In the first Independence Bowl, held Dec. 13, 1976, the University of Tulsa fell to McNeese State, 20-16; with young quarterback Dave Rader sitting on the bench. Thirteen years later, in 1989, Rader returned to the sidelines of Independence Bowl Stadium as the head coach of Tulsa when the Golden Hurricane fell to Oregon, 27-24.
Now, 17 years later, Rader will return for a third time to the Independence Bowl, this time as an assistant, trying to break his winless streak in Shreveport.
“Personally, I’m 0-3 in that stadium,” Rader said. “I’m ready to win. We were so close in the ’89 game. It means a lot to me.”
When Alabama faces Oklahoma State Dec. 28 in the 31st Independence Bowl, Rader will not only face his third Independence Bowl opponent, but a familiar one in the Cowboys. In his 12 years as head coach at Tulsa, Rader faced Oklahoma State 11 times, compiling a 4-7 record.
“For me, this game is a little personal. I think it shows, again, God's sense of humor in that for me, David Rader, the last game you're going to play at Alabama is against one of the guys you loved to play the most when you were at Tulsa,” Rader said. “And that's Oklahoma State.”
Rader’s fourth trip to Shreveport will be different for the former Tulsa quarterback. With the current Alabama coaching staff in limbo, Rader’s responsibilities will most likely go beyond his familiar offensive coordinator duties, including calling the majority, if not all of Alabama’s offensive plays.
Even going back to his days as a head coach, Rader said he can’t remember having to handle all of the play calling duties.
“I don’t know if it’s something I’ve ever totally done before,” he said. “When I was a head coach we had guys, and I’d do it and they’d do it, but I don’t know if I’ve ever had to call them all. We are what we are. We're not going to run the wishbone. We know the plays that we know, but I like the way we're going to attack.”
Even with Rader’s familiarity with Alabama’s opponent, research for this year’s Oklahoma State team, which compiled a 6-6 record, has been done like all of Alabama’s other opponents, Rader said, which includes mainly copying the success other teams had against the Cowboys’ offensive attack.
“Some people call it plagiarism, but we call it research,” Rader said. “We’ve looked at things that worked well against them and worked well for us, and you go with the evaluations that you have.
“Their defense is better than advertised. They kept it close with Oklahoma and they work hard at keeping the offensive line off of them. They have a lot of sacks and I can see whythey tackle well, the safeties don’t let anyone get behind them, they’re efficient in run support and have good corners. There are many good things that they do.”
The transition period for this year’s Alabama team and coaching staff has left many around the program with unanswered questions regarding the future. Though Rader said he would like to coach again after his time at Alabama is done, he said it’s his family and life away from the program that provides perspective for what may happen next.
“Sure we've wondered, but [wife] Janet and I have just had a great peace about it and we're excited to see what's going to happen next,” he said. “For whatever reason, as tumultuous as things have been, she's been great. We have peace about it and we're convinced it'll all work out.
“It’s Christmas. When I get home and [daughter] Kendal is ready for Christmas, you are reminded of what’s really important.”
By Scott Latta
UA Media Relations