STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) After a losing season, Oklahoma State's main goal was to get back to the post-season. That goal was reached Sunday, when the Cowboys received a berth in the Independence Bowl against Alabama.
The two 6-6 teams will meet December 28th in Shreveport, Louisiana.
"We made a lot of strides in all areas with our football program," said second-year Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy. "We're not satisfied with being 6-6."
For Oklahoma State, the berth marks the first time since 1984-88, the days of Heisman Trophy winner Barry Sanders and future NFL great Thurman Thomas, that the Cowboys have been to four bowls in a five-year span.
The Cowboys had gone to three straight bowl games under Les Miles before a 4-7 season last year.
"We took some steps in the right direction," safety Donovan Woods said. "We still have some steps to go, but it is good to know we are stepping in the right direction. We are happy with the progress so far."
It's the first time since 1981, when Jimmy Johnson was the coach, that the Cowboys will play in the Independence Bowl. They lost 33-16 to Texas A&M in that game.
"Our football team gets to play another game, we get to practice, our young kids get to work and get to develop, our seniors get an opportunity to go out and play against a very tradition-rich school that will come in and play as hard as anybody that we've played this year," Gundy said. "It'll be a great bowl game."
Oklahoma State was the last of eight bowl-eligible Big 12 teams to make it to the post-season, and a come from behind win against Kansas proved to be critical. The Jayhawks, who also finished 6-6, were left out of the bowl picture.
"The Oklahoma State people are very excited," Gundy said. "We're lucky at Oklahoma State that our fans follow us everywhere we go. There's times when you don't produce as many wins as a football team as you want to, that sometimes it falls back on what kind of following you have in your fans. The Oklahoma State people, they'll be on board."
It's the third straight bowl berth for the Crimson Tide, who will have interim coach Joe Kines on the sidelines after head coach Mike Shula was fired at the end of the season.
The game will mark the first meeting between Alabama and Oklahoma State. The winning team gets to finish the season above .500.
"Both teams will go into the game with that in mind," Kines said. "Again, it's just a chance to see if we can't put a little bit of a sparkle on something that went dull all of a sudden."