Raiders' Fourth-Quarter Rally Falls Short
Jan. 2, 2006
DALLAS (AP) - The Alabama defense did its job against the Texas Tech offense. So did Brodie Croyle and the Crimson Tide offense.
Kicker Jamie Christensen didn't - until it mattered most.
Shaking off a miss from 39 yards and a block from 38, Christensen barely made a low, spinning line drive from a career-best 45 yards as time expired, giving No. 13 Alabama a 13-10 victory over No. 18 Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl on Monday.
The entire stadium went silent as Christensen's kick headed toward the bottom left corner of the goalpost. When the official immediately under it threw up his arms to signal the kick was good, one teammate lifted Christensen into the air and a wild celebration began.
It was a bizarre scene: The Crimson Tide circling the field looking for people to hug, while everyone on the Red Raiders' side of the field was so stunned they weren't moving.
This was the first time in the 70-year history of the Cotton Bowl that the game was decided by a last-second field goal. The only other time the winning points were scored as time ran out was in 1979, when an ill Joe Montana threw a tying touchdown pass and then the extra point gave Notre Dame a 35-34 victory over Houston.
Christensen won two other games this season, kicking a 31-yarder with no time left in a 13-10 win over Mississippi and on a 34-yarder with 13 seconds for a 6-3 win over Tennessee the following week. That made him the first player in school history to kick game-winners in consecutive weeks, and this one - so ugly it was beautiful - certainly earned another spot in Tide lore.
Alabama won its 30th bowl game in 53 tries, both extending the school's NCAA record. This one made the Tide 10-2, marking the 28th time they've hit double digits, extending yet another record.
Coach Mike Shula will savor the first time he hit the milestone, as will a senior class that broke in under Dennis Franchione and went through the Mike Price mess. The win also should make for a more comfortable offseason because it ends a two-game losing streak that began when Alabama was 9-0 and ranked No. 4.
Texas Tech (9-3) came in with the nation's top passing game at 403.6 per game, but was held to a season-low 226 yards against a speedy Alabama defense that was allowing a national-best 10.7 points per game.
The Red Raiders had only a field goal going into closing minutes and quarterback Cody Hodges was limping, having already missed the previous series because of an injury sustained on one of his season-high 17 rushes the Tide forced him into. But Tech was still within 10-3, so Hodges went back in with 3:12 left and the ball on the Alabama 38.
An end around to Joel Filani went 26 yards to the 12. Then Hodges threw a slant that Jarrett Hicks caught around the 5 and worked his way past two defenders into the end zone for the tying score with 2:56 left.
Tech officials would not describe Hodges' injury, but an Associated Press photographer heard him tell Shula, "I have a torn ACL."
Croyle, the leading passer in Tide history, ended up being the better quarterback. He was 19-of-31 for 275 yards (compared to 15-of-32 for 196 yards by Hodges) and, most importantly, kept the ball for 38 minutes, 58 seconds, keeping his defense fresh and the Tech offense on the sideline.
On the winning drive, Croyle moved Alabama 58 yards in 10 plays to set up Christensen's winning kick.
Croyle's first pass of the game turned into a 76-yard touchdown for Keith Brown. It was a receiver screen and a block from tackle Chris Capps sent Brown untouched for the Tide's second-longest score of the season. Croyle celebrated by running to midfield with his arms extended like an airplane, twirling in circles.
Croyle opened the second half by leading a 17-play drive that took 8:07 that ended with Christensen making a 31-yarder.
Christensen's first miss was from 39 in the second quarter, with Alabama up 7-3. The block, which was Tech's first since 2002, came late in the second quarter.
A big return, plus a penalty on the Tide, put the Red Raiders in position to go ahead at halftime, but Tech blew it with poor clock management and a blocked 38-yard field goal.
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