Zow almost didn't finish his final game

The history books will record that by throwing a touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter of the Independence Bowl, Andrew Zow led his team to victory in his final game at Alabama. <br><br>But most fans don't know that an injury almost sidelined him earlier in the game. "I just didn't want to go out like that," Zow related.

"It was my senior year and we were down in my last bowl game. What kind of legacy would I have left then?"

Toward the end of the third quarter Zow was sacked by the Cyclone's Jeremy Loyd, severely bruising his calf muscle in the process. He explained: "I got kicked REALLY hard in the calf. And it didn't feel good. I was worried at first. I was on the sideline trying to work it out. I didn't know if it was going to act right. I didn't know if it going to be all right.

"But being my last game, I wasn't about to come out."

Zow drops back to pass in the Independence Bowl. (AllSport)

As it turned out, Zow accounted for both Tide TDs in its victory over Iowa State--a performance that was all the more impressive because the Bama offense (and quarterback) sputtered for most of the game. During the season Alabama had averaged more than 400 yards per game. But against the Cyclones the Tide managed only 269 yards, an anemic 119 of which came via the pass. Hardly startling numbers for a quarterback that holds most of the passing records at Alabama.

But in the end the Tide's senior captain made the plays when it counted.

"It was very frustrating," Zow admitted. "At the beginning of the game we didn't feel like we came out and played the way we wanted to. We weren't able to do what we wanted to do from an offensive standpoint."

Iowa State moved the ball well, gaining 456 total yards. But the Tide ‘D' tightened up in the red zone, allowing only one touchdown all night. "Our defense played well all game," Zow pointed out. "Keeping Iowa State out of the endzone. But on offense we just didn't play as well as we wanted to."

In the second quarter Zow had directed a 10-play, 80-yard drive for a touchdown. Freddie Milons and Sam Collins made key receptions to get Alabama down close. But Zow scored the touchdown himself on an eight-yard option run.

But other than that one long drive, the Alabama offense was stymied. "The Iowa State defense played well," Zow said. "You've got to give some credit to them."

Alabama was down 13-7 with only minutes to go when its special teams made the biggest play of the game. Waine Bacon and Marc Miller burst free to block a Cyclone punt, setting up Zow and the Tide offense at the Iowa State 29-yard line.

"We needed a break," Zow said. "And we were able to get that break with the blocked punt. The momentum of the game turned at that point. It really helped our offense that the punt team was able to go out there and make a big play. The momentum from that play really helped us. The offense took our momentum from that."

Bama's 14-13 win over Iowa State in the Independence Bowl was Zow's and the other Tide seniors' first bowl victory.

Following a two-yard Ahmaad Galloway run at right end, Zow hit his tight end running open toward the end zone. "The defense had played so well that we really wanted to go out and make something happen right then," Zow related. "I spotted TJ (Terry Jones Jr.) running out there.

"I noticed him put his hand up (signaling he was open), and I just put enough air under it so he could get to it. He made a great catch on it. He really did a good job."

What offensive success Alabama had managed up to that point had mainly come on the ground. And a play-action fake helped freeze the Cyclone safety. Zow explained; "I had been struggling on the fake to the running back. I had been coming around a little short on the fake to Ahmaad. But the play developed this time, and TJ made a great catch.

"After making the fake, when I first turned around the first thing I saw was TJ's hand up. That was one of the big plays I wanted. I was looking for TJ. He was one of the guys I saw first."

Interestingly, earlier in the season the Tide squad had elected five players as permanent captains, including Zow and Jones. But the two Independence Bowl heroes were the only senior captains. "That pass to TJ was a perfect ending," Zow said. "At least I feel like it was. It was to another senior, and it was the last touchdown for me and for the season. It helped send our program in the right direction."

Of course the contest wasn't finished. With more than four minutes left, a game Cyclone squad drove down within long field-goal range. But the 47-yard effort veered just right of good, setting off a celebration on the Bama sideline.

"I wasn't too worried," Zow claimed. "Our defense was out there winning it for us. They were able to make plays. It seemed like that kick was in the air forever, but once I saw it was wide, you can't explain the feeling that we had. My being a senior, that was very important. It was very special."

The Cyclone miss gave Alabama a one-point victory, sending Zow out a winner in his final game in Crimson. "I couldn't really have written a better ending--well, maybe I could have," he said laughing.

"But honestly, I can't really express my feelings. It's hard to explain. It was a truly special moment for our seniors. To end it on a touchdown pass that actually helped win the game--that was great."

Zow accounted for both Tide touchdowns versus the Cyclones, one an eight-yard option run and also the game-winning 27-yard pass to Terry Jones Jr.

During the first team meeting before bowl preparations began, Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione asked the assembled athletes how many had ever been a part of a bowl victory.

Not one player raised his hand.

In two previous bowl games ('98 Music City and '99 Orange), the Tide seniors had come up short. "It was a very important win for this program," Zow said. "But for the seniors it was huge. The seniors not having a bowl victory made it something special for us. And it was something special for this program, because it had been so long.

"We were able to help the team to win the last four games. We've got the program heading in the right direction. But the win for the seniors was something special. We'll really treasure it."

Bowl statistics don't count in the cumulative totals, but Zow finishes his career with the Alabama marks for career plays (1020: 852 passes, 168 rushes); total offense (5,958 yards); pass attempts (852); pass completions (459); and passing yards (5,983). Plus, his 35 touchdown passes have him tied for first with Mike Shula.

The numbers speak for themselves, and Zow has the additional satisfaction of notching a win in his last game in Crimson. "At the time there was no sadness," he said. "No, I was happy then. I think that will come later."

"I'm happy with my career at Alabama," Zow concluded. "I had some ups and downs, but I wouldn't be the person I am today if it wasn't for the ups and downs. I've grown, and I give God the credit for everything I do.

"Without the downs, I wouldn't be the person I am today. I thank God for that."

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