Scores
HOUSTON BOWL

Final

Southern Miss 23

(7-6, 5-3 C-USA)

Oklahoma State 33

(8-5, 5-3 Big 12)

2:30 PM ET, December 27, 2002

1 2 3 4 T
USM 3 10 10 023
OKST 10 10 0 1333

Cowboys ride into offseason Houston Bowl champs

HOUSTON (AP) -- Rashaun Woods put on another memorable show for Oklahoma State. The only question left is was it his last.

Woods, considering leaving school early for the NFL, caught nine passes for 164 yards and a touchdown in a 33-23 victory over Southern Mississippi in the Houston Bowl on Friday.

"I'll answer that question in the proper time,'' Woods said when asked about his future.

Woods earned most valuable player and offensive player of the game honors, helping the Cowboys complete a memorable season that included victories over Nebraska, Texas A&M and Oklahoma.

"In the second half, they made up their minds they weren't going to let me do what I did in the first half and that really opened our running game,'' Woods said. "They wanted to stop the run and they did a good job of it early. In the fourth quarter we started to wear them down.''

Tatum Bell ran for 160 yards on 13 carries, including a 22-yard score with 8:07 to play that gave Oklahoma State the lead for good.

Luke Phillips kicked two of his four field goals in the decisive fourth quarter for the Cowboys (8-5).

Trailing 20-13 at the half, Southern Miss (7-6) took its only lead of the game on a 2-yard touchdown run by James Walley and a 30-yard field goal by Curt Jones, his third of the game, in the third quarter.

The Cowboys pulled even on the first play of the fourth quarter on Phillips' 28-yard field goal.

Josh Fields threw for 310 yards, and his 33-yard pass to Billy Bajema set up Bell's go-ahead touchdown, which put Oklahoma State back in front 30-23.

Following a punt by Southern Mississippi to the Oklahoma State 2, Bell broke off a career-long 88-yard gain to the Golden Eagles 10.

"Before the play started, I was just trying to move us out of the 2-yard line,'' Bell said. "But when it started, I saw a little crease and my whole thought process changed. I wanted to take it to the house.''

Bell didn't get the start because he missed a treatment session for a hamstring injury. He was ready in the second half, though.

Southern Mississippi linebacker Rod Davis said he was blitzing on the play.

"That was kind of a backbreaker,'' Davis said. "We had a blitz coming and where I came from, that's where he went.''

Phillips kicked a 24-yarder with 5:15 to play. He also connected from 46 and 52 yards.

Woods highlighted Oklahoma State's first half with a 51-yard touchdown catch from Fields with 1:38 left in the second quarter.

Woods was double-covered on the play, but Southern Mississippi defenders Greg Brooks and Antoine Cash collided, allowing Woods to sprint untouched into the end zone.

Woods had his ninth 100-yard receiving game of the season and joined former Cowboys receiver Hart Lee Dykes as the only receivers to surpass 3,000 career yards. Woods' touchdown catch was his 17th of the season.

The Cowboys took a 10-0 lead on Fields' 3-yard touchdown pass to Mike Denard and Phillips' 46-yard field goal, set up by an interception by Darrent Williams at the Southern Mississippi 31.

Phillips's 52-yarder in the second quarter tied his career long.

Williams' interception was thrown by Golden Eagles quarterback Micky D'Angelo, who started the game despite rib injuries. He was replaced by Dustin Almond, who ran 13 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter.

The Golden Eagles also played without starting running back Derrick Nix, whose kidney condition forced him to give up football last week.

"I think Derrick Nix is a tremendous inspiration to our football team,'' Southern Mississippi coach Jeff Bower said. "Our football players wanted to win this game for him. It was a motivation. The effort was good enough, but we didn't make the plays.''

Oklahoma State played in a bowl game for the first time since the 1997 Alamo Bowl, and won in the postseason for the first time since Barry Sanders ran for 222 yards and five TDs in a 62-14 win over Wyoming in the 1988 Holiday Bowl.

"Running the ball was important for us today,'' Cowboys coach Les Miles said. "Our intensity on defense was a little too much to start the game. We made some great stops early, but extended the Southern Miss drives with penalties.''

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