After two losses to Florida and Oklahoma State, the Cougars won eight straight games, including a perfect 5–0 record in the Astrodome, in their first bowl game since 1962. The Tigers finished third in the Southeastern Conference, after losses to #17 Tennessee and #9 LSU. This was their second straight bowl game.
Auburn's Terry Beasly fumbled the opening kickoff and Houston safety Nick Holm recovered to set up a Houston opportunity three minutes into the game. Quarterback Gary Mullins scored on a touchdown plunge to make it 7–0. After Auburn punted the ball, Houston drove 70 yards in 14 plays, culminating with a Carlos Lopez 27-yard field goal to make it 10–0 in the beginning of the second quarter. After another Auburn punt, the Cougars scored again, highlighted by a 74-yard run by Jim Strong on first-and-10 at Houston's 16 to the Auburn 10. He scored on a touchdown plunge soon after. Auburn’s Mickey Zofko completed a 36-yard halfback option pass to Connie Frederick to make it 16–7 with 3:36 in the half. An 8- play, 71-yard drive was culminated by a Ted Heiskell touchdown run to make it 22–7 in the third quarter. With 11:48 remaining in the game, Houston scored again on a 12 yard touchdown run by Strong. With :35 seconds left, Rusty Clark threw a touchdown pass to Tommy Mozisek to make the final score 36–7. Jim Strong rushed for 184 yards on 32 carries.