On October 23, 1982, SMU owned the longest winning streak in the country at 10 games. Now ranked fourth nationally, the Mustangs traveled down to Austin for a showdown with the Longhorns - the last team to have beaten SMU, a 9-7 defensive struggle the year before. The Mustangs avenged their only defeat of 1981 by downing their long time nemesis 30-17 in one of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.
Prior to the game, Eric Dickerson had this to say: "I'd like to beat Texas more than anything else in the world. Our most important goal is to go undefeated and win the Cotton Bowl. Texas stands in the way of that."
The first quarter was reminiscent of the last meeting as both defenses had complete control holding their counterparts scoreless after fifteen minutes. SMU was able to break the tie on their first drive of the second quarter. On the first play of the quarter, Dickerson broke free for a 60-yard gain to the Texas 9 yard line. Three plays later, Dickerson powered his way into the end zone for a 7-0 SMU lead. After Texas fumbled away a scoring opportunity deep in SMU territory, the first half came to a close.
The second half started with SMU holding the Longhorns on their first possession and gaining good field possession on a short punt. SMU capitalized by putting kicker Jeff Harrell in position to knock through a 30-yard field goal for a 10-0 SMU advantage. Neither team was able to do anything for the rest of the quarter as the defenses once again took control. No one in Memorial Stadium could have expected the offensive explosion that would occur in the fourth quarter.
After forcing an SMU fumble, Texas quarterback Robert Brewer hit tight end Bobby Micho for a 51-yard touchdown strike after Blaine Smith fell down on the play. Less than a minute into the final quarter it was a three point game at 10-7. Texas stopped the Mustangs on their next possession and forced a Craig James punt. The Longhorns proceeded to march 42 yards in eight plays to set up a 41-yard field goal to tie the score at 10 with 8:35 left on the clock.
The play that changed the entire complexion of the game came on the ensuing Mustang series. After only gaining one yard on their first two plays, quarterback Lance McIlhenny went to the air on third and nine. McIlhenny tried to hit split end Bobby Leach up the left side, but Texas cornerback Jitter Fields was in position to make a play on the ball. However, Fields was unable to make the play and tipped the ball right into Leach's hands. Leach then raced 79-yards for a Mustang touchdown. On Texas' next drive Russell Carter stepped in front of a Brewer pass and returned it 35-yards to the Texas 35 yard line. Three plays later, McIlhenny went back to the air and connected with split end Jackie Wilson for another score. Jeff Harrell missed the extra point and SMU led 23-10. Texas responded by taking the kickoff and driving to the SMU 6-yard line. On fourth and goal, Brewer hit Herkie Walls for a circus catch in the end zone to bring Texas to within six with 1:25 left in the game.
SMU was able to cover the onside and only needed one first down to run out the clock. This set up a crucial third down and seven at the Texas 46-yard line with 56 seconds remaining. The Longhorns had just burned their final timeout and were gearing up to stop what they anticipated to be another run. However, McIlhenny surprised everyone by dropping back and finding Craig James, who had slipped behind the Texas defense undetected, for a 46-yard scoring pass to seal the win. Final score: SMU 30, Texas 17.
The 1982 Mustangs accomplished what Eric Dickerson had wanted: they beat Texas, went undefeated, and won the Cotton Bowl. The 30-17 win in Austin was the second straight in Memorial Stadium for the Pony Express making it one of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.