SHREVEPORT, La. – An offense that averages 35.3 points per game is attractive to bowl committees.

But at the end of the day, a large contingent of fans is much more valuable than an 80-yard touchdown run.

“Our fans are one of a kind,” said Oklahoma State University quarterback Bobby Reid. “If we had to play somewhere in California, we would probably sell out our tickets. They love us and this program and we love them back.”

The 31st Independence Bowl saw the Cowboys beat Alabama, 34-31, in front of 45,054 on Thursday.

A season in which the Cowboys lost four games in the closing seconds finished on a high note. After building a 31-17 lead, watching the Crimson Tide fight back to tie, then winning on a 27-yard field goal by Jason Ricks, OSU finishes 7-6. It was the program’s fourth bowl in five seasons.

Perhaps the most popular phrase around Shreveport’s Boardwalk was “boy, there sure are a lot of Aggies runnin’ around here.”

The large orange and black following in December is nothing new for O-State football. The Cowboys broke a decade’s worth of bowl drought in 1997 when they faced Purdue in the Alamo Bowl. The Boilermakers beat the Pokes, 33-20, but Big 12 Conference-affiliated bowl committees took notice.

It took five seasons for the Cowboys to earn another postseason bid, and since the 2002 Houston Bowl against Southern Mississippi, OSU football fans have hit the highways and airports.

“I don’t have a problem driving eight hours to watch OSU in a bowl game,” said Jay from Enid. “It’s just what you do.”

After playing in the 2004 Cotton Bowl following a 9-3 2003 regular season, the Pokes again earned bowl eligibility with a 7-4 campaign in 2004.

Head coach Mike Gundy’s first team finished 4-7 in 2005.

“We’ve kind of gotten used to going someplace in December,” said Oklahoma City native Tim. “Last year, I don’t know, it was coach’s first year. I think the goal is to play in a January bowl next year. This team is fun to watch and the drive to Shreveport is nothing, so we had Christmas then drove down on Tuesday night.

“We certainly aren’t alone.”

O-State and Alabama were officially named as Independence Bowl participants on Dec. 3. Nine days later, the Cowboys’ 12,000 tickets were sold, marking the first time since 1999 an Independence Bowl participant sold out its allotment.

“Our selection is, in part, a testament to our fans and their support of our bowl games in 2002, 2003 and 2004,” said Mike Holder, O-State’s athletic director, on Dec. 3. “Our fans got us selected to the Independence Bowl.”

“I don’t know what I would have done if we had lost another close game,” said Bill from Houston. “This team was a lot better than 7-6, but to beat a program like Alabama is a big deal. I don’t care if they are down or not, that’s Alabama.

“I think one of Oklahoma State’s goals should be to expect to play in bowl games every year. Our fans are behind the program and I really feel like things are headed in the right direction.”

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