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AROUND THE NATION | COTTON BOWL

Kick Good Enough for Alabama

January 03, 2006|From the Associated Press

DALLAS — As soon as the ball left Jamie Christensen's foot, the only way to describe his 45-yard field-goal attempt was "ugly."

It was low, it was wobbly and it had a sideways spin that seemed certain to make the ball hook left even if it had enough oomph to reach the crossbar.

Then it twirled just inside the bottom left corner of the goalpost, giving No. 13 Alabama a 13-10 victory over No. 18 Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl, ending a two-game losing streak.

Just that quickly, it became one of the most beautiful kicks in Alabama history.

"I hit the ground," Christensen said. "I'm glad it just had the distance and I got it there."

Christensen, a sophomore who'd won consecutive games in October in the closing seconds, battled back from missing a 39-yarder and having a 38-yard attempt blocked.

This one was the longest of his career and it fulfilled a promise to a teammate, made after his two goofs, that he would kick the winning field goal if Tech tied it.

The entire stadium went silent when Christensen's kick went up -- well, about 15 feet up at its highest point.

When the official closest to where the ball cleared threw up his arms, a teammate lifted Christensen into the air and a wild celebration began around them.

"I didn't know if it was going to be good," Christensen said. "I didn't know until I saw the referee's hands go up."

A bizarre scene followed: While everyone from the Crimson Tide side of the field danced, everyone on the Red Raiders' side was so stunned they weren't moving.

"It didn't look very good when it left his foot," Tech Coach Mike Leach said. "I had high hopes for it not being good at that point. Did he make it?"

Red Raider quarterback Cody Hodges called it "a three-iron punch in the wind."

Alabama's speedy defense kept Tech's offensive machine without a touchdown for 57 minutes 4 seconds. Then the Red Raiders (9-3) finally broke through, tying the score, 10-10, on a 12-yard pass to Jarrett Hicks. Hodges threw it despite having missed the previous series with what's believed to be a torn ligament in his right knee.

The Tide began its final drive at its 14, with two timeouts and 2:56 left.

Brodie Croyle drove them 58 yards in 10 plays, hitting Matt Miller for 17 yards on third and six and Keith Brown on a 23-yarder to get into field-goal range.

Although Christensen was having a bad game, Coach Mike Shula trusted him because he had kicked a 31-yarder with no time left to beat Mississippi, 13-10, then a week later made a 34-yarder with 13 seconds to play for a 6-3 win over Tennessee.

No one else had kicked consecutive game-winners in Alabama history. Now he's the first person to win a bowl game for the Tide on a game-ending field goal. This was the school's 53rd bowl game and its 30th victory, NCAA records.

The win gave the Tide double-digit victories for the 28th time, extending another record.

Croyle, the leading passer in Tide history, was 19 for 31 for 275 yards and, most important, helped Alabama keep the ball for 38:58, keeping his defense fresh and the Tech offense on the sideline.

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