Wilson's 3 TDs carry Alabama to bowl win over Colorado

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) -- Alabama found enough offense Sunday night to win the PetroSun Independence Bowl, but stumbled so much that even its star quarterback acknowledges the Crimson Tide aren't rolling just yet.

"We had some ups and downs tonight but we kept our composure," said John Parker Wilson, named the game's most valuable offensive player after the Tide's 30-24 victory over Colorado. "This team has a long way to go, but with everything we built this year, I'm really optimistic."

Alabama (7-6) stopped a four-game losing streak and avoided consecutive losing seasons for the first time in 50 years. Colorado (6-7) finished below .500 for the second straight year, but was vastly improved from a 2-10 mark in 2006.

Wilson completed 13 of his first 15 passes for 185 yards and three touchdowns and Alabama raced to a four-touchdown lead. Colorado couldn't complete a comeback, when its attempt at a multi-lateral play as time expired collapsed shy of midfield.

"We got off to a great start, which means we were well-prepared," said Alabama coach Nick Saban. "We made some mistakes in the game and let them come back. We took the challenge and actually competed and showed some great competitive character."

The Crimson Tide had averaged 35 points in its first nine games, but only 12 points per game in the last three. Alabama entered Sunday's game having lost four in a row, including an embarrassing outing at home against Louisiana-Monroe.

"This is what I am so happy and pleased about: the way this team bounced back and played in this game," Saban said.

With the Tide up 27-0, Wilson was in firm control until being chased into an intentional grounding penalty with 5 minutes left in the first half. He threw an interception on his next attempt, leading to a Colorado score, and didn't complete another throw in the half.

Buffaloes quarterback Cody Hawkins, meanwhile, recovered from an interception on their first offensive play and finished the half 9-of-10 for 87 yards and two scores.

"I am very proud of our guys. They could have folded the tent, but they fought back and showed incredible resolve," said Colorado coach Dan Hawkins, the quarterback's father.

Hawkins' 25-yard pass to Dusty Sprague with 4 seconds left in the half cut Alabama's lead to 27-14. It came less than 2 minutes after Hawkins hit Tyson DeVree with a 4-yard scoring pass. Kevin Eberhart's 39-yard field goal in the third period cut it to 27-17.

"We gave it all we had, but we just ran out of time," DeVree said.

Alabama amassed 170 yards in the first quarter and had 285 by halftime, but added only 103 yards in the second half. Wilson had scoring passes of 15 yards to Keith Brown, 34 yards to Matt Caddell and 31 yards to Nikita Stover.

"It all started with our preparation this week. With what happened to us the last four games, it really showed a lot of maturity on our part to finish it up the way we did," Wilson said.

With Leigh Tiffin's two field goals, Alabama led 27-0 early in the second quarter. The Buffaloes, who scored 65 points against Nebraska in their previous game, had a first down on their second play from scrimmage but didn't pick up another until 10 1/2 minutes before halftime.

Once Colorado rattled Wilson, though, the fortunes turned. Hawkins was 8-of-8 on the last two drives of the half, while Wilson was 6-of-17 after his hot start and finished the game 19-of-32 for 256 yards.

"I do not know the answer to why we started like that," Colorado offensive tackle Tyler Polumbus said. "Bowl games are just funny sometimes."

In the second half, having learned they couldn't beat Alabama's linebackers to the corner, Colorado running backs spread out the Tide defense and cut back against the grain to pick up 5 or 6 yards at a time.

Alabama's new attention to the run opened up routes for Buffaloes receivers. Scotty McKnight, Josh Smith and DeVree caught passes of 11, 22 and 13 yards for key first downs as Colorado drove for a failed 48-yard field goal try on its first drive after halftime.

The big plays helped limit the Tide to six plays in the third quarter.

Hawkins rallied the Buffaloes to 30-24 with a 14-yard pass to DeVree with 3:51 left, following Tiffin's 26-yard field goal. In the second half, Hawkins had 224 yards passing and finished the game 24-of-40 for 322 yards and three touchdowns.

In the third quarter alone, Colorado had nine plays that gained 10 yards or more.

Colorado, which had only six turnovers in its six victories this year, gave up the ball twice on interceptions and once on a failed fake punt.

Tiffin's first-quarter field goals gave him 105 points for the season, the most for an Alabama kicker. Tiffin added three extra points and the fourth-quarter field goal, giving him 111 points for the season.