Instant Analysis - Cotton Bowl
Ole Miss 21 ... Oklahoma State 7
The storyline coming into this game was about how these were two
teams that failed to live up to expectations, but had good seasons
anyway. I tried to make excuses for both and kept pointed out that the
teams weren't all that bad despite their major flaws, and then came
I want my money back, and I watched the game for free on TV.
Dexter McCluster was terrific, as expected, the Oklahoma State offensive
line, especially Russell Okung, was strong against the Ole Miss pass
rush, and the defenses did their part to force mistakes, but this was an
brutal game that neither team deserved to win. Check that; McCluster
deserved to win.
16 penalties, 12 turnovers, two misses field goals by the Rebels, bad
quarterback play, strange coaching, ineffectiveness when the chances
were there for each side, this game had a little of everything bad.
But after all the problems and all the mistakes, Ole Miss finished its
season with nine wins and a bowl victory. While many were hoping for a
possible run for the SEC title, this is still successful a good year
overall that many teams would've been ecstatic to have. This is still a
young, changing team under Houston Nutt that has its best days ahead.
Nutt is still winning with Ed Orgeron's players, and once everything is
in place, then this really might be the team many were hoping it would
be this season.
Oklahoma State simply collapsed. The team went from being a win away
from playing in the BCS to scoring seven points in the last two games.
For a team that was supposed to be as balanced, as dangerous, and as
effective as any in the country, this was a puzzling disaster even with
all the drama. Was it a step back for a program that appeared to be on
the cusp of being a major threat to win the Big 12 South? Considering
this was a down year for the Big 12 overall, this might have been the
team's chance and the window might have closed.
Every time I see Ole Miss RB Dexter McCluster in action, I swear that he's channeling a Metcalf, either Terry or his son Eric.
If there was a more electrifying player in college football than McCluster this season, I didn't see him. No. 22 is one of those rare skill position players who compels you to watch his game no matter the circumstances. The Cotton Bowl was yet another case in point. Rough game for the viewer…unless McCluster had his hands on the ball. The lone bolt of electricity in an otherwise powerless game, he went wild on the Oklahoma State D, rushing for 178 yards and two scores on 34 carries, adding five receptions for 45 yards. On a day when Jevan Snead once again struggled to move the ball through the air, the senior provided enough offense to support the stingy D and earn back-to-back Cotton Bowl victories and nine-win seasons for the Rebels.
Terry and Eric Metcalf were versatility personified in college and the pros, able to change the tempo of a game with one timely block or one sliver of daylight in the open field. McCluster is almost an exact replica, becoming the first SEC player to ever rush for more than 1,000 yards and catch passes for more than 500 yards in a season. Some NFL team is going to absolutely love him next year, though that organization better be prepared to expand the playbook and invent new ways to get the ball in his hands.
1) The good news for Ole Miss: Houston Nutt's really good at WINNING the Cotton Bowl. The bad news for Ole Miss: Houston Nutt's really good at winning the COTTON Bowl.
The good news for Ole Miss: Jevan Snead should return for his senior season and another year of coaching, training, learning, development, film study, practice, and other things that are intended to bolster, burnish and buttress a quarterback as he aims for improvement. The bad news for Ole Miss: Houston Nutt will be responsible for giving Snead the tools he needs to take the Rebels to the next level.
The good news for Ole Miss: Nutt – who finally got wise midway through the season and remained smart in his utilization of offensive personnel today at Cowboys Stadium – will no longer misuse Dexter McCluster in Oxford. The bad news for Ole Miss: That's because McCluster will graduate.
The good news for Ole Miss: Rebel football is in much better shape than it was under Ed Orgeron. The bad news for Ole Miss: A ton of talent was wasted this season, and with Alabama and LSU being road dates in 2010, it's clear that the Rebels will be hard pressed to win their first-ever SEC West Division championship.
2) We're into the second decade of the 21st century, and yet an officiating crew can't see one of the most obvious offside penalties in the 141-year history of college football. And oh, by the way: That blown call – which loomed very large in determining the outcome of the 2010 Cotton Bowl – reminds us why offside penalties, like any other penalties, should be just as subject to replay review (and reversal) as fumbles, catches, boundary runs, and other plays that are already reviewable.
It counts as a win for Ole Miss, but for the majority of the Cotton Bowl, they certainly didn't deserve it. But for that matter, neither did Oklahoma State. The Rebels and Cowboys combined for almost as many turnovers (12) as Tiger Woods mistresses (14). This game was billed as the "Disappointment Bowl," since both of these teams entered
2009 with BCS hype, only to fall a little short. It's only fitting that the game itself resembled that moniker.
Oklahoma State barely topped 100 yards against arch-rival Oklahoma to close out the regular season, and it didn't get much better against Ole Miss. Zac Robinson looked completely lost. Maybe the absence of Dez Bryant finally caught up to the Cowboys, or maybe it was just one of those bowl lapses. But whatever the problem was, they are going to have to fix it if they want to get back into the national discussion.
For Ole Miss, the story wasn't really different. Late in the FOX broadcast, Daryl Johnston discussed the possibility of Jevan Snead departing Ole Miss early for the NFL Draft. He obviously didn't watch Snead play this season. Judging from the topic, I have my doubts that he watched Snead play on Saturday too. Snead's three interceptions and one fumble in the Cotton Bowl put a cap on a very disappointing season for the junior quarterback. Snead entered the season as a dark horse Heisman candidate, complete with a University-sponsored website dedicated to his 2009 season. With three interceptions on Saturday, Snead finishes 2009 with as many touchdown passes as interceptions (20). Yikes.
The only thing that this game proved is that neither of these teams are ready to eat at the big boy table. I hope the Cowboys and Rebels enjoyed it, because the Cotton Bowl was the top of the mountain.
Expect both to fade back into conference anonymity immediately.