DALLAS — Troy Aikman was at the crossroads at Texas Stadium Monday, ending a fine collegiate career with the kind of passing that made his reputation at UCLA.
And, if he is the Dallas Cowboys' No. 1 pick in next April's National Football League draft as expected, the quarterback gave hopeful Dallas fans some optimisim.
Aikman's third-down efficiency confused Arkansas on two long touchdown drives as the ninth-ranked Bruins set an National Collegiate Athletic Assn. record with their seventh consecutive bowl victory, beating the Razorbacks, 17-3, in the Cotton Bowl.
Aikman converted 12 of 20 third-down opportunities and threw a touchdown pass as the Bruins again showed their domination in postseason play.
UCLA (10-2) broke a tie with Georgia Tech, Nebraska, USC and Alabama in claiming a spot in the record books with a seventh bowl victory. The Bruins' victory streak includes three Rose Bowls, a Fiesta, an Aloha and a Freedom Bowl.
Aikman overcame an early interception to direct the Bruins on touchdown drives of 93 and 74 yards as UCLA gained a 14-0 halftime edge over the Hogs, who had only two first downs at halftime.
Aikman converted 6 straight third-down plays before Mark Estwick scored on a 1-yard run for a 6-0 Bruin lead after a scoreless first period. The extra-point kick made it 7-0.
Late in the first half, Aikman took UCLA on a beat-the-clock drive in which he fooled Arkansas (10-2) for the second touchdown. On third-and-goal from the Hogs' 1, he bootlegged the ball on a fake sweep then threw a touchdown pass to tight end Corwin Anthony with 21 seconds left for a 14-0 lead.
Arkansas' Kendall Trainor kicked his 24th consecutive field goal, a 49-yarder, in the third period to keep the Hogs from a shutout.
UCLA's only second half points came on Alfredo Velasco's 32-yard field goal in the fourth period.
Aikman made excellent use of UCLA's running game, handing off to freshman tailback Shawn Wills 18 times for 120 yards.
Aikman was closely watched by members of the downtrodden Cowboys' organization, who are thinking about making him the first pick in the NFL draft.
Dallas Coach Tom Landry watched on television but scout Gil Brandt was in the press box.
Aikman finished his career at UCLA with a 20-4 record as a starter. He hit 19 of 27 passes for 172 yards.
UCLA's alert defense held Arkansas to only four first downs, one by penalty.
The clear, windless day was ideal for UCLA's passing attack. It was the first appearance for a West Coast team in the Cotton Bowl since Oregon played Southern Methodist 40 years ago.
A sellout crowd of 74,304 watched Aikman overcome early jitters, failing to see Arkansas linebacker LaSalle Harper at the Razorback 12. The interception ended a UCLA first-period drive that had reached the Hog 17 after an interception and 20-yard return by Darryl Henley.
UCLA's first touchdown drive was helped by a personal foul against Arkansas' Otis Lloyd after Aikman had been stopped short on a third-down run.
Aikman then completed a 10-yard pass to Reggie Moore, a 12-yard pass to Mike Farr, and a 9-yard pass to Brendan McCracken, all on third down, on the 93-yard scoring drive.
The 74-yard scoring drive was aided by Aikman's 20-yard third down pass to Paul Richardson.
Aikman converted 8 of 12 third down opportunities in the first half. He also completed passes to 10 different receivers as he read the Arkansas defense.
UCLA lost another chance to score in the third period when Laurence Burkley fumbled at the Arkansas 7 and Kerry Crawford recovered for the Hogs.
It was only the second meeting between the schools. They tied, 10-10, in the 1978 Fiesta Bowl.
DONAHUE ROLLS A 7 A look at UCLA Coach Terry Donahue's 7 consecutive postseason victories:
Date Bowl Score Jan. 1, 1983 Rose UCLA 24, Michigan 14 Jan 2, 1984 Rose UCLA 45, Illinois 9 Jan. 1, 1985 Fiesta UCLA 39, Miami 37 Jan. 1, 1986 Rose UCLA 45, Iowa 28 Dec. 30, 1986 Freedom UCLA 31, Brigham Young 10 Dec. 25, 1987 Aloha UCLA 20, Florida 16 Jan. 2, 1989 Cotton UCLA 17, Arkansas 3