1983 Cotton Bowl Classic
47th Cotton Bowl Classic
1234 Total
Pittsburgh 0030 3
SMU 0007 7
DateJanuary 1, 1983
StadiumCotton Bowl
LocationDallas, Texas
MVPWes Hopkins       (SMU SS)
Lance McIlhenny (SMU QB)
FavoritePittsburgh by 2½ points[1]
RefereeJimmy Harper (SEC)
Attendance60,359 [2]
United States TV coverage
AnnouncersLindsey Nelson, Pat Haden,
and Pat O'Brien
Cotton Bowl Classic
 < 1982  1984

The 1983 Cotton Bowl Classic was the 47th edition of the college football bowl game, played at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday, January 1.[3] Part of the 1982–83 bowl game season, it matched the fourth-ranked SMU Mustangs of the Southwest Conference (SWC) and the #6 Pittsburgh Panthers, an independent.[2][4][5] A slight underdog, SMU rallied in the fourth quarter to win, 7–3.[6]

The game featured SMU running back Eric Dickerson and Pittsburgh quarterback Dan Marino; both were first round picks in the 1983 NFL Draft and are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Despite the two teams combining for 622 yards, only ten points were scored in the game as there were four turnovers, and the final one decided the game.


Main article: 1982 NCAA Division I-A football season


Main article: 1982 Pittsburgh Panthers football team

The Panthers won their first seven games and attained the #1 ranking, but lost at home to Notre Dame, and later fell at rival Penn State, the eventual national champion. Through 2024, this is their only appearance in the Cotton Bowl.


Main article: 1982 SMU Mustangs football team

The Mustangs opened with ten wins, then tied Arkansas. This was SMU's fourth Cotton Bowl, their first in sixteen years, and remains the program's most recent major bowl appearance.

Game summary

Televised by CBS, the game kicked off shortly after 12:30 p.m. CST, as did the Fiesta Bowl on NBC.[3] Temperatures in Dallas were around freezing (32 °F (0 °C)), with light rain and sleet.

The Panthers drove to the SMU 1-yard line on the game's opening series, but Panther halfback Joe McCall fumbled, and Mustang safety Wes Hopkins fell on the loose ball at the 2-yard line. SMU and Pittsburgh did not score in the half, the first scoreless first half in the Cotton Bowl in 22 years.[2]

On their first possession of the third quarter, the Panthers scored first when Eric Schubert booted a 43-yard field goal. SMU went on an 80-yard drive, capped by quarterback Lance McIlhenny's nine-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, which was the only touchdown of the day.

Dan Marino then engineered a drive which put the Panthers in scoring position at the SMU 7-yard line. On third-and goal and under pressure, Marino threw a pass, but it was tipped by Hopkins and intercepted in the end zone by Blane Smith, helping to clinch the victory for SMU, who finished without a loss for the season.[2][4][7]


First quarter

No scoring

Second quarter

No scoring

Third quarter

Fourth quarter



Statistics      SMU      Pittsburgh
First Downs 22 17
Yards Rushing 60–153 29–104
Yards Passing 101 181
Passing 5–9–0 19–37–1
Total Offense 69–254 66–285
Punts–Average 4–38.0 3–44.7
Fumbles–Lost 4–2 1–1
Turnovers 2 2
Penalties–Yards 2–30 8–74
Time of possession 32:48 27:12

Game leaders



SMU climbed to second in the final AP poll and Pittsburgh fell to tenth.


  1. ^ "The latest line". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. January 1, 1983. p. 13.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Mustangs (11-0-1) cotton to No. 1". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. January 2, 1983. p. 4D.
  3. ^ a b "Cotton Bowl". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). wire services reports. January 1, 1983. p. 3B.
  4. ^ a b Putnam, Pat (January 10, 1983). "Cottoning on to No. 2, it's SMWho". Sports Illustrated: 21.
  5. ^ Smizik, Bob (January 2, 1983). "Punchless Pitt kayoed by SMU in Cotton, 7-3". Pittsburgh Press. p. C1.
  6. ^ "SMU stakes claim to No. 1 ranking". The Bulletin. (Bend, Oregon). UPI. January 2, 1983. p. F2.
  7. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 11, 2014. Retrieved December 28, 2014.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)