By: Herman Delgado
A beautiful sunny El Paso day with temperatures in the 60s, that’s how the 89th Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl Game kicked off at noon on Friday, December 30th. Two evenly matched teams on paper; the UCLA Bruins were ranked #18 and 9-3 coming into the Sun Bowl. The Pittsburgh Panthers with an 8-4 record and a strong college football tradition appeared to be a worthy opponent for the Bruins. Both teams went back and forth scoring and at the half it was UCLA 21 v Pitt 14; the crowd of 41,104 expected fireworks in the second half and the Bruins and Panthers did not disappoint.
Both teams came out firing on all cylinders and at the end of the third quarter, with the Bruins up 28-21, the Panthers evened things up with a touchdown of their own; game was knotted up at 28. And for the first time since early in the first quarter when the Panthers were up 3-0, they had the lead again 31-28 with over 10 minutes remaining in the game. The Panthers added to their lead with another Ben Sauls’ 27-yard field goal. Things look good for the Panthers, but the Bruins answered with a touchdown of their own with 0:34 left in the game to take the lead 35-34. I was pacing the Bruins bench area, waiting to take shots of the celebration, hugs, and high-fives. That would not be the case, and with 0:04 seconds remaining in the game Sauls put it through the uprights and the Panthers were on top again 37-35. Sauls was good on all five of his field goals (22, 29, 31, 27, and 47). Both teams finished their seasons at 9-4.
I remember my parents taking me to the Sun Bowl Game since back in 1974, when I was 10-years old, and I would have to say that this was one of the top three games I have ever witnessed. I watched from up in the cheap seats as a kid, but to be down on the field for such an epic game was at a whole another level.
Eddie Morelos, Media Relations Director at Sun Bowl Association, was very pleased with how the game turned out, but most importantly, pleased with the hard work put in by his volunteer staff and all the people within the Sun Bowl Association who contribute so much of their time in putting on a great event every year. “Everything turned out great!” said Morelos. “The weather was great, the CBS broadcast was great, the energy in the stadium was awesome, and nothing but positive feedback by the many visitors in town for the game. The sponsors were more than pleased…they were really happy with how everything turned out.”
Morelos started Sun Bowl Game Day at 5:30 a.m. and ended at 10:00 p.m. He was back at the stadium and his office the very next day…in preparation for the 90th Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl Game.