It was no secret going into the Cotton Bowl matchup with Texas Tech the Rebels were going to try to pound the Red Raider defense on the ground.
All week long, the pundits had been saying how Texas Tech was a back match for the Rebels.
The Rebs knew better.
"We were a bad match for them too," said Coach Houston Nutt privately during the week. "I don't think they have played many teams who can rush the ball like we can."
The Rebels proved their coach prophetic. Over and over and over. 45 times, to be exact. Good for 223 yards, to be exact.
"We watched all their films. We knew with our line and our backs we could run the ball. We knew we could wear them down eventually," said freshman Running Back Brandon Bolden, who logged 101 of those rushing yards on just 11 carries and scored one touchdown on a 17-yard burst up the middle to give the Rebels a 38-21 lead midway through the third quarter. "They had not played against run teams like us. At least, that is what we thought going into the game."
Bolden did not get the starting nod, but when junior TB Cordera Eason fumbled early, most of the carries from that point on went to Bolden and Dexter McCluster, who had 99 yards rushing and was named the games Offensive MVP.
The freshman from Baton Rouge made the most of his opportunities.
"As the game wore on, you could see Tech was getting tired and our linemen just started having their way with them," Brandon said. "They were a real good defense, but they didn't seem to have a lot of depth and we just wore them down.
"I was kind of surprised at first how hard they hit and how aggressive they were - that did not show up on film, but I still knew they would not last the whole game against our OL and the different backs we could throw at them."
The one-two punch of Brandon and Dexter was too much burden on the Red Raider defense.
"They were having to chase Dexter, who is so fast and quick, and then they had to face me and Enrique and Cordera who were going to run over them," he explained. "We were all begging for the ball. By the end of the game, the holes our OL was opening up were a running back's dream come true."
Bolden wore eye black patches under each eye. Players often write something in white on them. Bolden's read: Man Child.
"My teammates gave me that nickname early in the year, me being a freshman and all," he smiled. "I like the nickname."
He ran like his nickname as well.
"When your coaches call your number, and your offensive line opens holes like that, you are motivated to do your part," Bolden noted. "You feel like you have to break a tackle or something after all they've done to put you in that position.
"I just ran hard. We all did. I was lucky my number was dialed up today. It could have been any of us and it was all of us."
Bolden said the team played intense, motivated football all year, but they may have put a little extra into the Cotton Bowl.
"All the people writing us off in this game added fuel to our fire," he closed. "We were told all year we couldn't do a lot of things that we did.
"Our mindset going into the Cotton Bowl was to prove everyone wrong one more time and put a big exclamation point on this year."
The Rebels, with Bolden chipping in his first 100-yard rushing game his true freshman year, proved their point.
Cotton Bowl coverage -
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