Holtz planned a conservative attack, running inside at Houston's strength—"Because," he said, "that's also where we're strongest." This strategy paid quick dividends, too. On the first Razorback play from scrimmage, freshman Running Back Gary Anderson burst 46 yards off right guard. Four plays later a 35-yarder by Ordonez gave Arkansas a 3-0 lead. Then, in the second quarter, the Razor-backs marched 80 yards in 12 plays for their only touchdown. In that drive Quarterback Kevin Scanlon, who broke nearly all of Joe Namath's career passing records at Beaver Falls (Pa.) High School, completed three first-down passes before covering the final 34 yards himself on two consecutive runs.
Unfortunately, in between these two scores came the first of three disastrous turnovers of the sort that Holtz had figured his cautious offensive plans would eliminate. Indeed, before the game, he stated flatly, "I don't think we'll fumble." As an afterthought, he added, "But then I'm not carrying the ball." Five plays after Bryant's fumble recovery had stopped the Cougars' opening drive, Anderson fumbled at Arkansas' 25-yard line and Grady Turner, a Houston linebacker, fell on the ball. The Cougars quickly turned that error into a touchdown and a 7-3 lead. The TD came on a five-yard run by Terald Clark, who led all rushers in the game with 135 yards. After Scanlon's score had put Arkansas back in front 10-7, the Razorbacks made their second costly turnover. Midway through the third quarter they marched 58 yards to the Houston four. A score would have opened up a 17-7 lead. Instead, Scanlon fumbled while attempting a hand-off to Anderson, and Mitchell recovered.
Houston tied the score early in the fourth quarter when Cornerback Kenny Hatfield, who doubles as the Cougars' placekicker, booted a 37-yard field goal into a wind gusting to 25 mph, a remarkable kick in light of the fact that earlier he had been short from 46 yards with a gale at his back. The Cougars got their chance to go ahead when Turner, who had 19 tackles in the game, got his second turnover by intercepting a Scanlon pass. This time Houston played it close to the vest, marching 61 yards and eating up most of the remaining 6:08 by running trap plays through the middle of the Arkansas line. Twice in that drive the Razorbacks appeared to have recovered Cougar fumbles, but both times the referee ruled that play had been whistled dead before the ball popped loose. With 1:12 remaining, Hatfield kicked a 19-yard field goal to put Houston ahead 13-10.
But Arkansas still had that one final, fatal fling. Ordonez' game-ending attempt was set up by a play involving his counterpart, Hatfield. With 12 seconds left and the ball at midfield, Scanlon lobbed a desperation pass to Wide Receiver Robert Farrell. Hatfield, who's a 6-footer, was the defender, and the 6'5" Farrell outjumped him for the ball. "He's so much taller that he could go up with two hands while I could only go up with one," Hatfield explained. "I got my fingers on the ball, but it seemed to stick to his hands like glue."
On came Ordonez. But another of his storybook endings was simply not to be. And what made victory all the sweeter for the image-conscious Cougars was that one of their players had clinched this game by using his head.