December 30, 2007

CU Later: Tide wins 30-24

SHREVEPORT, La. - The Alabama football team ended the season with a month of frustrating losses, and ended the holidays after a month to think about them.

Sunday night at Independence Stadium, it ended the pity party.

The Crimson Tide (7-6) pulled out a 30-24 win over Colorado (6-7) in the Independence Bowl as John Parker Wilson passed for 256 yards and three touchdowns.

"When you lose the last four games of the season it would be very easy for everyone to kind of blow the bowl game off," said Alabama coach Nick Saban. "This group worked hard."

Just as the team put a tough stretch behind, Wilson ended a personal slump in strong form. The junior from Hoover finished 19 of 32 and won the game's most valuable offensive player honor. He also came up with a key scramble as Alabama tried to run the clock out in the final minutes, converting a third-and-7 with an 8-yard scramble.

"The guys came out with great desire," said Wilson. "We started off great. … We were able to finish the game and get first downs in crucial situations."

A 31-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Nikita Stover was the back-breaker for Colorado, making the score 27-0 early in the second quarter. While the Buffaloes eventually pulled within six points, it was Stover's catch that proved to be the game-winner.

"They came at us hard to start, and we held them to field goals, but then throwing that pick did not help," said CU coach Dan Hawkins. "… We had a little trouble finding our rhythm at the start, and we could not convert third downs."

Among the big plays that led to UA's comfortable early lead were an interception by Rolando McClain, a partially blocked punt by Matt Caddell, and Keith Saunders sniffing out a fake punt that was foiled near midfield.

"We got off to a great start, which means we were well-prepared," said Saban.

Defensively, the Crimson Tide was led by senior Wallace Gilberry, who made five tackles for loss, giving him 27 for the season. Among those was an 8-yard sack, and he also drew a holding call that helped slow down a second-half Colorado drive.

"Gilberry's a great player," said Colorado senior tackle Tyler Polumbus. "Hopefully [I'll] see him again one day [in the NFL]."

Also defensively, Rashad Johnson made a game-high 13 tackles, and Rolando McClain had an interception and two pass break-ups.

"Colorado closed the gap late in the first half, scoring 14 points in the final 2:05 before intermission. A Wilson interception resulted in a 43-yard touchdown drive, making the score 27-7. Ryan Walters' returned the pick-off 35 yards into Alabama territory, and Cody Hawkins capped the drive with a xx-yard scoring pass to tight end Tyson DeVree. After an Alabama punt, Hawkins found Dusty Sprague in the closing seconds to cut the lead to 27-14.

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