Saturday, January 24, 2009

2008 Cotton Bowl - Explosive Ole Miss Pulls Upset, Topples #8 Texas Tech, 47-34

In his 10th year of coaching at Arkansas last season,
Houston Nutt went 8-4 and beat No. 1-ranked LSU 50-48 in
overtime in his final game. It was not good enough, so he
resigned amid controversy over his performance and was
hired by Ole Miss to coach Mississippi.

Arkansas went 5-7 this year and was not even bowl eligible.
Houston Nutt inherited a Mississippi team that was 3-8 last
season, was winless in the SEC and had not been to a bowl
game since 2003 when Eli Manning was quarterback. This year
Ole Miss was 9-4 after polishing off the mighty Texas Tech Red Raiders 47-34 in the 2008 Cotton Bowl.

To say that Arkansas' loss became Mississippi's gain is
nothing short of a massive understatement. Ole Miss
students, fans and backers are giddy with excitement and
the promise of new glory for their beloved Ole Miss, and
well they should be.
No. 20-ranked Mississippi came into the Cotton Bowl at 8-4
after starting the season at 3-4 and smarting from
consecutive losses to South Carolina and Alabama after
pulling off a huge 31-30 upset on the road against then No.
4-ranked Florida. Ole Miss would win its next 5 games, and
Florida would ultimately win the national title by beating
Oklahoma 24-14 in the BCS National Championship Game.

No. 8-ranked Texas Tech came into the Cotton Bowl at 11-1
with a 39-33 last-second signature victory over Texas. The
Red Raiders explosive offense would end the year ranked No.
1 in the country in passing offense with 413+ yards per
game, ranked No. 4 nationally in total offense with 531+
yards per game, and ranked No. 3 in scoring offense with
43+ points per game.

Against this backdrop, Houston Nutt's Ole Miss players did
him and themselves proud. For openers, they were the only
team to beat the eventual national champion Florida Gators.
Mississippi spotted Texas Tech a 14-point lead on a couple
of turnovers and then sophomore quarterback Jevan Snead led
Ole Miss to touchdowns on their next 3 possessions, an
8-yard pass to junior tight end Gerald Harris, a 41-yard
pass to senior wide receiver Mike Wallace and another
21-yard pass to Harris.

A 27-yard field goal by junior kicker Joshua Shene put the
Rebels up 24-21 at the half. Ole Miss would outscore the
Red Raiders touted offense 23-13 in the last half to make
the 47-34 score stick.

A nifty 65-yard interception return for a touchdown by
junior cornerback Marshay Green lifted Ole Miss to a new
level. Green would also race another 63 yards on a punt
return for an apparent TD that was called back by an
official who ruled him out-of-bounds on the "nine and
two-thirds yard line". Have you ever heard of anything so
No matter. Snead would complete 18-of-29 for 292 yards and
3 touchdowns. Freshman running back Brandon Bolden would
pick up 101 yards on 11 carries (9.1 yard average), and
little 5-foot-8, 165-pound junior wide receiver Dexter
McCluster would pick up another 97 yards on 14 carries (6.9
yard average). McCluster also caught 6 passes for 83 yards.

Take note that Mississippi's 4 losses this year totaled a
combined 19 points, which makes it even more serious when
Texas Tech losing coach Mike Leach said "They're an
incredibly good football team." Glad you noticed, Mike.

This contest made history in at least three ways. It was
the last Cotton Bowl that will be played in the Cotton Bowl
Stadium, ending a 73-year run. Next year the Cotton Bowl
will move to the new $1.1 billion stadium being built for
the NFL Dallas Cowboys. Second, the final 47-34 score was
the most points (81) to ever be scored in a Cotton Bowl
game. Third, the 88,175 fans on hand represented the
biggest crowd ever.
Trust me when I say that you have not heard the last of
first-year coach Houston Nutt and his Ole Miss players.
Sound the horn because the Rebels are coming.

"2008 Hawaii Bowl - Charlie Weis Era at Notre Dame Finally
Arrives, Irish Speed Past Hawaii, 49-21"
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Football in the Nation?"
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Holtz During Football's Annual Bowl Season"
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