By BO MARCHIONTE
The University of Mississippi Rebels accomplished something only four other teams have managed to do in 74 years of Cotton Bowl play and that’s win back-to-back bowl games by defeating Oklahoma State 21-7. Coach Houston Nutt commented on it immediately in the post game press conference saying, “It’s hard to win back-to-back bowls. It’s very difficult.”
A game that was plagued with turnovers (twelve total) and saw both teams doing their fair share of trying to give the game away, it was Ole Miss who prevailed in front of the second largest Cotton Bowl crowd and the first ever at the new Cowboys Stadium with 77,928 in attendance. The feeling might have been the same if Coach Nutt was on the losing end when Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy said, “It’s hard to overcome giving one away. I think it’s tough to swallow. But, you know, we talked as a group in there. I’m not taking anything away from Ole Miss. Every time they made a mistake, we didn’t capitalize on it and take advantage of it”.
Even though both of these high-powered offenses ranked in the top 40 in scoring offense prior to today’s kickoff, the game will be remembered for the turnovers. Coach Nutt said, “It was ugly. I hate that (smiling). I hate the people in the country had to see that because we’re better than that. That infuriates you”.
With a game marred by dysfunctional quarterback play on both sides of the ball, it was Ole Miss senior running back Dexter McCluster (pictured) and now two-time Cotton Bowl MVP, who highlighted the day with 37 carries for 184 yards, along with five catches for 45 yards and two touchdowns. When asked if the heavy workload was a problem McCluster said, “I don’t have a problem with getting the ball that many times. Coach Nutt has the faith in me to take care of the ball. He knows I can make plays happen. I always dreamed about coming in and being a SEC running back”.
McCluster can definitely call himself a SEC running back, becoming the first player in conference history to rush for over 1,000 yards and catch over 500 receiving yards. Coach Nutt added, “To be the only player in the SEC to have over a thousand yards rushing and over 500 yards receiving, nobody, nobody else. Bo Jackson, I’m talking about great players in this league. He’s the only one. But this is why this is so special because this guy had done something. His heart is bigger than this stadium, I promise you”.
On te afternoon, OSU running back Keith Toston (pictured) had more touchdown passes than both teams signal callers combined, Cowboys quarterback Zac Robinson and Rebels quarterback Jevan Snead. It was that kind of day. It was as if each team was allowing the other to take the momentum. When asked if this was the most frustrating win he’s ever been involved with, Snead said, “I think it was. Obviously it was frustrating. I’m disappointed with the way that I played”. After a devastating hit, which led to his second interception, Snead came out for freshman quarterback Nathan Stanley, who grew up some 90 miles from Stillwater, Oklahoma in Tahlequah. Stanley replaced Snead with 11:32 in the second quarter.
Coach Nutt commented on Stanley coming in saying, “I was just trying to find something. Jevan wasn’t having his best game. He was turning it over. Sometimes you got to make a tough move. Nathan has got a good arm, made some good plays for us. As it got tighter, I just needed the most experience I had. I had to go back with Jevan”.
As bad as the offenses played, the defenses need to be given their due for forcing those turnovers. The defensive MVP of the 2010 Cotton Bowl was Oklahoma State senior linebacker Andre Sexton, who had ten tackles and two interceptions. Sexton expressed that, “It’s a great award. But it doesn’t really mean that much; we don’t come away with a win”.
Only three offensive touchdowns by two team’s that average 30 points per game during the season. It was a game of big hits and defensive stands with two on the goal line one by each team. It’s games that sometimes go as far away from the norm that make them special and this 2010 AT&T Cotton Bowl was just that.
Photos Courtesy of Dennis Hubbard
Sunday, January 3, 2010
By BO MARCHIONTE