HOUSTON (AP) _ Oklahoma State is thinking big after capping a dramatic turnaround season with a Houston Bowl victory.
Rashaun Woods caught nine passes for 164 yards and one touchdown, and Tatum Bell made a late contribution that carried the Cowboys to a 33-23 victory over Southern Mississippi on Friday.
``This continues where we wanted to go with this program,'' tight end Billy Bajema said. ``The end of the year has been a great run for us. We won a bunch of games, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Nebraska.
``Our maturity level has really grown over this season. Next year we plan on winning a championship and going to a bigger bowl game.''
The comments weren't quite as positive after the Cowboys started the season 2-4 in their second season under coach Les Miles. But they won six of their last seven games, including their first bowl victory since 1988.
``This football team came out here to have a good time, see the sites of Houston and enjoy the whole bowl atmosphere,'' Miles said. ``Winning the Houston Bowl was the perfect end to the whole experience.
``This will be one that we remember for a number of years.''
Woods, selected the game's most valuable player, might not be around long enough to enjoy the resurgent Cowboys. He's considering an early jump to the NFL, but hasn't made a final decision.
Woods highlighted his performance with a 51-yard touchdown catch from Josh Fields with 1:38 left in the second quarter.
Woods was double-covered on the play, but 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.
If he decides to leave the college ranks, Woods isn't worried about proving himself.
``It's not about proving anything,'' Woods said. ``It's about going out and playing hard and having fun.''
Bell had 160 yards on 13 carries, and Luke Phillips kicked two of his four field goals in the decisive fourth quarter for the Cowboys (8-5). Bell didn't get the start as punishment for missing a treatment session his injured hamstring.
He got into the game in time to score a 22-yard touchdown that put Oklahoma State ahead for good with 8:07 left in the game. Then, with the Cowboys backed up on their 2, he bolted 88 yards, the longest run of his career, to set up Luke Phillips' 24-yard field goal with 5:15 left to play.
``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.''
As for missing his treatment, Bell said ``That was my fault and I got punished.''
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.''
Trailing 20-13 at the half, Southern Miss (7-6) took its only lead 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 four 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 ahead 30-23.
The Golden Eagles played without starting running back Derrick Nix, whose kidney condition forced him to give up football last week, and quarterback Micky D'Angelo, who threw a first quarter interception and sat out the rest of the game with rib injuries.
``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.''