McCluster lifts Ole Miss in Cotton Bowl
ARLINGTON, Texas — Before having to figure out life without Dexter McCluster in the backfield, Mississippi coach Houston Nutt was going use the speedy back as much as possible.
"We knew we're going to run his legs off," Nutt said.
McCluster responded with a finale for Nutt and Ole Miss fans to remember.
In a Cotton Bowl filled with turnovers and missed opportunities by both teams, McCluster stood out yesterday in his final collegiate game. He carried a career-high 32 times for 182 yards and two touchdowns, including a go-ahead 2-yard run on a direct snap with 4:03 left as the Rebels beat Oklahoma State, 21-7.
"When I'm in the zone, I'm all business. I want the ball and I'm going to do whatever I can to make something happen," McCluster said. "I'm pretty sore. But if we had to play again, I'd get up and go. "
McCluster also had an 86-yard TD run in the second quarter after the senior had already become the first Southeastern Conference player with 1,000 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving in the same season.
Ole Miss (9-4) had five turnovers in the game, but Oklahoma State (9-4) had six in the fourth quarter, and seven overall.
The Rebels failed to capitalize on Kendrick Lewis' two interceptions, but McCluster scored after a fumble to break a 7-7 tie. Patrick Trahan picked up another fumble and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown less than a minute later, then intercepted a deflected fourth-down pass by Oklahoma State's Zac Robinson on the next drive.
HAPPY END FOR UCONN
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Andre Dixon rushed for 126 yards and a touchdown and resilient Connecticut ended a trying season with a 20-7 victory over South Carolina in the Papajohns.com Bowl yesterday.
The Huskies (8-5) are 3-1 in bowl games since moving up to Division I-A (now FBS) in 2002. They won their final three regular-season games and overcame the October stabbing death of cornerback Jasper Howard to reach a bowl.
The nation's 95th-rated pass defense throttled South Carolina (7-6) and quarterback Stephen Garcia while relying on Dixon's 33 carries to control the ball.
ARKANSAS WINS IN OT
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Alex Tejada kicked a 37-yard field goal in overtime to lift Arkansas in the Liberty Bowl last night, 20-17, after East Carolina's Ben Hartman missed two field-goal attempts late in regulation and another in the extra session.
Hartman missed from 39 yards with 1:03 remaining and from the same distance on the final play of the fourth quarter, then missed from 35 in overtime. Tejada, who has struggled in pressure situations himself, made his attempt to end the game.
Dominique Lindsay rushed for 151 yards on 33 carries for East Carolina (9-5). His 3-yard TD run in the second quarter ended a 99-yard drive by the Pirates. It was 10-0 at halftime, the first time the Razorbacks (8-5) had been shut out in the first half since September against Alabama.
SOUTH FLORIDA IN ROUT
TORONTO — Mike Ford ran for a career-high 207 yards and scored one touchdown, and B.J. Daniels threw two scoring passes to A.J. Love to propel South Florida over Northern Illinois, 27-3.
Carlton Mitchell caught six passes for 94 yards for the Bulls (8-5), who won back-to-back bowls for the first time. South Florida beat Memphis, 41-14, in last year's St. Petersburg Bowl, part of a streak of five straight bowl appearances.
South Florida scored 24 unanswered points in the second half after the teams traded field goals in a dreary first half. The Huskies fell to 7-6.
Cal's Best to turn pro: California tailback Jahvid Best announced yesterday that he will skip his senior year and enter the NFL draft after a disappointing final college season cut short by injury. Best missed the final four games of the season after he fell on the back of his head from about 8 feet while leaping into the end zone for a touchdown against Oregon State on Nov. 8.