1989 Mobil Cotton Bowl Classic
53rd Cotton Bowl Classic
1234 Total
UCLA 01403 17
Arkansas 0030 3
DateJanuary 2, 1989
StadiumCotton Bowl
MVPQB Troy Aikman (UCLA)
LB LaSalle Harper (Arkansas)
RefereeGene Wurtz (WAC)
Halftime showUCLA Band, University of Arkansas Razorback Marching Band, Kilgore Rangerettes, U.S. Marine Band
United States TV coverage
AnnouncersVerne Lundquist and Pat Haden
Cotton Bowl Classic
 < 1988  1990

The 1989 Mobil Cotton Bowl Classic was a college football bowl game played on January 2, 1989, at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. The game was played on January 2, the day after New Year's Day, since New Year's Day fell on a Sunday. The bowl game featured the Arkansas Razorbacks from the Southwest Conference and the UCLA Bruins from the Pacific-10 Conference and was televised in the United States on CBS. UCLA defeated Arkansas 17-3 for its first Cotton Bowl win.[1] Troy Aikman, the UCLA quarterback and LaSalle Harper, an Arkansas linebacker were named the Most Valuable Players of the game.

Game invitation

See also: 1988 NCAA Division I-A football season

Arkansas Razorbacks

The 1988 Arkansas Razorbacks football team was undefeated through Southwest Conference play. In the final regular season game, the #3 Miami Hurricanes defeated the Razorbacks, 18-16.[2] Arkansas was invited to the Cotton Bowl Classic as the winner of the Southwest Conference. Arkansas played in its first Cotton Bowl Classic since the 1976 Cotton Bowl Classic.

UCLA Bruins

Going into the UCLA–USC rivalry game, UCLA was 9-1 and had been ranked #1 for a couple of weeks earlier. Eric Ball , the 1986 Rose Bowl MVP had a crucial fumble in the UCLA vs Washington State game, when the #1 ranked Bruins were upset at home by the Cougars 34-30.[3] The game was one of the notable ones in the UCLA–USC rivalry in that it was for the Pac-10 championship, a possible Heisman Trophy for either Troy Aikman of UCLA or Rodney Peete of USC. It was also for the Rose Bowl berth. Rodney Peete was found to have measles in the days before the game. USC used a strong ground game and "bend but don't break" defense, in front of the largest Rose Bowl Stadium regular season crowd in history, to beat the Bruins 31-22. The Cotton Bowl Classic agreed to take the team that would not be going to the 1989 Rose Bowl. UCLA was the first Pac-10 team to play in the Cotton Bowl Classic and first from the West Coast since the 1949 Cotton Bowl Classic where the University of Oregon played SMU.

Pre-game buildup

Having been ranked number 1 but ultimately losing the conference championship left the Bruins and fans with unrealized expectations.[4] It was still possible for UCLA to achieve an NCAA record seven consecutive bowl game victories, and five New Years' day bowl game wins in seven years.

The 1989 game between UCLA and Arkansas was highly publicized in the Dallas area because UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman was expected to be the #1 pick in the NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys.[5] Much was made of Cowboys coach Tom Landry watching Aikman practice at Texas Stadium (UCLA's practice facility for game preparation). Head coach Ken Hatfield suspended All-American defensive end Wayne Martin and All-American offensive guard Freddie Childress days before the game, for an undisclosed violation of team rules.[6] This severely hampered Arkansas' play on both sides of the line of scrimmage.[4]

Game summary

First quarter

No Score

Second quarter

Third quarter

Fourth quarter



UCLA Bruins quarterback Troy Aikman completed 19 of 27 passes for 172 yards, and Bruin teammate Shawn Wills rushed for 120 yards. UCLA held Arkansas to four first downs and 42 yards, the lowest yardage total in Arkansas school history.[5] UCLA finished number 6 in the final AP poll, and Arkansas was ranked 12. UCLA set a record for consecutive bowl victories with seven. This record was later broken by Florida State.

Tom Landry never got to draft Aikman, because he was fired the next month, but his successor, Jimmy Johnson, did draft Aikman. Aikman would go on to lead the Dallas Cowboys to three Super Bowl titles in the 1990s in his Hall of Fame career. Jimmy Johnson, coach of the Miami Hurricanes, had played at the University of Arkansas with Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

Arkansas' Wayne Martin and Steve Atwater were also first round draft selections in the 1989 NFL Draft. Martin played twelve years for the New Orleans Saints, and Atwater won two Super Bowls of his own with the Denver Broncos and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020.

Because the #2 Miami Hurricanes already had lost to #1 ranked Notre Dame, the Irish would play #3 West Virginia for the de facto national championship in the 1989 Fiesta Bowl.

In an interview with SBNation Arkansas Fight in 2009, Ken Hatfield still never specifically stated what team rules were broken to leave Freddie Childress and Wayne Martin out of the Cotton Bowl.[7]


  1. ^ a b Bruins, Led by Aikman, Win 7th Bowl in a Row. Associated Press, January 3, 1989
  2. ^ Markus, Robert - MIAMI DOESN`T BREEZE PAST ARKANSAS THIS TIME. Chicago Tribune, November 27, 1988
  3. ^ JAY HOVDEY. Unbeaten U.C.L.A. Is Upset. New York Times. October 30. 1988 Quote:U.C.L.A.'s best running play ended when the tailback Eric Ball fumbled at the Bruin 37 after a gain of 17 yards. The fumble occurred midway through the third quarter, when U.C.L.A. led, 27-13. Five plays later, Washington State scored the second of four successive touchdowns. The fumble was typical of the seesaw nature of the game.
  4. ^ a b Crowe, Jerry - THE BOWL GAMES : COTTON BOWL : Bowl Record Provides Incentive for UCLA. Los Angeles Times, January 2, 1989
  5. ^ a b McNabb, David – Arkansas finds nowhere to roam UCLA yields 42 yards, wins Cotton, 17-3. Dallas Morning News, January 3, 1989
  6. ^ SPORTS PEOPLE: FOOTBALL; Arkansas Suspends 2. New York Times, December 24, 1988, Section 1, Page 22
  7. ^ Arkansas Expats - Q&A: Ken Hatfield, Part 2. SBNation, Arkansas Fight. September 10, 2009. "...because of a couple of situations, we had to leave our two best players - Freddie Childress and Wayne Martin - at home for the Cotton Bowl. Either one of them would have been a dominant factor against UCLA."