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January 2, 2006

Christensen's kick an instant classic

Game Ticker | box score

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(13) ALABAMA 13, (18) TEXAS TECH 10 -----------------------------------

DALLAS -- Jamie Christensen again came through in the clutch.

Christensen hooked a 45-yard field goal inside the left upright as time expired, lifting No. 13 Alabama to a 13-10 victory over No. 18 Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl.

Senior quarterback Brodie Croyle directed the game-winning drive, keeping alive the march with a 17-yard completion to Matt Miller on a 3rd-and-6 play. He then found Keith Brown down the right sideline for 23 yards to the Texas Tech 31 with under a minute remaining.

Despite Christensen missing a 39-yard field goal and having a 38-yarder blocked in the second quarter, coach Mike Shula had enough confidence in his sophomore kicker by playing for a field goal.

Christensen, who beat Mississippi and Tennessee earlier this season with field goals in the final seconds, came through again with a kick that wobbled over the crossbar, giving the Crimson Tide (10-2) the victory.

"Actually, I didn't know if it was going to be good," Christensen said. "I didn't know until I saw the referee's hands go up. But what happened was I just kicked a little bit of the ground so I just didn't get the height on it I wanted to. But I'm just glad it went in."

After his team took over deep in its territory with under three minutes left, Shula knew he wanted to go for the win.

"I didn't really say anything to the players, but we weren't going into overtime," Shula said. "We didn't want to do that."

It marked the first time in the 70-year history of the Cotton Bowl that the outcome was decided on a field goal as time expired. In 1979, the game was decided on the final play when Joe Montana threw a touchdown pass to give Notre Dame a 35-34 victory over Houston.

Alabama won its 30th bowl game, extending its own NCAA record.

Cody Hodges had pulled the Red Raiders (9-3) into a 10-10 tie with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Jarrett Hicks with 2:56 remaining.

Croyle opened the scoring in the first quarter with a 76-yard touchdown pass to Brown, who caught a screen pass in the left flat and raced untouched to the end zone.

Croyle completed 19-of-31 passes for 275 yards without a turnover. His favorite target was Brown, who had five receptions for 141 yards.

For virtually the entire way, the Crimson Tide shut down the Red Raiders' high-octane passing game that entered as the nation's top attack at 403.6 yards per game. The speedy defense, which entered allowing a nation-best 10.7 points per game, held the Red Raiders to a season-low 226 passing yards.

"We knew we going to play a lot of man, throw a lot of different calls at them," Alabama free safety Roman Harper said. "We played fast and we couldn't get the quarterback down a lot of times, but he's a pretty athletic guy, but overall we had a great scheme and went out there and executed."

"They're a good team and they created a lot of our problems," Texas Tech coach Mike Leach said. "I thought we missed some opportunities where we could have played a little sharper earlier in the game, especially the first half."

With its defense doing its job, Alabama controlled the ball for nearly 40 minutes.

"We didn't score as much touchdowns as we obviously wanted to, but what can you say about our defense?" Croyle said. "They're awesome. They have been a pleasure to play with."

In the fourth quarter, Hodges also briefly left following one of the big hits he took on one of his season-high 17 rushes. He returned with 3:21 left to direct the tying drive.

Hodges completed 15-of-32 passes for 196 yards while adding 65 yards on the ground.

"We missed some opportunities, but I mean that's Alabama, a great defense," Hodges said. "We knew that was going to be the case. We just didn't make the plays when we had to."

Tech's Alex Trlica kicked a 34-yard field goal in the second quarter.



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