On December 31, 1969, #17 Houston beat twelfth-ranked Auburn in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl, 36-7. The Cougars held the Plainsmen to one rushing yard for the game.
“Houston was the best team we faced all year,” Auburn head coach Shug Jordan said after the game. After two early losses, the Cougars ran off nine-straight wins to end the year 9-2 and #12 in the AP Poll.
The teams broke 15 Bluebonnet Bowl records, including UH’s 376 yards rushing. Jim Strong had 184 yards on the ground.
Auburn’s only score came late in the second quarter when a running back threw a 36-yard TD pass. Future Heisman winner Pat Sullivan played just over three quarters in the game for Auburn but struggled to get going against the Mad Dog Defense.
“Auburn was tough and never quit fighting,” Houston head coach Bill Yeoman said in the postgame.
At halftime, the National Association of Rocketry launched a Saturn V from the 50-yard line. The rocket used a special motor produced to ensure that the rocket’s maximum altitude would remain below the 194-foot ceiling height of the Astrodome. The crowd went crazy as the rocket lifted off the ground just five months after the United States put the first men on the moon.
The teams each received $200,000 for playing in the game. Auburn chartered three jets for the trip and sent five busloads of band members.
Five participants from the ’69 Bluebonnet Bowl eventually landed in the College Football Hall of Fame: the two head coaches, Yeoman and Jordan, Elmo Wright, Auburn’s Sullivan, and receiver Tim Beasley.
Here is video and a photo gallery from the game: