On December 9, Alabama accepted a bid to play in the Independence Bowl for the first time in school history. There was some controversy with the selection of Alabama instead over Ole Miss, as the Rebels (which did not go to a bowl in 2001) had beaten Alabama that year and had a better record of 7–4. Presumably, Alabama was selected because it had a larger fan base and Ole Miss had just played in the Independence Bowl in 1998 and 1999. The appearance marked the 51st all-time bowl appearance for Alabama.
Iowa State finished the regular season with a 7–4 record with losses against Nebraska, Texas A&M, Kansas State and Colorado. On December 9, Iowa State accepted a bid to play in the Independence Bowl for the first time in school history. The appearance marked the sixth all-time bowl appearance for the Cyclones.
Iowa State would put the first points on the board off of a 36-yard Tony Yelk field goal to lead 3–0 in the first quarter. After reaching the 1-yard line on a 33-yard by Lane Danielsen to close the quarter, the Cyclones would score the game's first touchdown on a 1-yard run by Joe Woodley to give State a 10–0 lead. Alabama would respond later in the quarter with an 8-yard touchdown run by Andrew Zow to close the gap to 10–7. Yelk would then miss a 25-yard field goal with 0:26 remaining in the quarter to keep the score 10–7 at the half.
Third quarter scoring would be limited to a single, 41-yard Yelk field goal to bring the Cyclones lead to 13–7 going into the fourth. With 5:31 remaining in the contest, Waine Bacon blocked a Yelk punt with the recovery occurring on the Iowa State 29-yard line. Two plays later, Zow hit Terry Jones for a 27-yard touchdown reception, and the extra point gave the Crimson Tide a 14–13 lead. The Cyclones just missed a 47-yard field goal attempt with 0:46 remaining in the fourth, which would have given State the lead and potential victory. Subsequent to the game there was some question about whether or not the field goal was actually good, as it sailed directly over one of the uprights. The victory sent Alabama to a 7–5 overall record for the season.