ARLINGTON, Texas - With a 2010 Cotton Bowl victory, which makes it two in a row, the Rebel program is definitely going in the right direction despite some tough setbacks in the 2009 season.

Scattershooting. . .

For the glass half-empty folks. . .

. . . the Rebs should have beaten South Carolina and Mississippi State, at least, this year. It would not be a stretch to throw Auburn into that hat. Alabama. . . hmmmm. Not a should have deal, but a possible. .

. . . the Rebs could have been "vacationing" at a bigger bowl. Maybe should have been.

. . . the Rebs let a golden shot at going to Atlanta for the first time slip through their fingers, even with Alabama going undefeated.

For the glass half-full folks. . .

. . . back-to-back Cotton Bowls and wins ain't shabby. A lot of programs would take that and laugh all the way to the trophy stand.

. . . back-to-back nine-win seasons have not been accomplished in these parts since I was a kid and that, my friends, neighbors and step-children, is a long, long time ago.

. . . recruiting should get a strong shot in the arm, even though things were going quite well prior to the Cotton Bowl. Mississippi kids, look closely. If you have the opportunity to play at Ole Miss under a player-friendly coaching staff, with great facilities to develop your skills and for a program that is already winning, not selling a pipe dream to win some time in the near future, Ole Miss is your only choice. It's not even close.

Bottom line. . . things could have been better this year. There's no arguing that. But if the 2009 season was a disappointment, it's the kind of disappointment I can live with.

* Dexter was, well, Dexter in the Cotton Bowl. A deserved second Offensive MVP in a row, no doubt. It's safe to say the Rebs probably would not have won without him, but let's not forget some others who had pretty fair ballgames. WR Shay Hodge finished with seven catches for 112 yards, some of those on key third downs. FS Kendrick Lewis had two big interceptions, one in the Rebel end zone at a key time when the game was still in doubt. OLB Patrick Trahan, remarkably playing in his third Cotton Bowl in his collegiate career, scooped and scored from 34 yards out to give the Rebs a late lead and then intercepted a pass even later in the contest. DE Kentrell Lockett recovered a fumble. FS Fon Ingram caused the fumble on Trahan's TD and then picked off a late pass. Dexter got the individual trophy, but there were plenty of heroes.

* The game came down to who would make the last offensive mistake, it seemed like, and which team had the will to overcome those mistakes. Oklahoma State made the last mistakes and the will of the Rebels to overcome all of theirs was clear and strong for 60 minutes.

"What can I say? Our defense turned in an incredible game and an even more incredible fourth quarter," said victorious Coach Houston Nutt. "It was remarkable, as good as I have ever seen against a quality offense. I caqn't hide my disappointment in our overall offensive performance, but sometimes games work that way. My hat is off to our defense and the job our defensive coaches did. I can't imagine a recruit not wanting to play in that type of defense. I don't think we will have any trouble selling playing for these coaches with the results we have had the last two years."

* It makes me sick at my stomach that as good as PK Josh Shene has been for the Rebels he missed both of his field goal attempts in the Cotton Bowl. I am glad for him the Rebs won the game and did not lose because of those misses because Josh has been a terrific kicker for the Rebels in his career and he didn't deserve a bitter taste in his mouth, despite his lapses in this one game.

* Once again, the Ole Miss faithful strutted their stuff in fine fashion and in a loud manner in the Cotton Bowl. Oklahoma State probably had a few more fans in Jerry World on this day, but not by much from my view on the sidelines. This kind of turnout, coupled with last year's here, sends the right message to bowl selection committees. Way to step up, Rebs.

* I told you earlier in the week you had never seen anything quite like Cowboy Stadium, at least not another stadium. I guess for those of you who went to the game, you now get the full measure of what I meant. I'm not one who gets overly impressed with buildings, but Cowboy Stadium is a different animal. For the Rebels to have won the last Cotton Bowl in the old stadium and the first one in the new stadium is pretty special, something that can never be taken away from them or us.

* Last, but not least, a special thanks to the Ole Miss seniors. You came to Ole Miss under iffy times and you endured a couple of years of turmoil and schizophrenic leadership. Yet you managed to come out on the other end of the tunnel as true winners who leave a strong legacy and, yes, the beginnings of a tradition of winning. Personally, I don't know what more could have been asked of you. You'll always have a place in my heart and in the hearts of every Rebel.

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