Rebels returning to Cotton Bowl

Published 5:35 am Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Associated Press Writer

Two former gunslingers from Stillwater face off when Mississippi makes a repeat visit to the new-look Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2, this time playing 21st-ranked Oklahoma State at new Cowboys Stadium.

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Both Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt and Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy were quarterbacks for the Cowboys and Nutt was wide receivers coach during Gundy’s playing days. They’re familiar with each other and ready to get reacquainted in the new year.

“My first memory of Mike Gundy was right in the very first two-a-days we noticed a guy who was pretty confident stepping into that huddle,” Nutt said. “Once he got a chance as a true freshman — he took over about midway through — we knew we wanted one person in that huddle and it was Mike Gundy.”

The two will get reacquainted in a Cotton Bowl that figures to have plenty of high-powered offense to go along with the fancy new digs.

Nutt, who played football and basketball at the school from 1979-80 under coaches Jimmy Johnson and Eddie Sutton, has one of the game’s more inventive offensive minds, guiding the Rebels to back-to-back seasons with at least eight wins for the first time since 1989-90.

Gundy, a record-setting quarterback for the Cowboys from 1986-89 under coach Pat Jones, employs a high-flying offense that’s among the nation’s most dynamic. Nutt coached at the school from 1984-89 and witnessed one of the great times in Cowboys history.

“We had some fun times,” Nutt said. “You’re talking about Hart Lee Dykes, Barry Sanders, Mike Gundy, that whole crew, those were fun times.”

Both say their careers have been guided by the principles they learned while on campus.

“I think this is the fourth year in a row that we’ve led the Big 12 in rushing, and I would say looking back on my time as a player here at Oklahoma State, with coach Jones and his staff, it was just instilled in us to play good defense and run the ball,” Gundy said.

Nutt used those principles to perfect effect as the Rebels (8-4) beat Texas Tech 47-34 last season in the final game at the old Cotton Bowl stadium. The victory capped a six-game win streak that returned the school to prominence in Nutt’s first season. This is the first time Ole Miss has been to consecutive bowls since a streak of appearances from 1997-2000.

And it’s the fourth straight bowl appearance for the Cowboys (9-3), who lost to Oregon 42-31 in last year’s Holiday Bowl, and the seventh in the last eight seasons.

The game will be a rematch of the 2004 Cotton Bowl when Eli Manning led the Rebels to a 31-28 win, passing for three touchdowns in his final college game.

While both teams are familiar with the bowl, it will have a very different look this year. It will move from Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas to the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Rebels got a preview of what to expect while watching Texas’ 13-12 win over Nebraska in Saturday’s Big 12 championship game, which also was played at Cowboys Stadium.

“They can’t wait,” Nutt said. “They were watching the game last night and were looking over the stadium, and talking about it today in the stretch line.”