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December 28, 2006

Oklahoma State outlasts Alabama 34-31

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SHREVEPORT, La. -Oklahoma State tried to give away the Independence Bowl to Alabama. Dantrell Savage and Jason Ricks took it back for the Cowboys.

Ricks kicked a 27-yard field goal with 8.9 seconds remaining to give Oklahoma State a 34-31 victory over Alabama on Thursday night.

Savage ran for 112 yards and a touchdown and made the key play on the winning drive. He took a screen pass from Bobby Reid for 26 yards on third-and-9 to the Alabama 15 to put Ricks in prime position.

Alabama tried to ice Ricks with three timeouts, but the sophomore sent the kick through the uprights and he snatched off his helmet and ran to the sidelines with it extended over his head.

The kick saved the Cowboys (7-6) from a fourth-quarter collapse and gave them both a winning record and their first bowl victory since 2002. Oklahoma State blew a 14-point lead, setting up the Crimson Tide for the tying touchdown with a fumbled kickoff return.

Alabama (6-7) was playing in its NCAA-record 54th bowl game and looking for its 31st bowl victory - another NCAA record - but for much of the night the Crimson Tide's vaunted postseason history seemed a distant memory. Bama played flat until late in the fourth quarter.

With the Tide trailing 31-17, Javier Arenas returned a punt 86 yards to pull Alabama to within a touchdown with 10:50 left in the game.

Then Grant Jones fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Chris Rogers recovered, giving Alabama a first down on the Oklahoma State 21. Six plays later, left tackle Andre Smith caught a lateral from John Parker Wilson and ran 2 yards to tie the game at 31.

It was a bitter end to a bitter year for the Tide. Playing for the first time since Mike Shula was fired, Bama was unable to dodge its first losing record since 2003, Shula's first season.

Alabama is still without a coach for next season after being turned down by West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez. Defensive coordinator Joe Kines has handled the head coaching duties in the interim.

Oklahoma State - ranked 16th nationally in total offense - outgained Alabama 419-276. The Cowboys rushed for 207 yards compared to 108 yards for the Tide.

Reid completed 15 of 29 attempts for 212 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and Keith Toston added 58 yards and two TDs.

John Parker Wilson completed 18 of 33 for 168 yards and a touchdown for Alabama. He was intercepted twice.

The Cowboys scooped up an Alabama fumble on the Tide's 38-yard line to set up the opening score. Savage ran the final yard to cap a 38-yard drive and make it 7-0 Oklahoma State.

Alabama tied it on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Matt Caddell with 3:32 remaining in the first quarter.

Oklahoma State went ahead 14-7 on Toston's 4-yard run. The Cowboys stretched their lead to 17-7 on a 28-yard field goal by Ricks.

Alabama cut the margin to 17-14 on a 1-yard run by fullback Tim Castille. But Bama was unable to stop the Cowboys final drive of the half. Oklahoma State took it 64 yards, capped by a 7-yard run by Toston for a 24-14 lead at the half.

In the third quarter Jamie Christensen kicked a 24 yard field goal to pull Alabama three points closer.

Then Reid hit Adarius Bowman for a 10-yard score to give Oklahoma State a 14 point lead at 31-17.

For more coverage of the Alabama Crimson Tide, visit BamaOnLine.com; For more on the Oklahoma State Cowboys, visit OState.com.



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