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Rebels with applause

Mississippi edges Oklahoma on last-second field goal

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Posted: Saturday January 01, 2000 12:52 PM

  Les Binkley, Chris Brown Mississippi kicker Les Binkley and teammate Chris Brown celebrate Binkley's game-winning, 39-yard field goal. AP

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) -- A big night by Ole Miss' premier football player proved to be too much for Oklahoma.

Deuce McAllister, who set a Mississippi record for all-purpose yards during the regular season, scored two touchdowns Friday night, prevented a score with a hustling tackle and came up with a big kickoff return as the Rebels beat Oklahoma 27-25 in the Independence Bowl.

McAllister finished with 121 yards rushing, had three catches for 55 yards and had 63 yards on kick returns. He saved his best return for last, a 42-yarder that jumpstarted the Rebels' game-winning drive.

"We had tried to run up the middle [earlier], but I got a clean block and just broke a tackle or two," he said.

The return gave Mississippi the ball at the 43-yard line. He then carried for 8 and 9 yards to start the drive, then reached the Oklahoma 22-yard line.

The Rebels had time to run a play from the 22, but coach David Cutcliffe instead opted to let the clock run down to :03 before calling timeout to set up a 39-yard field goal try by Les Binkley.

"I just didn't think it was worth the risk [to run another play]," Cutcliffe said. "It was going to come down to that anyway."

Oklahoma called another timeout to try to freeze Binkley, but after the break he knocked the ball cleanly through the uprights as the final game of the century came to an end.

"I've got a lot of energy right now. I'm ready to go recruit," said Cutcliffe, who started his head coaching career by leading Ole Miss to a victory in last year's Independence Bowl.

"We have to look at what we need to do to take it to another level, and there is another level," he said.

Oklahoma is in the same position. The Sooners ended a disappointing decade by playing in their first bowl game since the 1994 Copper Bowl. They were 17-27-1 in the four years following that game.

In his first year as coach, Bob Stoops led Oklahoma to a 7-4 regular-season record and began building a foundation for what he hopes is a return to national prominence.

"They have winning attitudes and winning habits now," Stoops said of his players.

It looked for a while as though they might have a victory Friday night.

Josh Heupel threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Quenton Griffin with 2:17 to play, and the point-after kick by Tim Duncan gave the Sooners a 25-24 lead.

Heupel was 39-of-53 for 390 yards, all Independence Bowl records, and led two scoring drives in the third quarter that got Oklahoma within 21-18.

A 29-yard field goal by Binkley capped a 14-play drive for Ole Miss and gave the Rebels a 24-18 lead with 11:18 remaining in the.

Heupel appeared to commit a costly turnover when he fumbled at the Rebels 20 on Oklahoma's next drive, but Ole Miss didn't take advantage and Oklahoma got another shot. The Sooners drove 79 yards, including a 24-yard run by Griffin and a 22-yard completion to Brandon Daniels, before scoring the go-ahead touchdown.

McAllister scored on a 25-yard pass and an 80-yard run in the first half, when Ole Miss took a 21-3 lead. He also came up with a big play when he chased down a defender who had intercepted a pass and returned it 51 yards to the Ole Miss 20. Oklahoma wound up settling for a field goal.

"You think of all the points we let go in the red zone and it's hard to win," Stoops said.

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