Countdown to Kickoff
Tide Falls Just Short to Minnesota in Music City Bowl, 20-16


Friday, December 31, 2004


By COLIN FLY, Associated Press Writer

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Marion Barber III ran for 187 yards and a touchdown and teammate Laurence Maroney added 105 yards on the ground to lead Minnesota to a 20-16 win over Alabama in the Music City Bowl on Friday.

Barber and Maroney were the only runners to go over 100 yards in a game this season against the Crimson Tide, who entered the game with the nation's second-ranked defense.

The Golden Gophers (7-5) ran for 276 yards to overcome three turnovers -- including two by Barber -- on their first three drives. Still, they nearly gave the game away in the fourth quarter.

Rhys Lloyd, who made field goals from 27 and 24 yards, missed a 24-yard attempt with 5:34 left that would have sealed the victory.

On Minnesota's next possession, it was pinned deep in its own end and elected to take a safety to make it 20-16 rather than attempt a punt.

The decision nearly backfired.

Alabama's Tyrone Prothro returned the free kick to the Minnesota 48, and four completions by Spencer Pennington got the Crimson Tide to the 15. But Pennington overthrew an open receiver for a likely touchdown on third down and couldn't convert a fourth-and-5 with 1:14 to left, ending the game.

Alabama (6-6), making an NCAA-record 52nd bowl appearance, were forced to throw throughout the game with leading rusher Kenneth Darby limited because of an abdominal strain. The Crimson Tide had minus-2 yards rushing in the first half and finished with 21.

Pennington, who finished 22-of-36 for 243 yards and a touchdown, frequently tried to let receivers make plays using short passes. In the second quarter, he found Keith Brown on a curl route, and Brown shook a defender for a 40-yard gain. That set up Le'Ron McClain's 1-yard TD plunge with 2:57 left to cut Minnesota's halftime lead to 17-14.

But it was as close as Alabama would get.

The Gophers scored 17 straight points after falling behind 7-0 when Barber fumbled on the second play of the game and tried to pick the ball up instead of falling on it.

The Crimson Tide scored on the next play when Pennington threw a 2-yard TD pass to McClain.

The Gophers tied the score when defensive tackle Anthony Montgomery forced Pennington to fumble and Keith Lipka recovered in the end zone.

Minnesota quarterback Brian Cupito finished 5-of-12 for 75 yards.

Alabama fans, rabid for a return to the postseason for the first time since 2001, were out in force in the highest-attended Music City Bowl since the game began in 1998. The Alabama state line is less than an hour from Nashville, and the crowd of 66,089 was overwhelmingly crimson and white outside of two small sections behind the Golden Gophers' bench.

But the most storied program in college football have to wait at least another year for a postseason win, as Southeastern Conference teams fell to 1-6 in the Music City Bowl.

The Music City Bowl is sponsored by Gaylord Hotels and Bridgestone.

The 2004 Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl Presented by Bridgestone
Alabama Crimson Tide (6-6) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-5)
The Coliseum - Nashville, Tennessee - Friday, December 31, 2004
Final Score: MINNESOTA 20, ALABAMA 16
PREGAME NOTEBOOK:  Alabama was the visiting team for the 2004 Music City Bowl ... Alabama has been the visiting team in each of its last two bowl appearances, including the 2001 Independence Bowl against Iowa State ... Alabama's 2004 permanent captains Todd Bates (Heflin) and Wesley Britt (Cullman) represented the Crimson Tide seniors as captains for today's game ... Alabama won the toss and deferred to the second half ... Senior Matt Ragland (Huntsville) suffered a torn ACL in his left knee on the opening kickoff and missed the remainder of the game ...

ATTENDANCE:  Today's attendance was 66,089, a Music City Bowl record ... According to Music City Bowl officials, more than 40,000 of those tickets were sold to fans who live in the state of Alabama ...

STARTERS NOTEBOOK: Senior defensive tackle Anthony Bryant (Newbern) started at defensive tackle in place of junior Rudy Griffin ... The start at the right tackle spot was the second of year for Bryant and the 17th start of his UA career ... Bryant's only other start of the season came against Southern Miss on Oct. 16 ... Alabama opened the game with two-tight ends and two fullbacks when it took over the football at the Minnesota two-yard line following a fumble ... Senior tight end David Cavan (Tuscaloosa) returned to the Alabama starting lineup after missing the last two games of the regular season with cracked vertebrae in his back ... Cavan suffered the injury in the Tide's 30-14 win over Mississippi State on Nov. 6 ... The 2004 Music City Bowl was Cavan's third start of the season and 11th start in his four-year career at Alabama ... Cavan's other starts this season came against Utah State (Sept. 4) and Miss. State (Nov. 6) ... Junior tight end Greg McLain (Heflin) made his first start of the 2004 season and seventh of his career ... The fullbacks were sophomore Le'Ron McClain (Northport) and senior Josh Smith (Birmingham) ... McClain made his fifth start of the 2004 season and sixth of his career today against Minnesota ... Smith made his first career start in his final game for the Crimson Tide against Minnesota ... McLain and Smith become the 13th and 14th different UA players to make the first career start for the Crimson Tide this year ... In addition, McLain and Smith are the 35th and 36th different players to start a game for Alabama during the 2004 season ... Alabama has used at least one first-time starter in eight of its 12 games during the 2004 season ...

BAMA COACHES IN BOWL DEBUTS:  Alabama football coaches are 4-6 (.400) in their bowl debuts with the Crimson Tide, dating back to coach Wallace Wade's first bowl game in the 1926 Rose Bowl ... Ray Perkins and Dennis Franchione are the only two Alabama coaches to win their bowl debut in the post World War II era ... Perkins led Alabama to a 28-7 win over SMU in the 1983 Sun Bowl, while Franchione led the Tide to a 14-13 win over Iowa State in the 2001 Independence Bowl ... Coach Mike Shula lost his debut here today as Minnesota beat Alabama 20-16 ...

ALABAMA BOWL HISTORY:  Alabama has posted a 29-20-3 (.587) all-time record in its previous 52 bowl appearances ... Alabama owns the NCAA record for most bowl games (52) and most victories (29) ... Alabama's bowl history dates back to the Jan. 1, 1926 Rose Bowl where coach Wallace Wade's team upset the Washington Huskies 20-19 to finish with the school's first perfect 10-0 season ... The landmark win over the Huskies also secured the Crimson Tide the 1925 national championship, the first of 12 titles won by the school ... Alabama overcame a 12-0 halftime deficit with 20 third-quarter points en route to the 20-19 win.  Pooley Hubert's one-yard run marked the first post-season touchdown in school history ... Alabama has played in 16 different bowl games in its storied history and is making its second appearance in the Music City Bowl ... The Crimson Tide has played in more Sugar Bowls (12) than any other bowl.  The Orange Bowl (8), Cotton Bowl (6) and Rose Bowl (6) rank second and third respectively ... Alabama has played bowl games in 10 different states, including Arizona, California, Florida, Hawai'i, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas ... In addition, The Coliseum in Nashville is the 19th different bowl stadium  for the Crimson Tide ... Alabama players have garnered 39 "Most Valuable Player" awards in its 51 previous bowl games ... Another 19 players and coaches have been selected to various all-time bowl teams.

MUSIC CITY BOWL:  Alabama is making its second appearance in  the Music City Bowl, having played in the inaugural Music City Bowl in 1998 ... In its first trip to Nashville, Alabama dropped a 38-7 decision to Virginia Tech on Dec. 29, 1998 in the only Music City Bowl game to be played at Vanderbilt Stadium ... The Crimson Tide is the only team to play in both Vanderbilt Stadium and The Coliseum as a Music City Bowl participant ... The 2004 season marks the seventh straight year that an SEC team has played in the Music City Bowl ... The SEC has compiled a 1-6 (.143) record in its seven trips to the Music City Bowl ... Alabama is 0-2 in its two Music City Bowl appearances ... The SEC was matched up with the Big East Conference in the first four years of the Music City Bowl's existence.  Big East teams won all four meetings by an average of 13.25 points per game ... In 2002, the Big Ten reached an agreement with the Music City Bowl to send a team to Nashville to face a team from the SEC ... Minnesota beat Arkansas in the first SEC-Big 10 matchup in 2002, while Auburn snapped a five-game losing streak by the SEC in last year's game in Nashville ... The Gophers are 2-0 in their Music City Bowl appearances ...

BOWL MISCELLANEOUS: The Minnesota Golden Gophers will mark the Crimson Tide's 32nd different bowl opponent ... UA   has faced a first-time bowl opponent in three of its last four bowl games.  The list includes Virginia Tech (1998 Music City), Iowa State (2001 Independence) and Minnesota (2004 Music City Bowl) ... Alabama is 4-3 (.571) in bowl games against the Big 10 Conference, with both losses coming to Michigan ... The 2004 Music City Bowl will mark the fifth bowl game in Alabama history to be played in the state of Tennessee ... The Tide's first post-season appearance in the state of Tennessee came in the 1969 Liberty Bowl in Memphis, a 47-33 loss to Colorado ... Alabama also played in the Liberty Bowl in 1976 and 1982 ... The 1982 Liberty Bowl was the final game in the career of Alabama coaching legend Paul "Bear" Bryant ... Alabama has compiled a 54-35-4 (.609) all-time record in the state of Tennessee ... The 2004 Music City Bowl against Minnesota will be the school's 93rd all-time game in the state of Tennessee ... The 2004 season marks the 16th time in school history that Alabama has played more than one game in the state of Tennessee in the same season ... Alabama has compiled a 28-14-2 (.690) all-time record in the city of Nashville ... Of course, 42 of the 44 meetings have come against the Vanderbilt Commodores ... The other two meetings came in the Music City Bowl ... From 1903-59, Alabama was 7-11-2 (.400) in the Music City ... Since 1961, Alabama is 21-3 (.875) here in Nashville  ... The loss to Minnesota snapped a modest three-game winning streak by Alabama here in Nashville ... The 1998 Music City Bowl loss snapped Alabama's 14-game winning streak here in Nashville.  Prior to the Music City Bowl loss, the Crimson Tide had not tasted defeat in Nashville since a 14-10 setback to the Commodores on Oct. 11, 1969 ... Since 1971, Alabama has won 21 straight games in Nashville against Vanderbilt ...

FIFTY-FIFTY:  With the loss to Minnesota in the 2004 Music City Bowl, Alabama is 6-6 for the first time in school history ... In addition, the 2004 season marks the first time since 1910 that Alabama finished with a .500 record ... In 1910, coach Guy Lowman guided the Crimson Tide to a 4-4 record ... Overall, Alabama has finished the season with a .500 winning percentage three times since its initial break-even record in 1892 ...

TURNOVERS:  Alabama forced three turnovers against Minnesota ... The Crimson Tide has forced at least one turnover in all 12 games this season and 17 straight games dating back to last season ... The last time Alabama did not force a turnover was Oct. 18, 2003 at Ole Miss ... Minnesota (3) and Alabama (2) combined for five turnovers in the first quarter ... The Crimson Tide has forced at least one turnover in 21 of the 25 games under coach Shula ... Junior linebacker Freddie Roach (Killen) recovered a fumble at the Minnesota two-yard line on the second play of the game to set up a two-yard TD pass from Spencer Pennington to LeRon McClain ... Junior free safety Roman Harper (Prattville) stopped a UM drive with an interception at the Bama 14-yard line ... Senior cornerback Anthony Madison (Thomasville) also stopped another Golden Gophers scoring drive with an interception in the end zone ... Alabama had two turnovers of its own in the first quarter, with both resulting in UM touchdowns ... Pennington fumbled and Keith Lipka fell on the ball in the end zone for the Gophers first score of the game ... On the next possession, Tyrone Prothro caught a pass and then fumbled at the UM 47-yard line ... Marion Barber III scored on a five-yard TD run nine plays later to give UM a 14-7 lead on the first play of the second quarter ...

SCORING:  Alabama scored in the second quarter in all 12 games this season and 13 consecutive games dating back to last year ... McClain's one-yard run with 2:47 left in the first half cut the Minnesota lead to 17-14 ... By contrast, Alabama has not scored a touchdown in the third quarter in its last six games ...

SPENCER PENNINGTON NOTEBOOK:  Junior quarterback Spencer Pennington is now 3-5 (.375) in his UA career as the starting quarterback, including a 3-4 (.429) mark this season ... Pennington completed 22 of 36 passes for 243 yards and one TD in the loss to Minnesota ... Pennington did not throw an interception against the Gophers, his first game without an interception since the win at Kentucky (Oct. 9) ... He was 8-for-8 in the second quarter for 117 yards ... In his eight career starts, Pennington has completed 89 of 164 passes (.542) for 980 yards, with eight interceptions and five touchdowns ... In his seven starts this season, Pennington completed 80 of 144 passes (.556) for 970 yards, with seven interceptions and four TDs ... Over his last four starts, Pennington completed 55 of 96 passes (.573) for 701 yards ... Pennington made his first career start for Alabama on Oct. 4, 2003 in a 37-23 loss at Georgia.  Against the Bulldogs, he completed 9 of 20 passes for 109 yards, with one interception and one TD before leaving the game with a shoulder injury ...

KENNETH DARBY NOTEBOOK:  Junior tailback Kenneth Darby (Huntsville) played only 14 snaps in the loss to Minnesota while nursing a pair of late-season injuries ... Darby had one rushing attempt for one yard in the loss ... He also caught two passes for nine yards ... For the season, Darby ran 217 times for 1,062 yards and eight TDs ... In his two-year career, Darby has played in 22 games and has 253 rushing attempts for 1,247 yards and eight TDs ...

OFFENSE NOTEBOOK:  Alabama managed only 21 rushing yards in the loss to Minnesota ... The leading rusher was freshman wide receiver Keith Brown (Gulfport, Miss.), who made 17 yards on a reverse in the second half ... Freshman tailback Aaron Johns (Thomasville) ran six times for 15 yards in the loss ... LeRon McClain also had six rushing attempts for seven yards ... Freshman DJ Hall (Ft. Walton Beach, Fla.) was Alabama's leading receiver with five catches for 5t yards, including a 23-yard catch ... Sophomore Tyrone Prothro (Heflin) had four catches for 82 yards, with a long of 25 yards ... Prothro is the only UA player to catch a pass in all 12 games this year ... Prothro accounted for 163 all-purpose yards in the loss ...

DEFENSE NOTEBOOK:  Alabama did not allow an opposing running back to rush for 100 yards during the 2004 regular season ... The UA defense allowed both Minnesota running backs to rush for 100 yards in the Music City Bowl today ... Marion Barber III ran 37 times for 187 (MCB record) and one TD in the win over Alabama ... His running mate, Laurence Maroney, ran 29 times for 105 yards in the win ... The duo combined for 66 rushing attempts and 293 yards against Alabama ... Barber's 187 rushing yards are the most against Alabama since Arkansas' Cedric Cobbs ran for 198 yards in a 34-31 overtime win over Alabama on Sept. 27, 1903 ... The last time Alabama allowed two backs to rush for 100 yards in the same game was Nov. 11, 2000 when Miss. State's Dontae Walker (117 yds) and Dicenzo Miller (104 yds) turned the trick ... The UA defense was on the field for 85 snaps today against Minnesota ... Including special teams, Harper played 94 snaps, including  83 on defense ... Harper was UA's leading tackler with 14 stops in the loss to Minnesota ... He had nine solos, one TFL (-9) and one interception in the loss ... Junior safety Charlie Peprah (Plano, Texas) played 89 snaps in the game, including 84 on defense for the Tide ... He finished the game with 11 tackles, including 10 solos ... Junior linebacker DeMeco Ryans (Bessemer) was the second-leading tackler for the Tide with 13 stops, including 10 solos and one TFL (-2) ... Senior linebacker Cornelius Wortham (Calhoun City, Miss.) also had 13 tackles in the loss ... Senior cornerback Anthony Madison (Thomasville) had five tackles in the game and three passes defended ... Minnesota gave Alabama a safety at the end of the game, marking the first time since Nov. 22, 2003 against Auburn that the Crimson Tide scored a safety ...

DECEMBER RECORD: Alabama has compiled a 34-16-2 (.637) all-time record in the month of December ... The Crimson Tide is 9-7-2 (.556) all-time in bowl games played in the month of December ... Alabama's first bowl game in the month of December was a 7-0 loss to Penn State in the Dec. 19, 1959 Liberty Bowl in Philadelphia ... After going 0-4-2 in its first six December bowl games, Alabama has rebounded to go 9-3 (.750) in its last 12 December bowl games ...

ON THIS DATE:  Alabama has compiled a 2-2-1 (.500) all-time record in its five previous games played on New Year's Eve ... The 2004 Music City Bowl was Alabama's first on New Year's Eve since a 24-10 win over North Carolina in the 1993 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla. ... The Crimson Tide's first game on New Year's Eve was a 24-24 tie with Oklahoma in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl played in the Houston Astrodome ... Perhaps the most memorable game in post-season history came on Dec. 31, 1973 as Notre Dame and Alabama met on the gridiron for the very first time ... Notre Dame posted a 24-23 win in this epic clash between two of college football's most storied programs ... Alabama also posted a 13-6 win on New Year's Eve over Penn State in the 1975 Sugar Bowl played at the Louisiana Superdome ... The 1975 Sugar Bowl was the first ever played in the Louisiana Superdome ... ,

All-Time Games on New Year's Eve

Year  Result                        Site
1970  Alabama 24, Oklahoma 24       Bluebonnet Bowl
1973  Notre Dame 24, Alabama 23     Sugar Bowl
1975  Alabama 13, Penn State 6      Sugar Bowl
1993  Alabama 24, North Carolina 10 Gator Bowl
2004  Minnesota 20, Alabama 16      Music City Bowl

HISTORY OF ALABAMA FOOTBALL:  The University of Alabama is in its 110th football season and has compiled a 764-299-43 (.711) all-time record in 1,106 games ... Alabama has also compiled a 329-147-20 (.683) all-time record in 496 SEC games since 1933 ...

UPCOMING SCHEDULE:  The 2004 season officially ends today at the Music City Bowl, but the 2005 season is just around the corner ... National Signing Day is set for Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2005 ... Alabama will open spring football practice on Saturday, Feb. 19 and the annual A-Day football game at Bryant-Denny Stadium is set for Saturday, March 19, 2005 ... The 2005 season opener is Saturday, Sept. 3 against Middle Tennessee at Bryant-Denny Stadium ... The complete 2005 schedule is as follows:


DATE        OPPONENT              SITE           
Sept. 3     Middle Tennessee      Tuscaloosa
Sept. 10    Southern Miss         Tuscaloosa
Sept. 17    South Carolina        Columbia, SC
Sept. 24    Arkansas              Tuscaloosa
Oct. 1      Florida               Tuscaloosa   
Oct. 15     Ole Miss              Oxford, MS
Oct. 22     Tennessee             Tuscaloosa
Oct. 29     Utah State            Tuscaloosa
Nov. 5      Miss. State           Starkville, MS
Nov. 12     LSU                   Tuscaloosa
Nov. 19     Auburn                Auburn, AL