Nebraska, Michigan State Chosen for 2003 MasterCard Alamo Bowl
Nebraska and Michigan State were selected as the Big 12 and Big Ten representatives to play in the 2003 MasterCard Alamo Bowl on Monday, December 29 at 8 p.m. (CST) in San Antonio?s 65,000-seat Alamodome. ?We are looking forward to matching the Nebraska Cornhuskers and their famed defense and power running attack against the Big Ten?s top passing offense led by Jeff Smoker and Big Ten Coach of the Year John L. Smith from Michigan State in the MasterCard Alamo Bowl,? said Pat Frost, MasterCard Alamo Bowl chairman. Nebraska (9-3) is ranked #21 in ESPN/Coaches Today Coaches Poll and will be making its second bowl trip to San Antonio. In 2000, the Cornhuskers set an NCAA record for points when they beat the Big Ten Co-Champion Northwestern Wildcats, 66-17. ?Nebraska has only participated in the MasterCard Alamo Bowl once, but I have heard so many great things about this bowl game and its surrounding activities,? said Nebraska Interim Head Coach Bo Pelini. ?Our players are honored to be invited and we look forward to a challenging game against Michigan State and a great week in San Antonio.? Pelini, who started the season as the team?s defensive coordinator, has the Husker defense ranked third in the Big 12 this season behind only Big 12 Champion Kansas State and Oklahoma, allowing only 24 touchdowns this season and 300 yards-per game. First-Team All-Big 12 free safety Josh Bullocks leads the nation with 10 interceptions, while cornerbacks Lornell McPherson and Fabian Washington have a combined seven interceptions and 81 tackles between them. Nebraska linebackers Barrett Ruud and Demorrio Williams are also having standout seasons. Ruud leads the team with 140 tackles, including 13 for losses as a second-team All-Big 12 selection. Williams has 122 tackles and a team-leading nine sacks as a first-team All-Big 12 pick and Butkus Award semifinalist. The offense also has four players that have eclipsed the 400-yard mark on the ground. Quarterback Jammal Lord leads the team on the ground as well as through the air as the senior has accumulated a combined 2,014 yards and 16 touchdowns. Sophomore tight-end Matt Herian is Lord?s favorite target as he leads the team in receiving with 22 catches for 484 yards and three touchdowns. Anchoring the Husker running game, which is ranked ninth nationally, is offensive lineman Richie Incognito, a first-team All-Big 12 selection. The Huskers senior punter Kyle Larson, a finalist for the Ray Guy Award given to the nation?s best punter, ranks seventh in the nation with an average of 45.39 yards-per-punt. Herian and Larson are both first-team All-Big 12 selections. This is Nebraska?s 35th consecutive bowl appearance, the longest streak in NCAA history. Nebraska also leads the nation with 41 winning seasons in a row and an NCAA-record 262 consecutive home sellouts dating back to 1962. ?The University of Nebraska and its players and coaches are excited to accept the invitation to participate in the MasterCard Alamo Bowl.? Nebraska Athletics Director Steve Pederson said. ?San Antonio is a beautiful city and it is within driving distance. I’m confident we will have many fans come down to enjoy all that the city and bowl has to offer. Everyone associated with San Antonio and the Alamo Bowl provided such a wonderful experience for our fans and team in 2000 and we look forward to enjoying the bowl experience.? Michigan State (8-4) will come to Alamo City with its head held high having rebounded from a difficult 4-8 season in 2002. Smith will be making its first bowl trip to San Antonio. In his first year at the helm of the Spartans football program, Smith was chosen as the ?Coach of the Year? in the Big Ten after directing his team to three victories against Top 25 teams and the school?s first bowl berth since the 2001 Silicon Valley Classic. ?Michigan State is making its first trip to the MasterCard Alamo Bowl, so we’re excited about heading to San Antonio,? said Michigan State Head Coach John L. Smith. ?This is a great reward for our football team – one that none of us could have imagined at the beginning of the year. We?re looking forward to representing the Big Ten Conference and playing a quality Big 12 opponent in Nebraska. The fans couldn’t ask for a better match-up in the bowl game. The players are anxious to tour the Alamo, and I know that our fans are thrilled about making the journey to San Antonio.? Senior quarterback Jeff Smoker is the Big Ten Comeback Player of Year and leads the Big Ten in passing with 270 yards per game. The Michigan State offense is also third in the Big Ten with 30 points-per-game and more than 385 yards-per-game. Smoker, a semifinalist for the Davey O?Brien Award given annually to the nation?s best quarterback, passed for 3,239 yards and threw 21 touchdowns while garnering second-team All-Big Ten honors and setting school career passing records in attempts, completions and touchdowns to make him the winningest quarterback in the program?s 108-year history. In the Spartans last bowl appearance, Smoker threw for a Michigan State-bowl record 376 yards as they beat All-American David Carr and Fresno State 44-35 in the 2001 Silicon Valley Football Classic. An opportunistic Spartan defense leads the Big Ten in turnover margin with 29 takeaways to only 15 giveaways. Four Spartan defenders have at least 90 tackles, an improvement from only one in 2002. Spartan special teams have been the difference in some of their close games as kick returner DeAndra Cobb leads the Big Ten, averaging 28.2 yard-per-return. Cobb also tied an NCAA record by returning three kicks for touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, Spartan punter Brandon Fields ranks second nationally and leads the Big Ten averaging 46.3 yards-per-punt. ?San Antonio is a great destination, and we’re looking forward to bringing a lot of Spartans to the MasterCard Alamo Bowl,? said Michigan State Athletics Director Ron Mason. ?We?re truly elated to have an opportunity to return to San Antonio where our men’s basketball team played in the NCAA South Regional last March. Our fans had a great time and they’re even more excited about making the trip with our football team. Everybody is caught up in the excitement of the football team’s turnaround this season.? Including this year?s invitation, Michigan State has earned 17 bowl invites in its school history. The Spartans have played in 10 bowls in the last 15 years since their 1988 Rose Bowl victory over USC. The Spartans also boast a history of fan commitment and have soldout 33 consecutive home football games in their 72,027-seat stadium. ?The 2003 MasterCard Alamo Bowl is a great match-up of two marquee football programs,? said Derrick Fox, President/CEO of the MasterCard Alamo Bowl. ?We are looking forward to seeing the Riverwalk covered in red and green with loyal Husker and Spartan fans in anticipation of a game televised to a national audience on ESPN on Monday, December 29.? Nebraska has won all four head-to head meetings against Michigan State on the gridiron, the most recent a 55-14 win in Lincoln in 1996. Head coaches from both schools will make their first appearances in San Antonio at 10 a.m. Thursday during a press conference at the SBC SMART Yellow Pages Alamo Bowl Golf Classic at The Quarry Golf Club. To purchase tickets to the 2003 MasterCard Alamo Bowl, fans can visit or call any Texas TicketMaster outlet (210-224-9600 in San Antonio) or ticketmaster.com. Tickets can also be purchased at the Alamodome Southwest Box Office, Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. or through the bowl?s Web site at alamobowl.com. Fans interested in travel packages can call 1-800-810-2695 (BOWL). The 2002 Alamo Bowl was the third time in the last five years the outcome has been decided in the final minute as Wisconsin beat Colorado 31-28 in overtime. Since the Big Ten and Big 12 match-up began in 1995, exciting games have the rule as four of the last seven games have been decided by a field goal. Last year?s 4.44 rating was the highest of the 20 bowl games on ESPN and ESPN2 last season and reached a viewing audience of over 6.1 million. The rating also surpassed the 104 regular season college games, making the 2002 Alamo Bowl presented by MasterCard ESPN?s #1-rated game of the season and the #7 most-watched bowl game in ESPN history. For more information, please call Rick Hill at the MasterCard Alamo Bowl at (210) 704-6388 or visit the bowl?s Web site at alamobowl.com courtesy of SBC.