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Instant analysis: Ole Miss 21, Oklahoma State 7

1/2/2010

A quick look at Ole Miss’ 21-7 victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday in the AT&T Cotton Bowl:

How the game was won: Senior running back Dexter McCluster provided all the offense the Rebels needed with 227 all-purpose yards, and they somehow managed to overcome five turnovers. But the difference in this game was an Ole Miss defense that made amends for a subpar performance in the 41-27 loss to Mississippi State in the regular-season finale. Tyrone Nix’s defense held the Cowboys to 255 total yards, came up with a key goal-line stand and scored the clinching touchdown when linebacker Patrick Trahan picked up a fumble and rambled 36 yards with 3:12 to play.

Turning point: With the game tied at 7-7 late in the third quarter, Oklahoma State recovered a Jevan Snead fumble at the Ole Miss 40 and drove it down to the Rebels’ 1. The Cowboys went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1, but were stuffed by a host of Ole Miss defenders.

Player of the game: McCluster went out in style with 182 yards rushing and two touchdowns. He had an 86-yard scoring jaunt to open the Rebels’ scoring and also scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 2-yard scamper out of the Wild Rebel formation. McCluster was sensational during the second half of the season. He’d rushed for 821 yards in his last five SEC games coming into Saturday’s contest.

Stat of the game: The two teams combined for 12 turnovers, and Oklahoma State had six in the fourth quarter.

Stat of the game II: Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead threw three more interceptions and finished the season with 20.

What it means: In winning the Cotton Bowl for the second straight year, the Rebels (9-4) did something they haven’t done since the John Vaught era – win nine or more games in back-to-back seasons. This was a key game for Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt for several different reasons. The Rebels put a happy face on an up-and-down regular season, and by winning a second straight bowl game, he gets out from under the tag he was saddled with at Arkansas of not being able to get it done in the postseason.

Record performance: McCluster became the first player in SEC history to rush for 1,000 yards and have 500 receiving yards in the same season.