Countdown to Kickoff
Bama, Gophers Ready for Music City Bowl


Thursday, December 30, 2004

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- All the pregame parties, sight-seeing and bowl week festivities officially came to an end on Thursday and now its down to business for the two teams playing in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl, presented by Bridgestone.
After a week of rib-eating contests, trivia challenges and country music icons on every street corner, its now time for some football as the University of Alabama gets ready to face the University of Minnesota in the Music City Bowl.
The Crimson Tide and Golden Gophers both held closed one-hour practice sessions the The Coliseum in preparation for Friday's 11:02 a.m. kickoff in a nationally televised game by ESPN.
The Crimson Tide is playing in its first bowl game since a 2001 Independence Bowl win over Iowa State and on New Year's Eve they hope to cap a great week with the school's 30th bowl win.
"Obviously we are thrilled to be here," Alabama coach Mike Shula said.  "Personally, I am thrilled to be a part of this Alabama football team.  It's great to be back in a bowl game.  This has been an exciting week.  The hospitality here at the Music City Bowl has been unbelievable.
"This has been a great week so far and we wanted the guys to have a good time, and they have had a good time.  Now we want to focus on finishing up on a good note.  We are facing a good opponent, a great team like Minnesota from the Big Ten. 
"It will be a challenge and we are looking forward to that challenge.  We have to put our best foot forward to end the season on a good note."
For Minnesota coach Glen Mason his excitement is two-fold in that his team is thrilled to be playing in Nashville for the second time in three years and that after 33 years of coaching, Mason is facing Alabama for the very first time.
"I can't tell you how excited we are to be back in the Music City Bowl," Mason said.  "We were ecstatic to find out were invited to Nashville and even more ecstatic to find out we were playing the University of Alabama.
"Alabama is synonymous with college football.  This is a special game for us.  In all my years of coaching, I have never had the opportunity to play against Alabama.
"I've been around Alabama all week at various functions and at the (Gaylord Opryland) hotel, and I can tell you that Alabama is not only a good football team, but they classy people as well.  We are excited to be playing Alabama."
Mason and the Gophers may not share those sentiments on Friday morning when the majority of the crowd at The Coliseum will be cheering for the Crimson Tide.
"We were the home team against Arkansas (2001) and we felt that way, too," Mason added.  "I don't talk about  things like that.  If you use those things as motivation, you are missing the boat.  It's all about playing the game. 
It's about blocking and tackling and playing hard.
"You are fooling yourself if you come to Nashville and think there will not be a lot of Alabama fans."
For Coach Shula he thinks the heavily-partisan crowd will be more pressure on his football team as they face the Gophers.
"I think there is more pressure on us," Shula said.  "There are Alabama fans everywhere and they are all proud to be associated with this great University and this football team.  The expectations are high.  Some people call it pressure, I call it excitement. We have high expectations for this football team and we want our fans to have high expectations, too."

COACHES LUNCHEON: Both Alabama and Minnesota attended a Coaches Luncheon on Thursday at the Ryman Exhibit Hall in the Gaylord Opryland Hotel ... Former Georgia Tech, Alabama and Kentucky coach and current ESPN analyst Bill Curry addressed the crowd of more than 750 fans, players and coaches ... The two head coaches also participated in a question and answer session based on questions submitted by the fans in attendance ...
TICKET UPDATE:  As of late Thursday, less than 3,000 tickets (all in the upper level for $15) remained for the Music City Bowl ... With more than 64,000 tickets sold, the 2004 Music City Bowl will be the highest attended game in the bowl's seven year history ... Alabama fans are expected to account for more than 60,000 of the fans in the Coliseum on New Year's Eve ...
PRACTICE REPORT:  Alabama held a one-hour, closed practice at The Coliseum on Thursday afternoon, the team's first glimpse of the Tennessee Titans home stadium ... The Crimson Tide took its 2004 team photo at The Coliseum on Thursday afternoon ...  Don Shula attended practice on Thursday and will be at the game on Friday ...
MISTAKEN IDENTITY: There has been a case of mistaken identity this week for both head coaches at the Music City Bowl ... At Thursday's press conference at the Coliseum, Alabama head coach Mike Shula was introduced by the moderator as David Shula ... Mike Shula smiled and thanked the moderator for the compliment ... Minnesota coach Glen Mason laughed and said that was not the first time that as happened this week ... On Tuesday night, Alabama junior safety Charlie Peprah incorrectly answered that Jackie Mason was the Gophers head coach ... "So, Jackie and David are glad to be here," Mason quipped.
MISTAKEN IDENTITY, II: In the same trivia challenge, one of the Minnesota players missed two questions concerning Crimson Tide football ... On one question he incorrectly answered that Alabama was located in Birmingham and another question he missed by saying that Alabama's mascot was a lion ...

(All photos by Kent Gidley)

Music City Bowl Practice Day 5 01
Alabama head coach Mike Shula and Minnesota head coach Glen Mason talk to the media on Thursday.

Music City Bowl Practice Day 5 02
Coach Mike Shula with team captains Todd Bates and Wesley Britt.

Music City Bowl Practice Day 5 03
Coach Shula answers questions by reporters.

Music City Bowl Practice Day 5 05
Coach Shula and Coach Mason show the trophy they'll be fighting for on Friday.

Music City Bowl Practice Day 5 04
The 2004 Alabama Crimson Tide.