The 1990 Alabama squad opened the season ranked No. 13 only to be upset by Southern Miss in the opening game en route to an 0–3 start. Following a victory over Auburn in the Iron Bowl, the Crimson Tide finished the regular season with a record of 7–4 and accepted a bid to play in the Fiesta Bowl. The appearance marked the first for Alabama in the Fiesta Bowl, and the first for Gene Stallings as Alabama's head coach.
Cardinals quarterback Browning Nagle started the scoring with a 70-yard touchdown pass to Latrell Ware to give Louisville an early 7–0 lead. Running back Ralph Dawkins scored next on a 5-yard touchdown run to increase Louisville's lead to 13–0. Nagle later threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Cummings giving the Cards a 19–0 lead after the 2-point conversion attempt failed. Alabama's next possession resulted in a blocked punt, which Louisville recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. Another failed 2-point conversion kept the lead at 25–0, a huge lead Louisville raced to after one quarter.
In the second quarter, Louisville had the ball again, before backup quarterback Jeff Brohm threw an interception, that was returned 49 yards for an Alabama touchdown. The interception returned for a touchdown cut the lead to 25–7, but those would be the only points Alabama would score the entire game. Louisville's defense shut down the powerful Alabama offense.
In the third quarter, Nagle threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Cummings to give Louisville a 32–7 lead. Louisville's last points came in the fourth quarter on a safety, when Alabama's quarterback was called for intentional grounding in the end zone.