SHREVEPORT, La. - The University of Alabama football team was in sweats and helmets on Tuesday as they continue to prepare for their upcoming showdown with Oklahoma State in the 2006 Petro Sun Independence Bowl.
The Tide will be challenged in the game by a high-powered Cowboys offense that ranks eighth in the nation in rushing offense (208.08 ypg.) and scoring offense (35.33 ppg.). They have scored 51 touchdowns with a good balance of 25 rushing and 26 passing touchdowns.
"They have several players on both sides of the ball that are as good as anybody we have played," said Alabama's interim head coach Joe Kines. "They could come into the Southeastern Conference and compete. I don't think there are that many differences between the two conferences. I think they are well-coached. I really think Mike and his staff has done a really great job. They are doing some things offensively that as they progress this team is going to be really good. It is a good staff and I have had the opportunity to know some of those guys. They have good people and they are doing it the right way."
OSU is led by sophomore quarterback Bobby Reid who is 13th in the country in passing efficiency (151.86), has thrown for 2,054 yards and rushing for 466 yards with a combined 28 touchdowns (23 pass, five rush). His favorite target is Adarius Bowman who is ninth nationally with 1,131 receiving yards on 57 catches with 11 touchdowns. The Cowboys have four players with over 450 rushing yards on the season.
"They are very explosive," said Tide junior defensive end Wallace Gilberry. "They have a great quarterback. With their quarterback they have a great running back which is hard to find. They also have two great receivers and a tight end. The offense is almost put together wonderful. At the same time it is going to be a challenge for us. We are definitely up for the challenge. It is going to be a great game."
The Alabama defense once again ranked among the top defensive teams in the country this season. They finished in the top-20 for the third straight season. They were 18th in total defense (287.58 ypg.) and 16th in passing defense (169.83 ypg.). They were also ranked 29th nationally in scoring defense (18 ppg.).
The Tide defense was led by second team All-SEC selection Simeon Castille and freshman All-American Prince Hall. Castille led the team with five interceptions, including two games with two picks. He also led the team with three fumble recoveries and was fourth with 65 tackles. Hall stormed through the second half of the season and finished as the starter at middle linebacker in eight games. He led the team with 10.5 tackles for a loss and was third with 71 tackles. He also had two sacks and two fumble recoveries.
Alabama will conduct a walk-through at Independence Bowl Stadium tomorrow to go over the final preparations for Thursday's contest. The game against Oklahoma State will take place at 3:30 p.m. (CT) and will be televised by ESPN.