Tide comes in at Shreveport

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 27, 2001

Sports Editor

It used to be a 6-5 season and end-of-the-year trip to Shreveport, La., for the Independence Bowl would have had Alabama fans fuming louder then a gulf hurricane.

But following a 3-8 campaign and the debacle that was the Mike DuBose era, Tide fans couldn’t be happier about the way first-year head coach Dennis Franchione’s inaugural season turned out.

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At 3-5, the Crimson Tide ran off three straight to become bowl eligible. And sandwiched between two of those wins, (over Mississippi State and Southern Miss),

was a 31-7 thrashing of Auburn.

At Jordan-Hare.

On national television.

Labeled as a coach who couldn’t get his team to play four quarters earlier in the year, Franchione made AU coach Tommy Tuberville out to be a farmer

caught with all of his eggs in one basket.

Namely a "Cadillac" named Carnell (Williams).

Not only did the Tigers’ offense disappear, but so did the defense as Tide tailbacks Santonio Beard and Ahmaad Galloway ran wild. Beard rushed for 199 yards and Galloway added his own 100-plus yard effort in the biggest margin of victory by either team since a man with a houndtoothed hat walked the ‘Bama sidelines.

Again, at Jordan-Hare.

On national television.

Franchione and staff now hope to finish out the year with a victory over Iowa State (7-4 overall, 4-4 Big 12) in the Main Stay Independence Bowl tonight.

Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. and the game will be televised by ESPN.

"I don’t think there will be any team as fired up about a bowl game as us," said Franchione. "The kids have been enthused and almost as feisty as I’ve seen them."

Especially Beard, who was suspended for the Tide’s 28-15 win over Southern Miss in the regular season finale after being charged with a DUI following the Auburn game.

"Santonio has done everything we have asked, and will play in our bowl game," said Franchione.

Although not Alabama’s leading rusher, (Galloway holds that title with 881 yards this year), Beard has rushed for 633 yards and is averaging 8.2 yards per carry. Both players should be drooling at the prospect of facing

a Cyclones’ defensive unit ranked 88th in the nation against the rush.

Senior quarterback Andrew Zow, who did about as much damage through the air as his two tailbacks did on the ground against Auburn, will likely start against Iowa State. Tyler Watts was the Tide’s starter until late in the year when he suffered a groin injury.

But Zow will be without one of his top receivers, Antonio Carter, who will miss the bowl game due to his academic standing at the university.

Carter’s absence allows the Cyclones to concentrate a little more on stopping senior wide out Freddie Milons. Milons is the Tide’s career leader in receptions with 152.

"He’s really shifty," Iowa State defensive back Atif Austin told the Des Moine Register. "He’s not going to run over you; he’s going to try to make you miss."

The Cyclones are making their second straight bowl appearance and are led by a junior college transfer, Seneca Wallace, at quarterback. Wallace threw for 2,044 yards this season, tossed 11 touchdowns, and ran for 475 yards and seven TDs.

Running back Ennis Haywood has rushed for 1,169 yards and reached the endzone 14 times this season.

"What got us seven wins is what we’re going to use," said Iowa State head coach Dan McCarney. "There might be some adjustments, but there won’t be anything really crazy."

The Tide defense may have a hard time creating fumble opportunities against Iowa State. Cyclone running backs have touched the ball 1,894 times since 1997, yet have lost just three fumbles. Two of those were lost this season.