The Perfect Season

How Penn State Came to Stop a Hurricane and Win a National Football Championship

By (author) M. G. Missanelli

Paperback - £17.95

Publication date:

15 October 2009

Length of book:

232 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271032832

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.

“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