Cotton Bowl: The five greatest moments in the game's history

Friday, January 3, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CST

DALLAS — Missouri played in the Cotton Bowl just six years ago, but much has changed in Dallas since then.

The bowl game is no longer played at the venerable Cotton Bowl stadium, but rather it  is played at North America’s most luxurious football venue. Some call it the “Jerry Dome” (after its creator, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones). Some call it the “Death Star,” thanks to its relative likeness to the ominous space station in "Star Wars."

No matter the nickname, AT&T Stadium is quite the site. The futuristic sports hub looms over the Dallas suburb of Arlington. It is home to the five-time Super Bowl-champion Cowboys, but it has also been the Cotton Bowl site since 2010.

The game, which brought in 87,025 attendees last January out of a possible 105,000, is on perhaps the biggest stage of any non-BCS bowl. The stadium’s trademark 160-foot wide hanging Jumbotron is the most obvious proof that everything is bigger in Texas.

When Missouri players ran around the artificial turf field on Monday, they couldn’t look away from the giant video boards. A team crushed with disappointment after December’s Southeastern Conference Championship was perfectly smitten with its new destination.

“If you’re not in the national championship,” Gary Pinkel said to his team the day after the Cotton Bowl announcement, “this is where you want to be.’”

Despite all of this newfangled technology, the Cotton Bowl is one of the most tradition-filled college football games of the year. Friday will be the 78th annual game, and the Tigers will be looking to add their own signature pawprint to the contest.

Here are five of the Cotton Bowl’s most memorable moments:

5. Temple limps to the finish

The 2007 game between Missouri and Arkansas was billed as an offensive battle, with Arkansas running backs Darren McFadden (a Heisman finalist) and Felix Jones expected to steal the show on the ground.

Tigers redshirt junior Tony Temple racked up 159 yards and two touchdowns in the first half of an eventual Tigers' 38-7 blowout, but he injured his hamstring in the third quarter and would’ve missed the rest of the game if coach Gary Pinkel hadn’t realized Temple was just 24 yards away from the Cotton Bowl record (Dicky Maegle, 265).

In the final run of his college career, Temple half-ran, half-limped through the Razorbacks defense for a 40-yard touchdown to set the new bowl record with 281 yards on the ground. His teammates helped carry him off the field when it was clear he couldn’t make it on his own, and the victory celebration was officially on with little more than eight minutes left.

4. Layne wins it “all by himself”

Texas quarterback Bobby Layne would go on to be named to the 1950s NFL decade team and inducted into the pro football hall of fame, but his college career at Texas was also spectacular.

Perhaps his finest moment wearing a Longhorns uniform came against Missouri in the 1946 Cotton Bowl. The 19-year-old quarterback ran for four touchdowns, threw two more and successfully attempted four out of five extra points.

“The eyes of Texas were proudly focused Wednesday upon 19 year old Bobby Layne,” stated the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel the next day. “The kid who won a football game all by himself."

3. Bryant lifts Stallings after upset

Long before Johnny Manziel and Nick Saban, the Texas A&M Aggies and Alabama Crimson Tide played a classic at the Cotton Bowl in 1968. 

The No. 8 Tide, led by Bear Bryant, appeared to be a mismatch for Gene Stallings (a Bryant disciple at A&M) and the unranked Aggies. The back and forth contest featured a surprising pass-heavy game plan by A&M and out-of-character moments from the Tide, including one big play during which Alabama only had 10 men on the defense.

After a scoreless fourth quarter, the Aggies emerged victorious, and the legendary Bryant greeted Stallings by lifting him off the ground, a gesture that will forever be etched in bowl lore.

2. Alabama stops Dicky Maegle — sort of

Before Tony Temple’s record rushing day, Dicky Maegle was the holder of the Cotton Bowl’s single-game rushing record with 265 yards.

One run in particular was quickly legendary. With Maegle’s Rice offense backed up on its own five-yard-line, he took the handoff and broke free from the Tide defense. As he neared midfield, Alabama’s Tommy Lewis made the tackle. Problem was, Lewis wasn’t on the field at the beginning of the play. In fact, he had jumped off the bench and ran around teammates on the sideline to make the illegal play.

The referees awarded Maegle with a 95-yard touchdown, and Rice went on to win 28-6. The play still stands as the longest in Cotton Bowl history.

1. Montana caps off comeback for the ages

Thanks to an ice storm in Dallas, the windchill during the 1979 game was minus-six degrees. Houston owned the first three quarters, and Notre Dame quarterback Joe Montana was held out for most of the third quarter with a subnormal body temperature.

But Montana returned in the fourth and began chipping away at a 34-12 deficit. After the Irish returned a blocked punt for a touchdown with 7:25 left, Montana completed the two-point conversion. Then, he ran in a 2-yard score and completed another two-pointer with 4:15 left.

Down 34-28, the Irish got the ball one more time. With the ball on the Houston 8-yard-line and no time remaining, Montana fired the winning touchdown to Kris Haines, and Notre Dame pulled off the incredible comeback in the greatest Cotton Bowl game to date. 

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