Also, as in 1987, the game was played on January 2, but this was because New Year's Day fell on a Sunday in 1989 and, per protocols, all of the bowls that would normally take place that day were played on January 2. With NBC no longer televising the Rose Bowl, the kickoff for the Fiesta Bowl was moved three hours later, to 2:30 p.m. MST, and the game now had NBC's top broadcast team of Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen.
After West Virginia quarterback and Heisman candidate Major Harris separated his shoulder on the third play of the game, Notre Dame took control to claim their record eleventh national championship. Though Harris would return to the game, after the lackluster performance of West Virginia's second string QB, he was severely hampered by his injury.
Billy Hackett started the scoring with a 45-yard field goal to give Notre Dame an early 3–0 lead. Running back Anthony Johnson then scored on a 1-yard touchdown run, but the ensuing extra point missed, and the score remained 9–0. Early in the second quarter, Rodney Culver added a 5-yard touchdown run to increase Notre Dame's lead to 16–0.Charlie Baumann of West Virginia scored on a 29-yard field goal to cut the lead to 16–3.
Later in the second quarter, Tony Rice threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Raghib Ismail, to extend the lead to 23–3. Mountaineer Charlie Baumann added a 31-yard field goal before halftime to make it 23–6.
Early in the third quarter, Reggie Ho added a 32-yard field goal to increase the Irish lead to 26–6. WVU quarterback Harris hit Grantis Bell for a 17-yard touchdown pass, cutting the lead to 26–13. He later left the game with an injury. Rice threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Frank Jacobs. Rice later took it in himself for the 2-point conversion, giving Notre Dame a 34–13 lead. WVU scored with a 3-yard touchdown run by Reggie Rembert, who also converted the 2-point conversion, making the score 34–21. Notre Dame sealed the win by intercepting a pass in the end zone.
Notre Dame retained its top ranking in the final AP poll and West Virginia fell to fifth.As of 2018, this remains the most recent national championship for the Irish.