Mentor Meets Pupil

IRVING, Texas – It really does have a mentor/pupil feel to it. These two head coaches have been down a long road together, somewhat. Houston Nutt was an assistant coach at Oklahoma State after his playing days for the OSU Cowboys were over. When he coached receivers, Mike Gundy was the quarterback.

Their coaching paths haven't crossed a lot in those days since the 1980s, but in the North Texas crossroads known as The Metroplex, Nutt and Gundy are center stage.

Both are trying to take winning programs to the next level. For both that would mean BCS bowl opportunities.

For now, the 74th Cotton Bowl will have to do. For OSU, it is a chance to win 10 games. For Ole Miss, it is an opportunity to match last season's 9-win total and continue to build toward the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.

"We're excited about being here," Nutt, the second-year Ole Miss head coach, said. "Playing Oklahoma State, of course I have a great deal of respect for what Mike has done with the program. Going to school at Oklahoma State and, of course, my wife going to school there, there are a lot of ties there for us."

There has been some good-natured back and forth as well between Nutt and Gundy. Like today, for example. Gundy was asked about injuries to a couple of players, Donald Booker and Kendall Hunter.

Both have practiced and both will be available, Gundy said.

"Boy, I hate to hear that," Nutt said, jokingly, bringing much laughter from those assembled.

"You don't really know if that's the truth or not, though," Gundy shot back, bringing more laughter. "See, I got you on that one. That goes back to the old playing days.

"We spent so many good times together when he was coaching wideouts when the quarterbacks and wideouts were working those DBs over down there back in the days when I was playing," Gundy continued. "That's been 25 years, or 24 or so."

And now in the 2010 AT&T Cotton Bowl, the two face each other as head coaches of major programs. One the veteran coach, the other fairly new to the game of college head coaching.

Both say a win Saturday will help continue to build their programs to another level.

"There's nothing like winning," Nutt said. "Winning helps everything. It helps recruiting. It helps winter conditioning. It helps the 5:30 a.m. weight workouts, the summer workouts. It helps everything. There's nothing like winning to move you ahead."

"I feel the same way," Gundy said, referring to Nutt as "Coach" throughout the press conference. "There's so much that goes into it. We demand a lot of our players. You want them to have results, and results come from great effort and going out and finding a way to win the football game. The players get a chance to experience that again, and there's nothing like walking off the field after winning a football game."

Winning the Cotton Bowl may not be like winning a BCS bowl or the national championship game, but it ranks way up there, according to Nutt. And he says Ole Miss fans, making their third trip in seven seasons, love it too.

"This is one of my favorite bowls," Nutt said. "It's one of the best in the country, if not the best. Our fans are making their way out here now. It's going to get crowded. I hope all the stores have stocked their shelves, because they will help the economy this week, I promise you."

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