Earlier in the day, the two top-ranked teams lost their bowl games: #1 Texas in the Cotton Bowl and #2 Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. The Huskers were aware when they took the field that night that they could claim the top ranking in the AP writers poll with a victory. An LSU victory would likely have given Notre Dame the national title.
Paul Rogers kicked a 25-yard field goal for Nebraska to take an early 3-0 lead. Joe Orduna scored on a 3-yard touchdown run, as Nebraska extended its lead to 10-0. In the second quarter, LSU got a 36-yard field goal to cut the lead to 10-3, the score at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Tigers added a 25-yard field goal to make it 10-6. On the final play of the third quarter, Buddy Lee threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Al Coffee to put LSU ahead 12-10. Quarterback Jerry Tagge scored from a yard out midway through the fourth quarter; it was the game's last scoring play and gave Nebraska the 17-12 win.
Undefeated Nebraska (11-0-1) was named national champion in the AP poll, released after the bowls in January. With the narrow defeat, LSU (9-3) fell only two spots, from fifth to seventh. The UPI coaches poll was released in early December (before the bowls) through the 1973 season; it had Texas as first as it did not consider the Longhorns' 24-11 loss to Notre Dame on New Year's Day.
In April 1970, Congress passed the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act banning the advertising of cigarettes on television and radio; in order to allow the New Year's Day football games to keep their already-sold cigarette ads, the prohibition was set to begin on January 2, 1971. Airing in prime time on the East Coast, the 1971 Orange Bowl thus became the last televised sporting event to carry cigarette ads, the final one (for Winston) airing at 10:54 p.m. (The very last tobacco advertisement, for Virginia Slims, was shown at 11:59 p.m. during a break on The Tonight Show).