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DUCKS KEEP FINDING WAYS IN CLOSE ONES

EL PASO, Texas -- Oregon had a double edge over Minnesota -- in bowl game experience and close calls.

Both came in handy Friday when the unranked Ducks (9-3) upset the No. 12 Golden Gophers, 24-20, in the Sun Bowl on Keenan Howry's sliding catch of a 10-yard pass from Joey Harrington with 1:32 left.

"We've done that so many times this year," Harrington said. "I don't want to say it's becoming old hat, but . . . we just have a feeling in the huddle. No one is nervous. No one is fidgety. Everyone just knows we're going to come down and get the job done."

The Ducks, 4-1 this season in games decided on the final possession, improved to 20-7 in games decided by a touchdown or less in Mike Bellotti's five years as coach.

Howry's TD reception capped an 87-yard drive that was highlighted by Tony Hartley's 23-yard catch over the middle on fourth-and-11 from the Gophers 44 with three minutes left.

"It's supposed to work real well," Harrington said. "And it did."

The Ducks' sixth straight victory made Bellotti the first Oregon coach to post two nine-victory seasons and also denied the Golden Gophers (8-4) their first nine-win season since 1905.

It also provided a measure of comfort for the Pac-10, whose teams were 0-3 in bowls after the league endured a spotty regular season.

The Gophers, in their first bowl game since 1986, drove to the Ducks 39 after Howry's TD but linebacker Dietrich Moore sacked game MVP Billy Cockerham, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Oregon defensive end Saul Patu.

Cockerham threw three touchdown passes, two to Ron Johnson, including a 7-yard pass on the first play of the fourth quarter that gave the Gophers a 20-17 lead. Cockerham also had three turnovers, including two interceptions.

Gophers punter Ryan Rindels won special teams honors and his teammate, tackle Dyron Russ, was selected the game's top defensive player.

"I would have taken the victory," Cockerham said.

"I agree with Billy," Gophers coach Glen Mason said. "I'd trade all three (awards) for a win."

Reuben Droughns gained 95 yards on 21 carries for Oregon. He sat out much of the second half with cramps but returned on the final drive, gaining 11 yards on a run that set up Howry's winning score.

Rebels capture Independence

SHREVEPORT, La. -- Ole Miss is making itself right at home in the Independence Bowl.

The Rebels, after letting a 21-3 halftime lead slip away, got a 39-yard field goal by Les Binkley on the game's final play Friday night to beat Oklahoma, 27-25.

Ole Miss (8-4) won its second straight Independence Bowl and fourth straight bowl game. Oklahoma, making its first bowl appearance since 1994, wound up 7-5 despite a record-setting performance by quarterback Josh Heupel.

Duece McAllister, who scored two touchdowns and prevented another with a hustling tackle after an interception, helped set up the Rebels' game-winning drive with a 41-yard kickoff return after Oklahoma had taken the lead with its third touchdown of the second half.

Defense powers Golden Eagles

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Southern Mississippi couldn't get its offense going. The defense didn't have that problem.

The Golden Eagles scored 10 points off three turnovers and shut down Colorado State's offense in the second half in beating the Rams, 23-17, to win the Liberty Bowl for the second time in three years.

Southern Miss (9-3) led only 20-17 at halftime and managed to add a 25-yard field goal by Brant Hanna midway through the third quarter. The defense made it stand up despite spending much of the half on the field against the Rams (8-4).

Colorado State gave coach Sonny Lubick a five-year extension before the game, a reward for leading the Rams to four conference titles in seven seasons.

Around the country

Florida State kicker Sebastian Janikowski will play his final college game in the Sugar Bowl on Tuesday, leaving a year early for the NFL with his mighty left leg. The 6-foot-2, 255-pound Janikowski, with 324 career points, has kicked 50 field goals in the past two seasons and most of his kickoffs go beyond the end zone.

Mixing in expletives, mimicking writers and calling their questions "dumb," Virginia Tech's volatile All-America defensive end Corey Moore stalked away from media day at the Superdome. The senior set a Big East record with 17 sacks. Earlier this season, he said Tennessee should "stop crying" about the national rankings. And recently, he said his Hokies would "burn down New Orleans" after winning the Sugar Bowl.

Nebraska tight end Tracey Wistrom will not play in Sunday night's Fiesta Bowl against Tennessee because of a knee injury that has sidelined him since November.

Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington made it official, announcing he is giving up his senior year as expected and making himself eligible for the NFL draft.

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