This was Alabama's national record 51st bowl game and the Crimson Tide's national record 29th bowl victory. Bama finished the season with four consecutive victories and ended with a 7-5 record in Coach Dennis Franchione's inaugural season. It was the first bowl win for Alabama's seniors, who had lost bowl games to Virginia Tech and Michigan as underclassmen. Alabama's overall bowl record is now 29-19-3. Southern Cal, which lost its bowl game this year, is second in bowl wins with 24. Franchione became the first Tide coach since Ray Perkins in 1983 to win his bowl debut.
Alabama's winning score was set up when Tide safety Waine Bacon blocked an Iowa State punt with 5:38 remaining, giving the Tide the ball at the Cyclones' 29-yard line. Two plays later Zow hit tight end Terry Jones for a 27-yard touchdown. Neal Thomas' extra point kick put the Tide up 14-13. Bacon was co-winner of the Defensive Most Valuable Player Award. In addition to the blocked punt, Bacon was in on four tackles and had one pass deflection.
Although Zow, who went all the way at quarterback, did not have an outstanding game, he ran for Bama's first touchdown, an eight-yard keeper at right end on the option. For the game, Zow completed 11 of 19 passes for 119 yards. However, he also suffered four sacks and he threw an ill-advised interception. Nevertheless, Zow was named player of the game by ESPN, which telecast the game. The contest drew a crowd of 45,627, the eighth largest in bowl history.
As is often the case in bowl games, the Most Valuable Player voting took place before the conclusion of the game and members of the losing Iowa State team took top honors. Quarterback Seneca Wallace was winner of the offensive award, while linebacker Matt Word was co-defensive winner with Bacon. Wallace completed 25 of 42 passes for 284 yards. Word was in on nine tackles, including two sacks.
Iowa State's excellent tailback Ennis Haywood had 10 rushes for 125 yards. Prior to the Independence Bowl game, Haywood had rushed for 100 yards or more in 12 games and the Cyclones had a 12-0 record in those games.
The Cyclones led almost from the beginning. Iowa State marched quickly after the opening kickoff and got a 36-yard field goal from Tony Yelk. Yelk, a freshman who does all of Iowa State's kicking, appeared on his way to hero status with his punting and kickoffs, but he missed three field goal attempts and suffered the blocked punt.
Iowa State made it 10-0 with a short run after the Cyclones got a big play on an end-around in the opening moments of the second quarter.
Bama's early drives were victims of the passing game, either Zow being sacked or pass plays coming up short on third downs. However, early on it appeared the Tide would be able to get rushing yardage from its tailbacks. Ahmaad Galloway finished with 16 carries for 90 yards, while Santonio Beard, making his return after a one-game suspension, got only eight carries, but picked up 45 yards. Both tailbacks averaged 5.6 yards per carry.
Freddie Milons had three outstanding plays on Alabama's first touchdown drive. On a third-and-four Milons took a screen pass, made a defender miss, and picked up 15 yards. On the next play he was trapped on an end-around, but reversed field and turned it into a sparkling 12-yard pickup. And on a swing pass he picked up nine yards. He accounted for 36 yards and three first downs on that 10-play, 80-yard drive. Milons had three catches for 32 yards, Jones two grabs for 44, Sam Collins two for 28, and Jason McAddley two for 10.
Yelk's attempt at a winning field goal came with 51 seconds to play. The 47-yard try was long enough but was ruled wide right by inches. He also missed attempts of 25 yards in the final seconds of the first half and a 40-yarder that would have put the Cyclones up by nine points with 10:38 left in the game. He had connected on a 41-yard try late in the third quarter that gave the Cyclones a 13-7 lead.
Franchione said, "I don't know if we could have won a game like this early in the season. If the kid had made the field goal, I was still going to be proud of our team."
In answer to a question about the final kick by Iowa State, Franchione said, "I'm just glad the official made a good call."
Franchione said he thought it was big to have four wins at the end of the season. "Our seniors can walk out with their heads held high with the way they've left the program," the coach said. The four wins to end the season were the most since Alabama won 13 in a row at the end of the 1992 national championship season.
Franchione said he made the decision not to play Tyler Watts at quarterback in order to allow him to make a full recovery from the groin injury that has sidelined him since the opening moments of the Mississippi State game, Alabama's ninth game of the year.
Reggie Myles led Tide tacklers, making eight primary stops and assisting on three others. Saleem Rasheed was in on 10 tackles and Brooks Daniels and Gerald Dixon eight each. Kindal Moorehead and Jarret Johnson turned in sacks for Bama.
Iowa State had the better of it statistically. The Cyclones had 23 first downs to Alabama's 15. Iowa State had 32 rushes for 172 yards, Bama 39 rushes for 150 yards. Bama completed passes for 119 yards, Iowa State for 284 yards. Alabama had 58 plays for 269 yards, 4.6 yards per play, while Iowa State had 74 plays for 456 yards, an average of 6.2 yards per play. There were very few penalties, Alabama flagged twice for 20 yards, Iowa State four times for 32 yards. Possession time was almost even, Alabama 29:22, Iowa State 30:38.