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January 1, 1980 • Cotton Bowl

Terry Elston hit Eric Herring with a six-yard touchdown pass with 12 seconds left to give the Cougars a 17-14 victory over seventh-ranked Nebraska in the 1980 Cotton Bowl. The victory lifted UH to an 11-1 record on the year, tying the most wins in school history, and a No. 5 final national ranking.

The Houston defense limited a potent Nebraska offense to just 227 yards on the day, less than half of their season average. The Cornhuskers, featuring Jarvis Redwine and I.M. Hipp, gained just 136 yards on 41 carries and tallied only 13 first downs in the game. Elston led Houston with 87 yards rushing on 22 carries while fullback John Newhouse added 64 yards. Herring caught five passes for 51 yards.

Nebraska jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first quarter on a nine-yard scoring run by Redwine. The teams then traded punts until Houston tied the game on Elston’s eight-yard run and Kenny Hatfield’s extra point at 12:17 of the second quarter. Elston’s 27-yard pass to Lonell Phea on third-and-six to the Nebraska 15 proved to be the key play of the drive. Through the next two quarters, the teams traded punts and turnovers with neither team reaching its opponents’ 30. The entire third quarter, in fact, was a series of three-and-outs.

Then Houston embarked on a 59-yard, 13-play drive that resulted in a 41-yard Hatfield field goal. Again, Elston hit Phea for a gain of 20 on the drive, which reached the Nebraska 24 before Hatfield’s kick. Houston took a 10-7 lead with 8:25 left.

Houston forced another Nebraska punt,but gave the ball back one play later when Newhouse fumbled. From first down on the Houston 31, the Cornhuskers drove to the six, where Quinn hit tight end Jeff Finn with a six-yard touchdown pass. Dean Sukup added the extra point to give NU a 14-10 lead with less than four minutes to play.

Starting on its own 34, the Cougars began a purposeful march downfield. Twice, they converted on third downs until reaching the Nebraska 20 with 59 seconds to play. An Elston-to-Herring hookup gained 11, but the next three plays netted just five yards, and the Cougars faced fourth-and-goal from the six with 19 seconds left. Then Elston found Herring cutting across the goal line for the touchdown, and Hatfield added the extra point to give UH a come-from-behind Cotton Bowl victory of its own.