The Crimson Tide continued to prepare for the high-powered offensive attack of the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Tuesday working in sweats and helmets as they prepared for the 2006 Petro Sun Independence Bowl.
"Today is a great day. The sun is shining and we have a chance to play," said interim head coach Joe Kines. "This team has made the most of what we have. That is all you can ask of young people. You have to go out there and work hard and play hard, they have done that. We haven't asked them to do one thing they haven't done."
The Tide will face 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 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 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.
Tide players feeling confident
While they know they'll be facing a tough challenge in the Oklahoma State offense, the Crimson Tide defense is feeling confident that they will match up well against the Cowboys.
"I am looking forward to getting up each day and knocking them out," Gilberry said. "Thursday will come, it will be a field filled with orange and red and it is going to be exciting."
"We are definitely going to man up to them. That is not a secret. It is going to be man-on-man and that is what we want. Someone is going to win."
The Tide defense has spent plenty of time preparing for the Cowboys' option attack, something the Tide hasn't faced yet in 2006.
"We are ready for it. The quarterback is very athletic," said defensive tackle Jeremy Clark. "It just takes everybody playing sound defense and playing their techniques."
Clark is confident that he and his teammates will rise to the challenge of stopping one of the nation's most powerful offensive units.
"Every time I step on the field with my teammates we try to win. It is a pride factor also. I don't want to lose my last college football game. We just want to come out and play hard with each other one last time."
Homecoming for Schreiber
The Crimson Tide players have enjoyed exploring Shreveport but for freshman linebacker Zach Schreiber, the trip is nothing new. Schreiber grew up in Shreveport and said he is looking forward to showing his teammates around town.
"I haven't had a chance yet. I have been wrapped up with family since it has been Christmas and Christmas Eve since I have been here," Schreiber said. "Tonight I am going to try and take them out a little bit."
Schreiber is looking forward to playing in front of his friends and family for the first time.
"It is going to be really exciting just because I know I am going to be playing in front of these people I have know my whole life. I have been lucky enough to play in Tuscaloosa in front of all of those people but this is special to come here and play in front of my hometown."
Schreiber said the team is feeling upbeat and is looking at Thursday's game as a huge opportunity for the program.
"We are upbeat. We are happy to be here in this bowl. We have a chance to play in a bowl game against a great team like Oklahoma State. It is a great challenge. The team seems like it is really upbeat and focused so I don't think there is any letdown at all."