Cowboys, Ricks Kick The Tide

Jason Ricks was forced to wait more than two months for redemption after missing an extra-point kick in Oklahoma State's 34-33 overtime loss to Texas A&M in October. But the OSU sophomore placekicker made good on his chance Thursday night by kicking a 27-yard field goal with 8.9 seconds remaining to give the Cowboys a 34-31 victory over Alabama in the PetroSun Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.

The Cowboys, who finish the 2006 season with a 7-6 record, broke a two-game bowl losing streak by driving 74 yards in the final three minutes to set up the winning field goal by Ricks. OSU, which never trailed in its first-ever meeting with Alabama, converted a pair of crucial third-down plays on the final drive.

Dantrell Savage, who was named the game's offensive player of the game while accounting for 153 total yards (112 rushing and 41 receiving), made one of the biggest plays of the game when the Cowboys faced a third-and-9 situation from the Alabama 41-yard line with less than a minute to play. Quarterback Bobby Reid dropped back and lofted a perfect screen pass to Savage who raced 26 yards to the Tide 15-yard line before being brought down.

Three plays later – and after Alabama called three consecutive timeouts to try to ice him – Ricks kicked the game-winning field goal for the Cowboys.

"I wasn't even really focused until the last kick because I saw the three timeouts up there. I've been in situations like that before and they're going to use them all ... I knew it was going to happen so I just tried to stay calm out there, and just stay loose and stay on the field as long as I could and get comfortable out there," Ricks said of the game-winning kick.

The Cowboys appeared to have the game in complete control early in the fourth quarter when Reid threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Adarius Bowman to go up 31-17. But the Tide special teams came up with two big plays – an 86-yard punt return for a touchdown by Javier Arenas and recovering a fumble by Grant Jones on the ensuing kickoff which led to a game-tying touchdown – and tied it up 31-31 with 8:41 remaining.

Alabama had a chance to win the game after intercepting Reid on the Cowboys' next possession. But OSU senior defensive tackle Ryan McBean's sack of Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson on a third down play forced the Tide to punt the ball back to the Cowboys with less than four minutes to play.

The Cowboys rode the back – or should we say legs – of Savage on the game-winning drive. The junior college transfer accounted for 50 of the Cowboys' 74 yards on the final drive.

"He's the little big man," Adarius Bowman said of Savage. "My hat's off to Dantrell. He got the player of the game, and he deserved it. I haven't seen a guy run that hard in a long time. He's a small guy but he runs hard and tough, and he was our player of the game today."

Savage finished with 19 carries for 112 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown run to put OSU up 7-0 in the first quarter. He also caught three passes for 41 yards.

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