Under third-year head coach Jack Elway, Stanford was making its first bowl appearance since the 1978 Bluebonnet Bowl. The Cardinal was led by running back Brad Muster, who was only the second Cardinal back to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season. Stanford's starting quarterback, John Paye, was sidelined for the game due to a shoulder injury and backup Greg Ennis was named the starter.
Clemson completely dominated the first half of the game, recording 291 yards of offense and 15 first downs, and scored touchdowns on runs from quarterback Rodney Williams and backs Chris Lancaster and Ray Williams.David Treadwell added two field goals to put the Tigers up 27–0 at halftime.
Stanford recovered in the second half, holding the Tigers scoreless while gradually bringing the score closer. Muster scored on a one-yard run in the third quarter, and then twice more on fourth quarter passes from Ennis. The Cardinal had several chances to tie or win the game, but Ennis was intercepted inside the 10-yard line on one drive, and turned the ball over on downs with less than two minutes remaining.