This video provides a wonderful walk down memory lane of the first 50 Cotton Bowl Classic games….as told by legendary sportscaster Lindsey Nelson…..who was behind the mike for all 50….as the story of the fabled game went something like this.
The Cotton Bowl Classic was founded in Dallas in 1937 at the Texas State Fair Grounds….when Texas oil executive J. Curtis Sanford financed the first one out of his own pocket….as TCU and star quarterback Sammy Baugh took on Marquette….while winning 16 – 6….but the game lost money even though some 17,000 attended. Nonetheless, Sanford persevered, and in 1938 the game made a profit as Rice University defeated Colorado University 28 – 14 in front of a crowd of 37,000…..which was followed by some 40,000 in attendance for the 1939 match between Saint Mary’s College of California and Texas Tech….as the Gaels upset the undefeated Red Raiders 20–13.
In 1940, an underdog Clemson team surprised the Boston College Eagles by a score of 6 – 3….in what would be the first and only appearance at the Cotton Bowl Classic by Tigers coach Frank Howard. Later that year, a group of prominent Dallas citizens took over the staging of the game as the Cotton Bowl Athletic Association. A few months later, the CBAA became an agency of the Southwest Conference…..after which from 1941 to 1994, the SWC’s champion hosted the Cotton Bowl Classic.
In 1943, The Texas Longhorns represented the SWC in their first ever bowl game against a highly ranked Georgia Tech team at the time….when prior to the game, sportswriters boasted that Texas did not belong in the same league as Georgia Tech….but the Horns proved the public wrong by defeating the Yellow Jackets 14–7 in what was mostly a defensive battle. This Cotton Bowl was the first bowl appearance for Texas….as the Longhorns would go on to appear in a record 22 Cotton Bowls, the most of any team.
In 1946, Missouri was defeated by Texas, despite the 4th quarter work of freshman fullback Robert (Bob) Lee Clodfelter….who was to mature under Weeb Ewbank at Washington University in St. Louis the next three years. In 1947 LSU and Arkansas played in front of 38,000 people to a 0–0 tie in what would later become known as the “Ice Bowl.”….in which LSU would get the better of Arkansas most of the game….but the game truly belonged to the weatherman. In 1948 Penn State, in a bowl game for the first time in 25 years, played SMU to a 13–13 tie. This Cotton Bowl was also notable because none of the Dallas hotels would provide accommodations for the two African-American members of the Penn State team….so, the Penn State team ended up staying at a Naval Air Station 14 miles from Dallas. This was the first interracial game played at the Cotton Bowl Stadium.
The 1953 Cotton Bowl would be a rematch of the 1951 bowl game between Texas and Tennessee….as Texas defensive stars shut out the Vols 16–0….allowing the Horns to avenge the previous meeting when Tennessee beat Texas 20–14. The 1954 Cotton Bowl Classic featured one of the most famous plays in college football history….as Rice’s Dickey Moegle began a run around end from his team’s 5-yard line and down the open field….when out of nowhere, Alabama’s Tommy Lewis jumped off the bench and tackled Moegle. The referee, Cliff Shaw, saw what happened and signaled touchdown even though Moegle was “tackled” at the 42-yard line.
The 1957 Classic matched the TCU Horned Frogs against the Jim Brown-led Syracuse Orangemen….,as Brown rushed for 135 yards….scored three touchdowns….and kicked three extra points….but a fourth-quarter blocked extra point by TCU’s Chico Mendoza proved the margin of victory as TCU won, 28-27….after TCU QB Chuck Curtis passed for 174 yards….throwing for two touchdowns….and rushed for another to lead the Frogs.
In 1960, Syracuse defeated Texas 23 – 14 to win the national championship….as Syracuse was led by bowl MVP Ernie Davis….who ran for one touchdown….caught a Cotton Bowl Classic record 87-yard touchdown….and intercepted a pass leading to a third touchdown. There was a brawl on the field just before the end of the first half….as it has been said that it was because of Texas taking cheap shots at Ernie Davis. In 1961, Davis became the first black athlete to win the Heisman Trophy, but he died of leukemia before his pro career could begin.
Duke defeated Arkansas 7 – 6 in the 1961 game….as the Blue Devils scored with 2:45 remaining….and recovered a fumble on the ensuing series to win the game. In 1962, Texas would again be selected to play in the Cotton Bowl after winning another SWC Crown….and this time the Longhorns faced a highly talented Mississippi Rebels team….in a game that was low scoring and came down to the final quarter as Texas won 12 – 7.
The 1963 Cotton Bowl Classic featured the returning Texas Longhorns and the LSU Tigers….who, like Mississippi, were from the SEC…..as Lynn Amedee’s 23 yard field goal gave the Tigers a 3–0 halftime lead after Texas had missed their own field goal which led to an 80-yard LSU drive…..then Amedee recovered a Longhorn fumble at the 37 early in the third quarter….and Jimmy Field scored 5 plays later on a touchdown run….then Buddy Hamic recovered a Longhorn fumble to set up an Amedee field goal 13 plays later….as the Tigers shut the Longhorns out.
In 1964, # 1 Texas completed an undefeated season by defeating No. 2 Navy….who were led by Heisman Trophy winner and future Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach…..in a game that was played six weeks after the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy in the same city, Dallas, where the Cotton Bowl was played. The 1964 game is the second bowl game in college football history to pair the # 1 and # 2 teams in the nation…..with the 1963 Rose Bowl being the first.
In 1965, the Arkansas Razorbacks took an undefeated record (10–0) into the Classic versus a 9–1 Nebraska Cornhuskers team. Although Alabama had been awarded the AP and UPI (Coaches) polls national titles before the bowl games….which was standard at that time….so, Arkansas still had a chance to claim a share of the national championship with a victory over Nebraska. After a hard-fought defensive battle, the Hogs prevailed 10 – 7. That victory, coupled with an Alabama loss in the Orange Bowl to Texas (a team Arkansas defeated in Austin, Texas.)….gave Arkansas the Grantland Rice Trophy awarded by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), signifying the Razorbacks were the true National Champions of the 1964 season.
The 1968 game saw SWC champs Texas A&M, led by coach Gene Stallings defeat former A&M head coach Bear Bryant and the Alabama Crimson Tide….when Stallings was one of Bryant’s “Junction Boys”….as well as a former assistant….and would eventually go on to coach the Tide. After the Aggies defeated the Tide 20 – 16, Bryant embraced Stallings and carried him off the field.
In 1969, Texas was off and running with its new offensive formation, the Wishbone. After dismantling all opponents of the 1968 season, Texas won the SWC crown again….and this time faced the Tennessee Volunteers….in what was a lopsided win for Texas with almost 400 rushing yards….as the Horns won by 36 – 13.
The 1970 game featured Notre Dame’s return to bowl games after a 45-year self-imposed ban….and when the Irish made that decision, 9 – 1 LSU was overlooked for the game and the Tigers stayed home instead. The Irish, led by quarterback Joe Theismann, faced top-ranked and undefeated Texas…..when Notre Dame led 17 – 14 late in the fourth quarter….but the Longhorns scored a late touchdown to clinch a 21–17 victory and an undisputed national championship.
The same two teams met the next year, but this time, the Irish ended the Longhorns’ 30-game winning streak with a 24 – 11 victory….while denying Texas the Associated Press national championship….even though the Longhorns had already clinched the regular season championship in the UPI poll, a pre-bowl poll until the 1974 season….as Nebraska won the AP title. Texas and Notre Dame met again in the 1978 game, with the Longhorns again top-ranked, only to see the Irish and quarterback Joe Montana roll to a 38–10 victory. The Irish vaulted from fifth to first in the final polls with the victory.
The 1973 game featured Texas and Alabama once again playing in a bowl game. Alabama led 13–10 going into the 4th quarter when Texas quarterback, Alan Lowry, ran the bootleg to perfection and scrambled 32 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. Again, Texas defeated Alabama and Bear Bryant, 17 – 13.
The 1976 Cotton Bowl showcased SWC co-Champ Arkansas against SEC stalwart Georgia. The Razorbacks had beaten # 2 Texas A&M in a blowout to force a tie for the conference crown….which opened the door for Arkansas to stroll to Dallas on New Year’s Day. After the Bulldogs jumped out to a 10–0 lead, the Hogs came roaring back, scoring 31 unanswered points, and defeating Georgia, 31 – 10. Arkansas finished the season 10–2.
The 1977 Cotton Bowl featured SWC Champions Houston Cougars….who were entering the Cotton Bowl for the first time against the undefeated Maryland Terrapins…..as the Cougars won a score of 30 – 21, handing the Terps their only loss of the year.
The 1979 Cotton Bowl Classic, nicknamed the Chicken Soup Game, featured one of the most historic comebacks in bowl history….as Notre Dame trailed Houston 34 – 12 midway through the fourth quarter….then thanks to a blocked punt and the brilliance of future NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana, the Irish rallied to win 35 – 34….which was their second consecutive Cotton Bowl Classic victory.
The 1982 game between Texas and Alabama would be the final time that Bear Bryant would face the Longhorns. Having lost to Texas in all meetings prior, Alabama went into the fourth quarter ahead 10 – 0….and it would appear that the Bear would finally get a win over Texas while at Alabama….but the Longhorns scored their first points on a quarterback draw by Robert Brewer on a 3rd-and-long with 10:38 remaining….and on their next possession, Horns RB Terry Orr scored from eight yards out to cap an 11-play, 80-yard drive that put the Longhorns up 14 – 10 with 2:05 remaining….and that is when Alabama’s Joey Jones returned the ensuing kickoff to the Texas 38-yard line….and Tide quarterback Walter Lewis took over with 1:54 left…..but on the very next play, UT’s William Graham picked off a Lewis pass at the one…..and the Longhorns took a safety to insure better field position….as Texas once again stunned Alabama and the Bear with a 14 – 12 victory.
The 1984 game featured # 7 Georgia of the SEC against undefeated # 2 Texas of the SWC…..when Texas led 9 – 3 with more than four minutes to play in a battle of field goals between Georgia’s Kevin Butler and Texas’ Jeff Ward. A Chip Andrews (Georgia) punt was muffed by Texas defensive back Craig Curry late in the fourth quarter….then Georgia quarterback John Lastinger ran 17 yards for a touchdown with 3:22 left to play to capture a 10 – 9 victory…..while costing the Longhorns a possible national title.