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Updated: Friday, December 27, 2002 10:00 AM EST
NCAA FOOTBALL PREVIEW
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Southern Miss (7-5) vs. Oklahoma St (7-5) Houston
SOUTHERN MISS GOLDEN EAGLES
Southern Miss Golden Eagles
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OKLAHOMA ST. COWBOYS
Oklahoma St. Cowboys
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HOUSTON (Ticker) -- On November 30, Oklahoma State made a statement with its second straight win over Oklahoma. The Cowboys hope to carry the momentum of that victory into the Houston Bowl against Southern Mississippi.

Les Miles, the Big 12 Conference Coach of the Year, is building a solid program in Stillwater. This season, the Cowboys beat Nebraska and Oklahoma in the same year for the first time in school history.

Oklahoma State (7-5) boasts the top passing tandem in the Big 12 in Josh Fields and Rashaun Woods, who combined for three touchdowns in the Cowboys' 38-28 victory over the Sooners.

Woods put the finishing touches on a spectacular regular season, catching 12 passes for a school-record 226 yards. He finished the year with 98 receptions for 1,531 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Fields passed for 2,835 yards on 29 TDs, while running back Tatum Bell (936) finished just short of the 1,000-yard mark.

The Cowboys secured only their second bowl bid since 1989 and their first in four years. In its last postseason appearance, Oklahoma State suffered a 24-17 loss to Purdue in the 1997 Alamo Bowl.

Among the Southern Mississippi defenders who will attempt to contain Woods is safety Etric Pruitt, a first team Conference USA selection. Pruitt led the Golden Eagles with six interceptions and finished the regular season with a career-high 124 tackles.

Southern Mississippi's top offensive threat this year was running back Derrick Nix, who rushed for 1,194 yards and 11 touchdowns on 219 carries. Nix, however, will not play after he was diagnosed with focal segmental glomeruloscleris, the same kidney disorder that afflicts Miami Heat center Alonzo Mourning.

Projected as a possible NFL first-round pick early in his college career, Nix rushed for more than 1,000 yards in his freshman and sophomore seasons. But he was forced to sit out of all last season before returning this year.

Coach Jeff Bower has led the Golden Eagles (7-5) to 10 winning seasons in 12 years, including nine in a row.

Southern Mississippi is 5-7 all-time in postseason play, defeating Texas Christian, 28-21, in the 2000 GMAC Bowl in its last bowl appearance. Oklahoma State has a bowl mark of 9-4.

The Houston Bowl was known as the Galleryfurniture.com Bowl last year.


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