Ernie Lain, Rice, Quarterback, 1938
Statistics and Biography
1938 Classic:Rice 28, Colorado 14
Rushing:14 attempts, 78 yards, 1 TD
Passing:8-12-1, 123 yards, 3 TDs
The Cotton Bowl may have been only a year old, but everyone in the stadium knew they were witnessing something special when Ernie Lain came off the bench to lead Rice past Colorado. The Owls’ gifted sophomore halfback entered the game with the Buffaloes in front, 7-0. Soon, the deficit ballooned to 14-0. But, by halftime, Lain had turned the tables on Colorado, passing for two touchdowns and running for another to build a 21-14 lead. Lain’s third touchdown pass of the day established a Classic record that wouldn’t be topped until 1991, a span of 53 years.
Coach Dutch Meyer, TCU, 1937, 1945, 1952
Statistics and Biography
1970 Classic:Texas 21, Notre Dame 17
1971 Classic:Notre Dame 24, Texas 11
Classic Record:1-1-0
A meticulous strategist and fierce competitor, Ara Parseghian hated to lose. After Notre Dame’s last-minute loss to Texas in the 1970 Classic, Parseghian longed for a second chance to derail the top-ranked Longhorns. One year later, he got his wish. For the 1971 rematch, Parseghian came up with a defensive plan to stop the vaunted Texas Wishbone. His scheme worked flawlessly. The Irish held Texas to 216 rushing yards and forced the Horns into nine fumbles. The 30-game Texas winning streak came to an end, and finally, Parseghian had reason to smile.
L.D. Meyer, TCU, End, 1937
Statistics and Biography
1937 Classic:TCU 16, Marquette 6
Receiving::3 receptions, 79 yards, 2 TDs
Kicking:1 FG, 1-of-2 PAT
TCU’s go-to guy in the first Cotton Bowl game was L.D. Meyer, the nephew of head coach Dutch Meyer. Any time the Frogs needed a lift, they always looked for Little Dutch. The Cotton Bowl wasn’t five minutes old when Meyer booted a 33-yard field goal. Soon, he struck again, grabbing touchdown passes of 55 and 18 yards. Meyer was instrumental in pushing TCU to its historic 16-6 victory over Marquette. Obviously, he realized the perfect way to end a collegiate career was to score all 16 TCU points himself in the inaugural Cotton Bowl Classic.
Byron "Whizzer" White, Colorado, Quarterback, 1938
Statistics and Biography
1938 Classic:Rice 28, Colorado 14
Rushing:23 attempts, 62 yards
Passing:1-5-2, 9 yards, 1 TD
Returns:47-yard interception return, 1 TD
Kicking:2-of-2 PAT; 8 punts, 332 yards, 41.6 average
The Classic was only a year old when the great All-America halfback Byron "Whizzer" White ended his collegiate career in the Cotton Bowl. The runnerup in the Heisman balloting and a future U.S. Supreme Court Justice, White was the leader of unbeaten Colorado. Minutes into the game, White turned a Rice fumble into points, tossing a nine-yard scoring pass. Then, seconds later, he picked off a pass and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown, a Classic record that endured for 50 years. Rice rallied to win the game, but White proved his fame was well deserved.
Coach Matty Bell, SMU, 1948-49
Statistics and Biography
1948 Classic:SMU 13, Penn State 13
1949 Classic:SMU 21, Oregon 13
Classic Record:1-0-1
Matty Bell was the envy of every coach in the profession. After all, his SMU Mustangs were virtually unstoppable. SMU rolled up a 17-1-3 record over a two-year period and earned back-to-back Cotton Bowl appearances in 1948 and 1949. Headlining Bell’s talented group of athletes was Doak Walker, a sensational all-around player who achieved near folk hero status on the Hilltop. Under Bell’s watch, the Cotton Bowl came of age, exploding in popularity. The New Year’s Day Classic was now firmly entrenched as one of the nation’s premier sporting events.
Jimmy Nelson, Alabama, Halfback, 1942
Statistics and Biography
1942 Classic:Alabama 29, Texas A&M 21
Rushing:9 attempts, 38 yards, 1 TD
Passing:1-7-0, 16 yards
Interceptions:2 interceptions, 7 return yards
Punt Returns:1 return 72 yards, 1TD
Punting:16 punts, 581 yards, 36.3 average
Halfback Jimmy Nelson is the one name you need to know to tell the story of how Alabama knocked off Texas A&M in the 1942 Cotton Bowl. That's because the Crimson Tide made only one first down, passed for 16 yards, rushed for 59 and punted 16 times, yet handed the Aggies a 29-21 defeat. Early in the third quarter, Nelson broke loose on a record-setting 72-yard punt return to crack open a 7-7 stalemate. Minutes later he put Alabama back on the scoreboard with a bruising 21-yard burst, running past six Aggie defenders for his second touchdown of the day. On defense, Nelson intercepted two passes, one of them in the end zone to thwart an A&M scoring threat. Nelson was everywhere that day and the Aggies simply couldn't stop him.
Dan D. Rogers, CBAA President/Chairman/Secretary, 1940-52
Statistics and Biography
The rise of the Cotton Bowl to national prominence was not an easy process. From a humble beginning in 1937, it quickly grew in stature thanks to the dedicated work of founder J. Curtis Sanford and Dan D. Rogers, the bowl's first president and chairman. Rogers believed in Sanford's dream and led the campaign for the Southwest Conference to adopt the game and pledge its champion as host team. On November 23, 1940, the Cotton Bowl Athletic Association became an official agency of the SWC, and Rogers was named President and later Chairman, a position he held until his death in 1952. With Rogers' leadership the Cotton Bowl flourished and soon became one of college football's most visible post-season events.
Norman Hamilton, TCU, Tackle, 1956-57
Statistics and Biography
1956 Classic:Mississippi 14, TCU 13
1957 Classic:TCU 28, Syracuse 27
1956 Defensive Statistics:8 tackles, 4 unassisted
1957 Defensive Statistics:9 tackles, 3 unassisted
Norman Hamilton wasn’t the biggest player on the field, but he usually was the quickest and he always delivered the big hit. His teammates referred to him as "The Animal." Some of Hamilton’s on-field collisions sounded more like car wrecks than mere tackles. In the 1957 Classic, Syracuse found him impossible to block. Even when the Orangemen tried to run to the opposite side of the field, Hamilton’s quickness and agility got him into position to make the play. He made nine tackles in the Syracuse game and eight more the previous year against Mississippi. In every sense of the word, Hamilton was an intimidating force for the Frogs.
Jimmy Hill, Tennessee, Halfback, 1951
Statistics and Biography
1951 Classic:Tennessee 20, Texas 14
Defense:3 tackles, 2PBU
Interceptions:1 interception, 28 return yards
Fumbles:1 fumble recovery
Jimmy Hill had a penchant for making big plays. With the game on the line in the closing minutes of the 1951 Cotton Bowl, the Tennessee defensive back came up with two key turnovers that turned the game around. With seven minutes to play, third-ranked Texas held a 14-13 lead over No. 4 Tennessee. The Horns were driving deep into Volunteer territory when Hill picked off a pass and returned the interception 28 yards to the Texas 46. The Vols couldn't take advantage of Hill's turnover and the Horns soon regained possession at their own 37. But, on the very next play, the Texas quarterback fumbled and Hill again was in the right spot at the right time, pouncing on the ball at the Texas 43. Five plays later, the Volunteers scored the winning touchdown. Thanks to "Cowboy" Hill and his stellar defensive plays, Tennessee pulled the 20-14 upset.
Chico Mendoza, TCU, End, 1957
Statistics and Biography
1957 Classic:TCU 28, Syracuse 27
Defense:5 tackles, 2 unassisted, 1 blocked PAT
In 1957, sheer pandemonium broke loose in the TCU locker room the second Chico Mendoza walked through the door after the Frogs secured a hard-earned 28-27 victory over Syracuse. Mendoza didn't score a point that day, but he made sure the Orangemen didn't either. With 5:07 to play, Mendoza stormed in from right end to knock down an extra-point attempt by Jim Brown, the All-America halfback and place kicker. Mendoza's blocked kick gave TCU a 28-20 cushion, forced Syracuse to score twice with time running out, and stacked the odds heavily in TCU's favor. Later, amid the hoots and hollers of his teammates, Mendoza told reporters, "I don't remember where the ball hit me. I just closed my eyes, dove in and hoped." Then, looking around the room, he stopped and said with a grin, "It didn't hurt a bit, either!"
Coach Johnny Vaught, Ole Miss, 1956, 1962
Statistics and Biography
1956 Classic:Mississippi 14, TCU 13
1962 Classic: Texas 12, Mississippi 7
Classic Record:1-10
The first reference to Mississippi coach Johnny Vaught was always the same..."legendary." For 24 seasons, he ruled the Ole Miss sideline where he coached the Rebels to three national championships, six SEC titles, 15 consecutive bowl games, 18 bowl appearances overall and tutored 26 All-Americans. Vaught was tough as nails and he made Ole Miss virtually unbeatable. The Rebels earned their first major bowl victory in the 1956 Classic with a 14-13 thriller over TCU in Vaught's Cotton Bowl debut. Six years later, he had Ole Miss back in Dallas to face Texas in a battle of former No. 1 teams. Vaught and his Rebels proved to everyone they were a force to be reckoned with in college football.
Ronnie Caveness, Arkansas, Linebacker, 1965
Statistics and Biography
1965 Classic:Arkansas 10, Nebraska 7
Defense:15 tackles, 4 unassisted
No matter what an opposing offense tried to do, Arkansas linebacker Ronnie Caveness was always standing in the way. Nebraska learned quickly that getting around Caveness was virtually impossible. The two-time All-America opened the 1965 Classic with a smashing solo tackle, his first of 15 stops for the day. Of course, that didn't come as any surprise from the leading tackler on a unit that had held opponents to just 57 points and registered five consecutive shutouts to end an unbeaten season. Caveness was brilliant in the Cotton Bowl, helping the Hogs' achieve their greatest victory, a 10-7 triumph that brought college football's national championship home to Arkansas.
Jerry Cook, Texas, Halfback, 1962-63
Statistics and Biography
1962 Classic:Texas 12, Mississippi 7
1963 Classic:LSU 13, Texas 0
1962 Rushing: 2 attempts, 8 yards
1962 Defensive Statistics: 5 tackles, 3 unassisted
1962 Interceptions: 3 interceptions, 16 return yards
1962 Kickoff Returns: 1 return, 13 yards
1963 Rushing: 10 attempts, 39 yards
1963 Defensive Statistics: 4 tackles, 2 unassisted
1963 Returns: 3 kickoff, 62 yards; 2 punts, 22 yards
No matter how hard opposing quarterbacks tried, they never could escape Texas halfback Jerry Cook. He was always around the football, and most of the time it ended up in his hands. Cook drove Ole Miss crazy in the 1962 Classic. Texas' gambling defense snared five interceptions and Cook picked off three of them. His first killed Mississippi's opening drive, and his second proved to be one of the game's biggest plays. Minutes before halftime, the Rebs marched 70 yards to the Texas sven, but a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage floated into the air like a balloon. Cook caught it at the two to snuff the threat and preserve a 12-0 Texas lead. Cook wasn't through. He picked off another one early in the second half as the Horns' parade of interceptions took its toll, leading to a 12-7 defeat of Ole Miss.
Fred Marshall, Arkansas, Quarterback, 1965
Statistics and Biography
1965 Classic:Arkansas 10, Nebraska 7
Rushing:15 attempts, -1 yard
Passing:11-19-1, 131 yards
Fred Marshall provided Arkansas football with its finest hour. Undefeated and ranked second in the wire service polls, the Razorbacks were gunning for a piece of their first national title. But standing in their way was No. 6 Nebraska. In a defensive struggle with just under 10 minutes to play, the Huskers held a slim 7-3 lead. Marshall knew the time had come to step forward. The Arkansas quarterback directed the Hogs on an 80-yard drive to produce the winning score. Scrambling and passing for 71 yards himself, Marshall worked his magic one last time.
Bob Moses, Texas, End, 1962
Statistics and Biography
1962 Classic:Texas 12, Mississippi 7
Defensive Statistics:7 tackles, 5 unassisted, 1 PBU
Pressure situations always seemed to bring out the best in Bob Moses of Texas. Twice in the 1962 Classic, he foiled Ole Miss scoring threats on crucial fourth down plays to preserve a 12-7 victory for the Longhorns. Moses' first stop came early in the third quarter after a pass interception put the Rebels in scoring position. On fourth down, he made a crunching tackle on the Ole Miss quarterback to end the threat at the Texas 36. Then, with the game on the line in the fourth quarter, Moses again stuffed the Rebel quarterback on fourth-and-two at the Texas 23. Ole Miss never threatened again and the Horns' ran out the clock for the SWC's first bowl victory over Ole Miss.
Johnny Treadwell, Texas, Linebacker, 1962-63
Statistics and Biography
1962 Classic:Texas 12, Mississippi 7
1963 Classic:LSU 13, Texas 0
1962 Defensive Statistics:7 tackles, 4 unassisted, 1 PBU
1963 Defensive Statistics:12 tackles, 6 unassisted, 1 PBU
1963 Tackles for Loss:2 for -6 yards
Johnny Treadwell was a born leader, a tremendous hitter and a player that exuded confidence. It's no wonder the famed Longhorn tradition of jersey No. 60 began with him. In the 1962 Classic, he was responsible for the one play that observers deemed as the turning point in the Horns' 12-7 victory over Mississippi. The Rebels had driven to the Texas seven just before halftime when Treadwell deflected a pass into the waiting arms of a teammate and snuffed out a significant Ole Miss scoring threat. A year later, he earned defensive MVP honors with a 12-tackle performance against LSU. His big play ability and those 19 tackles in two appearances are reasons why Treadwell is regarded as one of the most dynamic defenders ever to play at the Cotton Bowl.
Randy Braband, Texas, Linebacker, 1972-73
Statistics and Biography
1972 Classic:Penn State 30, Texas 6
1973 Classic:Texas 17, Alabama 13
1972 Defensive Statistics:14 tackles, 4 unassisted
1973 Defensive Statistics:19 tackles, 9 unassisted, 1 PBU
Randy Braband was an impact player. Ask any running back who ever collided with this intense Texas linebacker. In two Cotton Bowl appearances, Braband recorded 33 tackles, 19 of them in the Horns' 17-13 thriller over Alabama in 1973. However, there was one tackle that stood above the others. On fourth and inches at the Texas 43, Braband roared through to smother the Alabama running back for a yard loss. Only 1:52 was left to play when Braband made his stirring defensive play, and in effect, slammed the door on the Crimson Tide's comeback hopes.
Tom Campbell, Texas, Defensive Back, 1969-70
Statistics and Biography
1969 Classic:Penn State 30, Texas 6
1970 Classic:Texas 17, Alabama 13
1969 Defensive Statistics:2 tackles, 1 unassisted, 2 Int., 4 PBU
1970 Defensive Statistics:5 tackles, 4 unassisted, 1 interception
Defensive back Tom Campbell erased all doubt that in pressure-packed games lightning can strike twice. In less than a month's time, the Longhorn defender came up with a pair of last-second interceptions that have become legendary in Texas football lore. In the infamous "Big Shootout" against Arkansas, he picked off a pass that preserved a 15-14 victory and sent the Horns packing for Dallas to face Notre Dame. Once at the Cotton Bowl, Campbell picked up where he left off in Fayetteville. With under a minute to play, Texas held a tenuous 21-17 lead over the Irish. In came quarterback Joe Theismann to make one last effort to win the game for Notre Dame. Instead, he found Campbell standing in the way. "Once again, "Mr. Clutch" came up with the key interception to ice the game and the national title away for Texas.
Tony Davis, Nebraska, Halfback, 1974
Statistics and Biography
1974 Classic:Nebraska 19, Texas 3
Rushing:28 attempts, 106 yards, 1 TD
Receiving:2 receptions, 8 yards
Mention the name Tony Davis to any Nebraska fan and they would describe him as a hard-hitting, fiery competitor. Born and bred to be a Cornhusker, Davis grew up in the shadows of Memorial Stadium in a tiny little town where he earned the nickname "Tecumseh Tornado." Everything Davis did, he did at breakneck speed. He preferred to run over tacklers rather than go around them, and made defenders pay for getting in his way. In the 1974 Classic, the sophomore halfback made Texas pay dearly. He pounded the Longhorn defense all day long, rushing for 106 yards on 28 carries, and scored once on a three-yard run. Davis and his Husker teammates seized momentum in the third quarter and broke open a 3-3 stalemate with back-to-back touchdowns to help Coach Tom Osborne earn his first bowl victory at Nebraska.
Coach Dan Devine, Notre Dame, 1978-79
Statistics and Biography
1978 Classic:Notre Dame 38, Texas 10
1979 Classic:Notre Dame 35, Houston 34
Classic Record:2-0-0
Coach Dan Devine of Notre Dame never lost a game in the Cotton Bowl. One of his two victories was for the national championship. The other was deemed an absolute miracle. In 1978, the Irish ambushed No. 1 Texas, 38-10, in a game that featured five national award winners. Notre Dame's upset of the Horns catapulted the Irish to the national title. A year later, in frigid weather conditions, Devine's Irish rallied for an incredible victory over Houston. Trailing by 22 points in the fourth quarter, Joe Montana ignited the comeback and won the game on the final play, 35-34.
Bob Golic, Notre Dame, Linebacker, 1978-79
Statistics and Biography
1978 Classic:Notre Dame 38, Texas 10
1979 Classic:Notre Dame 35, Houston 34
1978 Defense:17 tackles, 3 unassisted, 1 fumble caused, 1 blocked FG
1979 Defense:2 tackles, 1 unassisted
Notre Dame middle linebacker Bob Golic never let opposing ball carriers stray too far from sight. With him on the prowl, there was absolutely nowhere to run. Golic was tough, physical, extremely quick and nearly impossible to block. Golic was phenomenal against top-ranked Texas in the 1978 Classic. He made 17 tackles, blocked a field goal and caused a fumble that led to Notre Dame's first touchdown. The unrelenting Irish defense snagged six turnovers that day, paving the way to a crushing 38-10 victory and the national championship. A year later, Golic took part in the incredible fourth-quarter comeback against Houston, erasing a 22-point deficit in the game's final eight minutes to win, 35-34.
John Hannah, Offensive Guard, Alabama, 1973
Statistics and Biography
1973 Classic:Texas 17, Alabama 13
Total Offense:324 yards, 138 rushing, 186 passing
During his Alabama career, offensive guard John Hannah became accustomed to receiving lofty praise and post-season honors. However, his most treasured compliment of all came from the legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant, "John Hannah is the greatest offensive lineman I ever coached." At the 1973 Cotton Bowl, in Hannah’s final collegiate appearance, he more than lived up to his fame. Billed as the "Battle of the Wishbones," Hannah provided the offensive muscle as the Crimson Tide rolled through a stingy Longhorn defense for 324 yards in total offense. In the end, Texas came from behind to win, but even in defeat nothing could tarnish the remarkable performance of John Hannah.
Robert Brewer, Texas, Quarterback 1982
Statistics and Biography
1982 Classic: Texas 14, Alabama 12
Rushing:15 attempts, -3 yards, 1 TD
Passing:12-21-0, 201 yards
Don't mention the name Robert Brewer around an Alabama football fan. He only brings up bad memories. At the 1982 Classic, the former walkon caught the Crimson Tide totally by surprise on a quarterback draw that put Texas on the scoreboard and on its way to victory. Paul "Bear" Bryant came to Dallas as college football's all-time winningest coach and in search of Bama's first-ever victory over Texas. Brewer made sure it didn't happen. Trailing 10-0 in the fourth quarter, Brewer led the Horns into Alabama territory. On third down, the Tide defense came with a full-scale blitz and then parted wide enough to allow Brewer to race untouched up the middle for a 30-yard touchdown run. It was the spark Texas needed to claim a memorable 14-12 come-from-behind victory.
Eric Dickerson, SMU, Running Back, 1983
Statistics and Biography
1983 Classic:SMU 7, Pittsburgh 3
Rushing:27 attempts, 124 yards
Running backs Eric Dickerson and Craig James were dubbed the "Pony Express," the most exciting offensive tandem in SMU history. That statement easily could have been carried a step further to include all of college football. This dynamic duo propelled the Mustangs to an undefeated season and a berth in the 1983 Cotton Bowl against Pittsburgh. But, it was Dickerson who served as the workhorse in the Ponies’ 7-3 comeback victory, rushing for 124 yards on 27 attempts. Thanks to his constant pounding on the Pittsburgh defense, SMU finally wore down the Panthers and recorded its first Cotton Bowl victory in 34 years.
Coach Vince Dooley, Georgia, 1967, 1976, 1984
Statistics and Biography
1967 Classic:Georgia 24, SMU 9
1976 Classic:Classic: Arkansas 31, Georgia 10
1984 Classic:Georgia 10, Texas 9
Classic Record:2-1-0
Georgia's Vince Dooley had a special knack of getting the most out of his players. The former Marine brought a unique blend of military discipline and strategy to the coaching profession. Dooley's first Cotton Bowl appearance was in 1967 when his Junkyard Dawgs ran over SMU, 24-9. But, it was his trip to the 1984 Classic that Dooley likes to relive the most. Second-ranked Texas saw its hopes of a national championship go down the drain when a fumbled punt late in the game put Georgia in position to pull off a major upset. In a game that featured terrific defense, the Dawgs took over at the Texas 23 and in three plays scored the winning touchdown. To this day, when asked what time it is, Dooley always smiles and says "in Texas it's 10 to 9!"
Terry Elston, Houston, Quarterback, 1980
Statistics and Biography
1980 Classic:Houston 17, Nebraska 14
Rushing:22 attempts, 87 yards, 1 TD
Passing:9-16-0, 119 yards, 1 TD
When Terry Elston entered the game at the beginning of the second quarter, Houston had gained only 28 yards and trailed Nebraska, 7-0. But, the backup quarterback was just the spark the Cougars needed. He drove Houston 71 yards to tie the score, and when the game was on the line, he did it again. Less than four minutes remained when Nebraska scored to take a 14-10 lead. To win, Elston had to drive 66 yards, and he delivered. With only 12 seconds left, Elston threaded a six-yard pass between two Husker defenders to find Eric Herring standing all alone in the end zone.
Doug Flutie, Boston College, Quarterback, 1985
Statistics and Biography
1985 Classic:Boston College 45, Houston 28
Rushing:4 attempts, 51 yards
Passing:13-37-2, 180 yards, 3 TD
Doug Flutie, Boston College’s miracle man, gave college football one last game to remember in the 49th Cotton Bowl Classic. When the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback hit town, he was the talk of college football. Flutie had just stunned Miami with his infamous "Hail Flutie" pass and now the eyes of the nation were following his every move. Flutie opened the floodgates early, exploding in the first quarter with a 63-yard scoring bomb. Minutes later, he had his second scoring pass of the day and now was ready to take on the history books. Soon, Flutie tossed his third touchdown pass of the game to tie a 47-year old Classic record. The "Magic Flutie" was in total control and the Eagles were soaring high and well past Houston, 45-28.
Bo Jackson, Auburn, Running Back, 1986
Statistics and Biography
1986 Classic:Texas A&M 36, Auburn 16
Rushing:31 carries, 129 yards, 1 TD
Receiving:2 receptions, 73 yards, 1 TD
Bo Jackson, the 50th Heisman Trophy winner, more than lived up to expectations with a memorable performance in the Cotton Bowl’s Golden Anniversary game. Carrying the bulk of the offensive burden for Auburn, Jackson set a Classic record with 31 rushing attempts and piled up 129 yards. The game was only minutes old when he scored his first touchdown on a five-yard run. But, the play that Jackson will be remembered for most was the routine screen pass that he turned into a spectacular 73-yard scoring play. Even in defeat, Jackson performed brilliantly.
Lance McIlhenny, SMU, Quarterback, 1983
Statistics and Biography
1983 Classic:SMU 7, Pittsburgh 3
Rushing:14 attempts, minus-17 yards, 1 TD
Passing:5-8-0, 101 yards
Lance McIlhenny, the winningest quarterback in SWC history, was a coach’s dream. In the 1983 Classic, he provided the spark that produced another SMU victory. With Pittsburgh clinging to a 3-0 lead early in the fourth quarter, McIlhenny methodically drove the Mustangs 80 yards in 11 plays for the game-winning touchdown. Working his slight of hand to perfection, McIlhenny faked the dive to Eric Dickerson, and then the pitch to Craig James. With Pitt biting on the two fakes, he turned the corner and sprinted nine yards for the touchdown and a 7-3 SMU victory.
Kevin Murray, Quarterback, Texas A&M, 1986-87
Statistics and Biography
1986 Classic:Texas A&M 36, Auburn 16
1987 Classic:Ohio State 28, Texas A&M 12
1986 Rushing:4 attempts, -9 yards
1987 Rushing:5 attempts, 12 yards
1986 Passing:16-26-1, 292 yards, 1 TD
1987 Passing:12-31-5, 143 yards
Texas A&M quarterback Kevin Murray used the glow of the Classic’s 50th anniversary game to outshine Bo Jackson, Auburn’s Heisman Trophy winner. Murray enjoyed a phenomenal game against the Tigers, setting a Cotton Bowl record with 292 yards through the air. The sophomore quarterback took charge late in the game, marching the Aggies 72 yards with just 2:22 to play for the game-clinching touchdown and A&M’s first Cotton Bowl victory in 18 years. The Classic has witnessed some incredible passing performances in its 63-year history, but the aerial show Murray delivered against Auburn was one for the record books.
Bill Romanowski, Boston College, Linebacker, 1985
Statistics and Biography
1985 Classic:Boston College 45, Houston 28
Defensive Statistics:13 tackles, 11 unassisted, 1 PBU
Tackles For Loss:1 tackle, minus-3 yards
The right arm of Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie may have been the center of attention, but it was linebacker Bill Romanowski who ended up stealing the show in the 1985 Classic. He stalked Houston running backs the entire day, roaming from sideline-to-sideline to make 13 tackles. Eleven of them were unassisted, a number that tied a Cotton Bowl defensive record for solo tackles. It was an inspiring performance. But, maybe even more significant was the fact that Romanowski became the Classic’s first true freshman to earn MVP honors.
Chris Spielman, Ohio State, Linebacker, 1987
Statistics and Biography
1987 Classic:Ohio State 28, Texas A&M 12
Defensive Statistics:11 tackles, 7 unassisted
Tackles For Loss:2 tackles, -7 yards
Interceptions:2 returns, 24 and 10 yards
Texas A&M couldn’t figure out where Chris Spielman would turn up next. Ohio State’s prolific senior linebacker tricked the Aggies into a pair of interceptions to ultimately steal the game. His first theft, just seconds into the third quarter, broke the contest open. Spielman picked off Kevin Murray and raced 24 yards for a Buckeye touchdown. What had been a tight 7-6 affair suddenly became a comfortable 14-6 advantage. In addition to his two big plays, Spielman recorded 11 tackles against the Aggies, seven of them were unassisted.
Major Applewhite, Texas, Quarterback 1999-2000
Statistics and Biography
1999 Classic:Texas 38, Mississippi State 11
2000 Classic: Arkansas 27, Texas 6
1999 Rushing:3 attempts, -6 yards
1999 Passing:15-26-0, 225 yards, 3 TD
2000 Rushing:5 attempts, -43 yards
2000 Passing:15-21-0, 121 yards
When the game was on the line, there was only one player that coaches, teammates and fans wanted at the helm of the Texas offense. Major Applewhite was a born leader and a clutch performer who knew how to win football games. In two Cotton Bowl appearances, he tossed three touchdowns and completed 30-of-47 attempts without an interception for 346 yards. No quarterback in Classic history has matched Applewhite's passing efficiency of .638. He bombed Mississippi State with scoring plays of 59, 52 and 18 yards in 1999, and a year later he was 15-of-21 against Arkansas before sustaining a fourth-quarter knee injury. Major became a general with a football in his hands.
Jerome Bettis, Notre Dame, Fullback, 1993
Statistics and Biography
1993 Classic:Notre Dame 28, Texas A&M 3
Rushing:20 attempts, 75 yards, 2 TD
Receiving:1 reception, 26 yards, 1 TD
Passing:0-1-0, 0 yards
Fullback Jerome Bettis knew how to make football coaches happy, or unhappy, as the case may be. He could run and catch with equal efficiency, and at 6-0, 247 pounds, Bettis was a load to bring down. He ran low to the ground and had the uncanny ability to stop and spin away from tacklers. More often than not, he would run over any defender who got in his way. Just ask Texas A&M safety Patrick Bates who Bettis steamrolled at the goal line in the 1993 Classic. The score sent Notre Dame rolling toward a runaway 28-3 victory. He logged 20 rushing attempts for 75 yards against the Aggies, scored three touchdowns and accounted for 18 of the Irish's 28 points. Bettis wasn't the game's leading rusher, but he was certainly the most intimidating. Just ask Texas A&M.
Quentin Coryatt, Texas A&M, Linebacker, 1992
Statistics and Biography
1992 Classic:Florida State 10, Texas A&M 2
Defensive Statistics:15 tackles, 10 unassisted
Tackles For Loss:3 for -12 yards
Safeties:1 for minus-2 yards, 1 TD
Quentin Coryatt always arrived at the football in a hurry. The Texas A&M linebacker could pack a punch, too. Coryatt’s sack of Florida State quarterback Casey Weldon in the 1992 Classic was remarkable. Following an A&M turnover that gave the Seminoles the ball just outside the goal line, Weldon rolled to his right. With jet speed, Coryatt smothered the Seminole quarterback, sacking him in the end zone for a safety. It was one of 10 solo tackles for Coryatt who ended the day with 15 stops, three of them resulting in minus-12 yards in losses.
Craig Erickson, Miami, Quarterback, 1991
Statistics and Biography
1991 Classic:Miami 46, Texas 3
Rushing:6 attempts, -28 yards
Passing:17-26-0, 272 yards, 4 TDs
Before Miami’s Craig Erickson could touch the football, he was faced with a first-and-40 situation at his 19-yard line. Two consecutive deadball penalties to start the game had the Hurricanes in a jam against No. 3 Texas. However, Erickson didn’t seem to mind. It took him only three plays to gobble up 52 yards and set up an early field goal. It was an omen of good things to come for the Hurricanes. Erickson tossed four touchdown passes of 12, 24, 48 and four yards to break a Classic passing record that had stood for 53 years.
Rob Johnson, USC, Quarterback, 1995
Statistics and Biography
1995 Classic:USC 55, Texas Tech 14
Rushing:3 attempts, -18 yards
Passing:16-21-0, 289 yards, 3 TD
Rob Johnson never could have predicted that his final game at USC would be such a record-shattering day. The Trojans literally rewrote history in a 55-14 sacking of Texas Tech in 1995, setting Cotton Bowl records for total offense, passing yards, and most points in a quarter, half and game. Johnson enjoyed a sensational afternoon, throwing for 289 yards and three touchdowns. He connected on 16-of-21 pass attempts with no interceptions and averaged a staggering 13.8 yards per attempt. Johnson's work was done just minutes into the third quarter, retiring to the sideline with a massive 41-0 lead. It was an awesome display of textbook football and a storybook ending to his USC career.
Shay Muirbrook, BYU, Linebacker, 1997
Statistics and Biography
1997 Classic:BYU 19, Kansas State 15
Defensive Statistics:12 tackles, 11 unassisted
Tackles For Loss:6 QB sacks for -38 yards
Eluding the grasp of BYU middle linebacker Shay Muirbrook was virtually impossible. No one got by Muirbrook, a four-year starter and the heart of a stingy defensive unit. More often than not, he stopped opponents in their tracks for lost yardage. Kansas State found that out the hard way in the 1997 Classic. Muirbrook registered a Cotton Bowl record six sacks for 38 yards in losses. His first sack of the day set the tone for the BYU defense. Taking advantage of a punt that pinned K-State on its two-yard line late in the first quarter, Muirbrook nailed the quarterback for a safety and the first points of the game. It was the start of an incredible performance of 11 solo tackles that led to a 19-15 victory for BYU.
Steve Sarkisian, BYU, Quarterback, 1997
Statistics and Biography
1997 Classic:BYU 19, Kansas State 15
Rushing:15 attempts, -20 yards
Passing:21-36-1, 291 yards, 2 TD
When BYU rolled into Dallas for the inaugural AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic in 1997, the Cougars were known as a flashy, quick striking offense. At the controls of this high-powered attack was Steve Sarkisian, the nation's top passer, who had BYU gunning for its 14th victory of the season, an NCAA record. Standing in the way was Kansas State, and heading into the final quarter, BYU found itself trailing, 15-5. With pressure mounting on every play, the resourceful Sarkisian literally willed the Cougars to victory with touchdown throws of 32 and 28 yards. The last drive covered 60 yards and came with just 3:39 to play. Sarkisian's grit and determination propelled BYU to an exhilarating 19-15 victory.
Chuck Webb, Tennessee, Tailback, 1990
Statistics and Biography
1990 Classic:Tennessee 31, Arkansas 27
Rushing:26 attempts, 250 yards, 2 TDs
Tennessee’s Chuck Webb played like Superman in the 1990 Classic. The Vols’ elusive freshman tailback sailed past Arkansas defenders for 250 yards, a rushing total that fell just short of the amazing record of 265 yards set by Rice’s Dicky Maegle in 1954. Webb scored twice against the Razorbacks. His second touchdown literally broke the game open. Arkansas had just chopped the Tennessee lead to 24-13 late in the third quarter when Webb responded by dashing 78 yards for the Volunteers’ final score of the day.
Ricky Williams, Texas, Running Back, 1999
Statistics and Biography
1999 Classic:Texas 38, Mississippi State 11
Rushing:30 attempts, 203 yards, 2 TD
Receiving:5 receptions, 45 yards
Ricky Williams was precision in motion. The explosive Texas running back with hydraulic thighs and blazing speed was the buzz of college football as the landslide winner of the Heisman Trophy. All eyes turned toward Dallas for his career finale against Mississippi State in the 1999 AT&T Cotton Bowl. Three plays into the second half, the decorated Longhorn running back broke loose up the middle and sailed 37 yards for his first score of the day. As he crossed the goal line, Williams pulled up and struck the classic Heisman pose and sparked a celebration of major proportions. Powered by Williams' 203 rushing yards, Texas cruised to a 38-11 decision and its first New Year's Day bowl victory in 17 years.