December 3, 2006

Tide headed to Independence Bowl

After their regular season ended with disappointment and turmoil, the Crimson Tide received some good news on Sunday when they accepted a bid to play in the PetroSun Independence Bowl. When the Tide makes its NCAA-record 54th bowl appearance on December 28, interim head coach Joe Kines believes it could be an opportunity for the Tide seniors to put happy ending on a year that was far from a Cinderella story.

"We are very excited to be playing in the Independence Bowl. This is a great opportunity for our team," said Kines, who will be the first interim head coach ever to coach the Tide in a bowl game.

"We have the opportunity to work and get better and that is what we are going to try and do. We appreciate this opportunity against a quality team. I remember Coach Mike Gundy from my days at Arkansas when he played at Oklahoma State. They always had really good teams with an explosive offense. We are very excited and looking forward to this game."

"We are all very proud of the tradition here at The University of Alabama," said Alabama athletic director Mal Moore. "That tradition includes an illustrious bowl history. The Crimson Tide has played in more bowl games and has more bowl wins than any other school in the nation. We are all proud of that tradition and are looking forward to continuing that tradition at the Independence Bowl."

The game, which will kickoff at 3:30 p.m. (CST) on ESPN, will mark the first ever meeting between Alabama and Oklahoma State. The Cowboys, who like Alabama finished the season 6-6, will be the Tide's 33rd different bowl opponent. Like Alabama's last Big 12 opponent, Texas Tech, the Cowboys boast one of the nation's most explosive offenses ranking 8th in the nation in total offense.

"We've had a rollercoaster season," said Gundy. "We ended up with 6 wins and 6 losses. It's been an unusual year for us in that we had four games that came down the last play. Our players have competed hard and practiced hard and we've stayed pretty healthy all season. We've made some strides from last season and we're looking forward to playing another football game. I know Alabama has played good defense all year and has offensive players that can make plays. Our players understand how important playing in a bowl game and we look forward to the opportunity."

Though meeting the Cowboys on the field will be a first for the Tide, the Big 12 Conference as a whole is nothing new for Alabama. The Tide have faced Big 12 opponents in three of their last four bowl games and five times in the last six years.

Though there are plenty of distractions within the program off the field, namely the Tide's search for a new head coach, Kines said his team understands that there is plenty to play for in this bowl game.

"Anytime a team gets an opportunity to walk out on the field and play. To get to be a part of a bowl game that's been around a long time and to get to play a quality opponent and to get to work with your youngsters and see them improve, all those things are good. I don't think our team has been more excited in a long time about getting a chance to play."

The Tide players expressed excitement about getting a chance to end a disappointing season on a high note and send the 2006 senior class out with a win.

"We are very excited to be playing in a bowl game," said defensive end Wallace Gilberry. "We hope to send the seniors out on a better note. Not only that, just some extra time with each other and play more football. It means a lot to me personally. It's an opportunity to play some more football and it means a lot to this program. It is an honor for us and our coaches to be able to end this season on a high note."

This will be the Tide's second appearance in the Independence Bowl. The Tide first played in the game in 2001 defeating Iowa State 14-13.

When the Tide takes the field in Shreveport, Louisiana it will mark the first time since 1992-94 that the Tide has played in three consecutive bowl games.

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