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Rebels take it to another level in Cotton Bowl win

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Take that, Big 12 apologists.

Better yet, Hotty Toddy, Gosh almighty to you long-suffering Ole Miss fans.

Houston Nutt and the boys did the SEC proud ... real proud.

In the most impressive performance yet by an SEC team during the bowl season, Ole Miss dismantled No. 7-ranked Texas Tech 47-34 in the AT&T Cotton Bowl, putting an exclamation point on Houston Nutt's first season in Oxford.

They might have been ready for him to hit the road in Arkansas, but Nutt could run for election right now in Mississippi and win just about any office.

He's done an exceptional job in getting the Rebels to believe only a year after they went winless in the SEC.

The Rebels (9-4) now go into the offseason riding a six-game winning streak and with as much momentum and excitement surrounding the program as there's been in the last three or four decades.

In 2003, they were coming off a 10-win season, but Eli Manning was on his way to the NFL.

With this bunch, you get the feeling the future is only going to be brighter, especially with quarterback Jevan Snead playing the way he did Friday. The sophomore returned to his home state of Texas and passed for a career-high 292 yards and also threw three touchdowns.

And while Texas Tech did finish with 34 points, the Ole Miss defense came after quarterback Graham Harrell and the Red Raiders' offense from all sorts of angles.

Simply, it was the kind of speed, power and strength on defense Texas Tech wasn't used to seeing in the Big 12. In the SEC, it's what you see every Saturday.

The Rebels also got the big play defensively when Marshay Green took an interception back 65 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter, stretching Ole Miss' lead to 31-21.

Still, it was the Ole Miss offense that took this game over with 515 yards of total offense (223 rushing yards) and kept the ball away from Harrell and the Texas Tech offense.

It also tells you a little something about the Rebels with the way they so calmly fought back from an early 14-0 deficit.

Deep down, they knew they were going against a defense that wasn't going to be able to stop them. Then again, do they stop anybody defensively in the Big 12?

Dexter McCluster, erasing the bitter memory of some crippling fumbles this season, was brilliant for Ole Miss. The diminutive speedster rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries and also caught six passes for 83 yards.

"One heartbeat," the Ole Miss players were yelling after it was over in the venerable Cotton Bowl Stadium.

It's a heartbeat that will no doubt beat a little harder as they await the 2009 football season in Oxford.