Oklahoma, Ole Miss arrive for Independence Bowl

Monday, December 27th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) -- Ole Miss defensive tackle Kendrick Clancy isn't complaining about returning to the Independence Bowl for a second straight year. Last year Clancy won defensive honors with seven tackles, as Mississippi won 35-18 over Texas Tech.

Ole Miss will need Clancy, a third-team All-American, to have another big game if they want slow Oklahoma's passing game. TheSooners allowed only 15 sacks all year. And if Sooner quarterbackJosh Heupel has time to throw, it could be a long night. "If you get to him, it's going to be easy," Clancy said. "So you've got to get to him." It's part of offensive tackle Jay Smith's job to protect Heupel.

Smith hasn't played in the postseason with the Sooners since the 1994 Copper Bowl, but the sixth-year senior has to step up. He'sthe only Sooner on the team with bowl experience. "We went to a bowl game my first year and it looked like we were on the rise," Smith said. "And we did just the exact opposite. We went downhill. And I've been home every Christmas. It's been a change and now we're back on the cycle of winning football games."

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops has already seen the benefits of recruiting because of the bowl bid and looks forward to preparing for Ole Miss on Friday. "We're excited," Stoops said. "We're going to have a good week. We're going to enjoy whatever the bowl offers and get prepared to play."

A year ago, the Rebels were grateful to be playing in any bowl game after losing three straight to end the regular season at 6-5. They also lost coach Tommy Tuberville to Auburn and David Cutcliffe made his head coaching debut as his replacement. "It's great to get back again, I know for our players and our staff and our families, to see old friends and be a part of a bowl game that's run so well," Cutcliffe said. "We're awfully proud to be a part of this."

Cutcliffe hopes Clancy will threaten the Oklahoma passing game despite an ankle injury. "He's a disruptive force for us," Cutcliffe said. "He hurt his ankle early in the year and it kind of slowed him down. We're getting him back." Despite the injury in an Oct. 9 game against Tulane, Clancy still led Ole Miss with seven sacks for 39 yards on the season. The ankle is fine, Clancy said. "It stings every now and then. But I can play on it. I believe I can play very well on it. I didn't really have the season I wanted to have. But I'm not going to put the blame on my ankle."