The final difference was in the insteps. Franco missed four field-goal attempts, while Miller had three banana splits—two, of 28 and 42 yards, in the first quarter and a third, of 23 yards, in the fourth. Big Foot's last field goal, following a Penn State fumble at the Nittany Lions' 14-yard line, was ultimately the margin of victory. Meanwhile, LaBelle penned up Penn State with an average of 42.1 yards on seven punts, only two of which were run back—for a total of two yards.
The Miami touchdown came on a second-quarter Kelly-to-Brodsky pass play that covered 80 yards. Kelly had called an audible, and as he dropped back, he looked left to primary receiver Rodrigue. But Rodrigue was covered. Kelly seemed about to throw the ball away, when he looked to the right. "Thank the Lord he looked over here," said Brodsky, who was sailing up the sideline near the 50. Kelly hauled off and threw. "A great pass," said Brodsky. "He threw it inside, so I went inside, and it gave me momentum." Penn State Defensive Halfback Paul Lankford flew past Brodsky on the outside, unable to make the tackle, and away Brodsky went. Free Safety Mark Robinson gave chase and Brodsky knew he was coming.
"I said to myself, 'Larry, don't look back!' " Brodsky said. Suddenly he saw the five-yard line beneath him, and he dived. Robinson also dived, but too late. Brodsky was in. Rodrigue then caught Kelly's pass for the two-point conversion that made the score 14-0.
Trailing 17-0 in the fourth quarter and with pelting rain seeming to underscore the fact that its No. 1 ranking was going down the drain, Penn State staged a comeback that almost saved it from the fate of Michigan, Notre Dame, USC and Texas, its predecessors at the top of the wire service polls in this wild season. On the Nittany Lions' first possession of the final period, sophomore Quarterback Todd Blackledge ended an 80-yard, nine-play drive with a 13-yard scoring pass to Tight End Mike McCloskey. After Penn State's two-point conversion pass failed, Miami took over on its own 20, determined to stay on the ground and eat up the clock. But on the second play of the series the ball popped loose from the grasp of Halfback Smokey Roan when he was tackled on his own 28 and Nittany Lion safety Robinson snagged it in midair. Two plays later Blackledge found Warner's replacement, Jon Williams, in the left flat for a 26-yard TD pass. This time Blackledge hit Flanker Kenny Jackson for a two-point conversion, and with 6:53 still to play the Hurricanes' lead was down to three points.
And that's the way it stayed as Miami's defense capitalized on Penn State miscues. A bad pitch from Blackledge to Williams stopped the Nittany Lions on their next series, Miami's Middle Guard Tony Chickillo recovering his second fumble of the day on that play. But Penn State, which held Miami to only 52 yards rushing, stopped the Hurricanes on three straight rushes and, with 1:48 left, again got possession of the ball, on its own 32. Bang. Blackledge, who completed 26 of 39 passes for 358 yards, hit Williams for 12 yards. Maybe a No. 1 team would be able to hold on to the top spot for longer than three weeks this year. But on the next play, Miami Linebacker Scott Nicolas tipped a Blackledge pass, and Marion sealed the Hurricanes' victory by intercepting it. Schnellenberger had gotten what he came for.
And one more thing. On the wall of Schnellenberger's office there's a framed copy of the front page of The Miami Herald from the day after the Hurricanes beat Penn State in 1979. The headline reads: wow! UM STUNS PENN STATE. Schnellenberger had put it up there as a memento of a watershed moment in Miami football. Now he has another. The headline in Sunday's Herald read: UM SACKS NO. 1 PENN STATE.