Baylor did the Miracle on the Brazos, winning the Southwest Conference championship for the first time since 1924, doing so after starting the season 0-2 by going 8-1 the rest of the way. They only lost one conference game (to A&M, who had two), but their most memorable win was against Texas, in which they came back from a 24-7 halftime deficit and beat the Longhorns for the first time in 17 years. This was their first Cotton Bowl Classic ever. The Nittany Lions on the other hand were making their 3rd appearance and 2nd in the decade.
Steve Beaird gave the Bears a promising start and the lead when he scored on a 4 yard touchdown run as the first quarter ended. Penn State retaliated with a Chris Bahr field goal with 1:09 left to narrow the lead to 7-3 at halftime. The Nittany Lions scored first with a Tom Donchez touchdown run. Baylor scored back with a Ricky Thompson touchdown catch from Neal Jeffrey. But Penn state scored on a Jimmy Cefalo catch from Tom Shuman as the Nittany Lions led 17-14 going into the fourth quarter. Things started to fall apart for the Bears in the fourth quarter. Jimmy Cefalo scored on a touchdown run to increase the lead. Bahr added in a field goal, and Mike Johnson intercepted a pass which led to a Shuman touchdown run. Running out of time, Thompson caught a touchdown pass from Mark Jackson with :14 left, missing the conversion. To add insult to injury, Joe Jackson returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, making it 41-20 as the final seconds ticked off, giving Penn State their second Cotton Bowl Classic win.