penn State football. Anyone interested in college football, the Nittany Lions, or Joe Paterno’s legacy will find this book impossible to put down.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Missanelli brings to life the 1986 national football championship season, with a great account of the Nittany Lion victory over the combat fatigue–clad Miami Hurricanes. The Foreword by D. J. Dozier is a delight, as are various vignettes of participants such as Jerry Sandusky, Shane Conlan, Bob White, and the unfortunate-in-life John Bruno.”
—Ronald A. Smith, author of Big-Time Football at Harvard, 1905

“Jan. 2, 1987. It is at once the most profound and significant day of the nearly 15,000 Joe Paterno has spent as Penn State’s football coach. On that night, in the spotlit Arizona desert, Paterno’s Nittany Lions defeated Miami in a national championship match-up whose contrasts were as vivid as the personalities involved. In The Perfect Season, Mike Missanelli carefully dissects and re-creates this memorable game, one that would serve as a perfect little morality play, a showcase for all that was right and wrong with college football.”
—Frank Fitzpatrick, author of The Lion in Autumn

“An engaging story about the people involved and the events leading into one of the most exciting games in college football history.”
—Joe Paterno, Penn State

“It’s been 20 years since that night in the Arizona desert when Penn State and Miami clashed in a battle of football and philosophy in the Fiesta Bowl. It was the last national championship for Penn State, won in dramatic fashion with a goal-line interception in the final seconds to preserve a 14–10 win. It was, in the eyes of many, the zenith of the program. And many of the players, now middle-aged fathers, remain icons in the history of the sport at Penn State. Mike Missanelli does a masterful job of re-creating the game, reconnecting with the key players for both teams, and rekindles fond memories of a night when no star in the college football galaxy shined brighter than Penn State’s.”
—Ron Bracken, Centre Daily Times

“Missanelli’s book is eight yards ahead of the other two, a poignant look back at that colorful bunch that went unbeaten in the regular season and then whipped favored Miami in the Fiesta Bowl. Nobody who heard Missanelli’s barbed-wire sarcasm when he was a regular on WIP ever described him as warm and fuzzy, but the best parts of his book are the chapters where he visits with ex-players and their families.”
—Stan Hochman, Philadelphia Daily News

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780271032832
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/2009
  • Series: A Keystone Book ?
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 1,555,054
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

M. G. Missanelli, Penn State Class of 1977, is a well-known media personality in Philadelphia who has worked for more than twenty-five years in the area of sports journalism. He is also a 1986 graduate of the Delaware Law School of Widener University and is a licensed attorney. Currently, he teaches a class on sports and entertainment law at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Foreword by D.J. Dozier

Preface and Acknowledgments

How They Finished 12–0

1. Deke

2. Shane and Linebacker U

3. The Quarterback

4. A Case for the Defense

5. The Season Reported

6. Penn State vs. Miami, The Plays

7. Fallen Heroes

8. The Broadcast

9. Hurricane Fallout

10. Where Lions Landed

Epilogue

Notes

Index

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