Although Alabama lost to Oklahoma State, 34-31, in Thursday's Independence Bowl game in Shreveport, just by playing Bama increased its NCAA record for bowl appearances to 54. Unfortunately, the Tide couldn't add to its national record for bowl victories, which remains at 30 (and now against 21 losses, as well as three ties).
The game was the first in history between Alabama and Oklahoma State in football. It was the 33rd different bowl opponent for Alabama and marked the fourth time in the past five bowl trips the Tide has faced a new bowl opponent.
Pre-game odds in this gambling town were good that quarterback John Parker Wilson would add to his Crimson Tide records in his first year as a starter, and the sophomore didn't disappoint. He completed 18 of 33 passes for 168 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
He had already set Tide records for pass attempts and passing yards and extended those marks to 379 attempts and 2,707 yards. He broke the record for passing touchdowns in a season when he hit Matt Caddell. He now has 17. And he set the mark for completions in a season with 216.
D.J. Hall extended his school record for receiving yards in a season. He had five catches for 42 yards and finished with 1,056 yards in 2006. He came up three short of Freddie Millons 1999 school record for receptions in a year. Hall had 62.
The most exciting Alabama record from the game went to Javier Arenas, the freshman kick return specialist. He had an 86-yard punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter that helped Alabama come back from 14 points down to tie the game. It was the longest punt return in Independence Bowl history (the old was 65 by James Henry of Southern Miss in 1988) and was the longest in Alabama bowl history. Hootie Ingram had an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown against Boston College in the 1953 Orange Bowl. It was his second TD return this year, having also had a 65-yard runback against Florida International. The last bowl game punt return for a touchdown was by Freddie Millons in the 2000 Orange Bowl against Michigan, a 62-yard runback.
It wasn't a record, but it was noteworthy that freshman offensive tackle Andre Smith scored a touchdown. Officially it was a two-yard rush, although it looked something like an offensive tackle eligible pass. Smith took a lateral pass from Wilson and ran it in. Ironically, the tackle eligible as a pass receiver is not legal in college football primarily because of Alabama's great success with the play in the mid-1960s. Smith thus had more rushing touchdowns than Kenneth Darby.
Alabama, a notoriously poor offensive team in the Red Zone (inside the opponents' 20-yard line), scored three touchdowns and one field goal on its four trips into the Red Zone.
Junior All-Southeastern Conference cornerback Simeon Castille had his sixth interception of the season and the 10th of his Bama career.
Prior to the game, Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore issued a statement of appreciation to Interim Head Coach Joe Kines. It said:
"I can't say enough about the job that Interim Head Coach Joe Kines has done leading our team in the month leading up to this bowl game. Coach Kines simply could not have done a better job of preparing our kids. Our coaching staff and their families have done a tremendous job representing Alabama football. Our kids have conducted themselves very well and that is a reflection of the job our coaching staff, and Coach Kines in particular, have done."
Rashad Johnson, who missed the final two games of the regular season with ankle and knee injuries, was back in the lineup as a Bama kickoff return man and the cover man on punts, as well as playing strong safety.