Return Trip

It was such a poorly kept secret, at least 10,000 Ole Miss fans had already bought tickets. Probably more.

But that's a good thing. It allowed people to make plans earlier if they so chose.

When the "official" announcement came late Sunday afternoon that the Rebels are headed back to the AT&T Cotton Bowl for the second straight season, it was more about putting everything in a positive light than letting folks know who, where, and when.

Everybody said all the right things. Familiar voices spoke: Rick Baker, Fin Ewing, and Charlie Fiss of the Cotton Bowl have become household names for many at Ole Miss. We visit there for a bowl game. They visit here to present the trophy at a basketball game and come back in the fall for a football game or two.

Ole Miss is "out with the old and in the with new," Ewing said. There's the new billion dollar stadium in Arlington to christen as far as the Cotton Bowl goes. That's certainly the big draw for those looking for a new angle.

Ole Miss and Oklahoma State sounds like a rematch, but it's been a while. No Rebels or Cowboys that played in the 2004 game are back for the 2010 contest, obviously. The Ole Miss head coach then is at Duke, and the OSU head coach then is at LSU.

The stadium seats 71,000 for this one. That's 17,000 less seats than were available at old Cotton Bowl stadium last season. When the Dallas Cowboys announce 100,000 or more for games, 30,000 are standing up somewhere, reports say. This is an intriguing place.

The Rebels and Oklahoma State brand of Cowboys have had similar seasons. Both didn't finish with quite the record they wanted.

Oklahoma State started its season with a 24-10 win at home against Georgia, which ended up telling us a little bit about both teams. The Bulldogs at 7-5 weren't quite up to their normal standards.

The Cowboys played eight home games at expanded Boone Pickens Stadium and two of their three losses were in Stillwater – 45-35 to Houston in week two, and 41-14 to Texas mid-season. Their finale was a 27-0 loss in Norman to Oklahoma, the 80th setback in that series for OSU to go along with only 17 wins and seven ties.

A distraction for Oklahoma State this season was the loss of leading wide receiver Dez Bryant, suspended mid-season for the remainder of the season by the NCAA.

Bryant played in the Cowboys' first three games. The NCAA ruled the junior All-American will not be eligible to play college football again until September 2010. Bryant could enter the NFL draft next spring.

Heading into the state of Oklahoma's version of the Egg Bowl, called the Bedlam Series, it was the Cowboys with so much riding on the outcome – an apparent Fiesta Bowl bid and a 10-win season. Ole Miss, heading to MSU for its finale, could obviously relate with Capital One Bowl possibilities.

Oklahoma, meanwhile, was 6-5 entering the contest but played like the team heading to a BCS bowl with a 27-0 shutout win.

According to reports, Oklahoma State had its worst offensive showing of the entire decade, finishing with just six first downs – three of those via Sooner penalties – and only 109 total yards. The Cowboys were 0-for-14 on third-down plays and senior quarterback Zac Robinson threw for only 44 yards on 9-of-21 passing.

The Cowboys entered the game with the nation's 16th-best running attack averaging 203.5 yards per game, but the Sooners defense held OSU to 62 rushing yards on 29 attempts.

The Cowboys had several players named to postseason honors. Four Oklahoma State football players earned first-team all-Big 12 honors by the league's coaches. The 2009 Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year, OSU senior Russell Okung, made the first-team squad for the second straight season. He was joined by running back Keith Toston, fullback Bryant Ward and cornerback Perrish Cox.

While Cox had previously been known mainly for his exploits in the return game - and he was a second-team selection as the all-conference return man this year - 2009 marks the first time he has been honored for his defensive play. Toston and Ward are both first-time selections to the all-Big 12 squad.

Additionally, seven Cowboys were named to the honorable mention all-Big 12 team. Receiving that honor were quarterback Robinson, linebackers Patrick Lavine and Andre Sexton, defensive linemen Ugo Chinasa and Swanson Miller, wide receiver Hubert Anyiam and punter Quinn Sharp.

The Rebels and Cowboys have met only once before in football, and that was the 31-28 UM win in the Cotton Bowl six years ago.

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