After this weekend’s legendary rivalry weekend saw The Game, pitting the undefeated BCS Title hopefuls Ohio State against Michigan, end on a two point conversion being intercepted to preserve Ohio State’s perfect season, most of us thought we had had our heart attack-inducing dose of football for the day. Little did we know we were in store for a lot more excitement that evening with Chris Davis‘ 109-yard return on a botched last second field goal attempt for Auburn’s win over the Crimson Tide.
Here’s a countdown of the most epic finishes in college ball history:
7. “David slays Goliath”
Appalachian State vs Universtity of Michigan 2007
Lots of traditional college powerhouses are guilty of scheduling early season cupcakes, or smaller schools who stand to gain financially from playing their bigger brethren. More often than not these games end in lopsided outcomes that more closely resemble basketball scores than football results. Someone forgot to tell the Appalachian State Mountaineers, who pocketed $400,000 to travel to the Big House, lose graciously and go on their merry way. The Armanti Edwards-led underdogs hit big play after big play to stun those in attendance, and just when it seemed like #5 Michigan–a team returning one of the most talented rosters in all the country–would snuff out the upset attempt with a game-winning field goal as time expired, Appalachian State blocked the kick and held on for a 34-32 win. It left everyone in attendance and watching at home asking, “Where IS Appalachian State anyway?”
6. “Controversial call crushes Canes”
Ohio State vs Miami 2003
34 straight wins, a roster that reads like an all-star team, and the confidence that came from playing at “The U” versus a team that had won 6 of its games that season by less than a touchdown. In one of the most physical games in national title history the Buckeyes matched up against the Hurricanes in what Vegas had as a two-touchdown rout in favor of the defending champion Hurricanes. That was not to be. The Buckeyes executed Tressel-ball to perfection, bending but not breaking, hitting the occasional big play and with molecular genetics major QB Craig Krenzel managing the game. In a game with many questionable calls none were bigger than the pass interference call that kept the Buckeyes alive in overtime, which they turned into the deciding touchdown in only the second national title game ever to go to overtime.
5. “A tiger’s tale”
Alabama vs Auburn 2013
#1 Alabama met #4 Auburn in a game that would decide who would go to the SEC title game–which as recent years have shown us, is a good indication of who the best team in the country is. This was essentially an extended NFL scrimmage as future Sunday stars on both sides traded big play after big play. No bigger play would come that night than the final one. After Nick Saban pled his case and the officiating crew put the one second his team would need to kick the game winning field goal back on the clock, his kicker proceeded to barely miss a 57-yard field goal. What followed next will be etched forevermore into Iron Bowl history, as Chris Davis caught the resulting miss and took it 109 yards into history, vaulting the Tigers into the national title discussion and ending the Crimson Tide’s title chase for now.
4. “The bluegrass miracle”
LSU vs Kentucky 2002
Nick Saban might trade this win from earlier in his career for the Nov. 30 one against Alabama. His LSU Tigers watched the home team Kentucky douse its couch with celebratory Gatorade moments prior to QB Marcus Randall unleashing a pass that seemed unthinkable. Given that the endzone was more than 70 yards away, Elway in Mile High probably couldn’t have hoped to heave it the entire way. What followed next was the miraculous, as Kentucky fans stormed the field, the ball was tipped into future NFL player Devery Henderson’s hands and he slipped into the endzone, ending the upset attempt and even garnering the Wildcats some sympathy from the ever stoic Saban who said afterwards, “I don’t know what to say. I feel bad for Kentucky’s players. But this is a big moment for us and I’m happy as heck for our team… Well, sometimes you gotta be a little lucky and I think that was our luck right there.”
3. “Statue left”
Boise State vs Oklahoma 2007
Perennially ‘on the outside looking in’ Boise State didn’t just show up to the BCS dance, they were determined to crash the party. They jumped all over college football royalty Oklahoma, only to then see what many probably deemed an inevitable comeback as the Sooners racked up 25 straight points to take the lead with a minute left. It was not to be. 22 points combined in the last minute and a half left the teams tied and with a storybook ending on its way. Overtime began with future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson scoring on the first play from scrimmage – if the game had ended in an Oklahoma win it would have been this, a triumphant Peterson return from injury, that we all remember. What followed was one of the gutsiest series of calls in football history. Boise State on 4th and two ran a wildcat pass to score the touchdown, and instead of going for the tie, decided it was all or nothing. One play later the seldom seen Statue of Liberty play saw Ian Johnson ramble into the endzone for the deciding score. To add even more drama, Johnson ran over to his cheerleader girlfriend and popped the question, giving us a visual that many a Hollywood studio would probably decry as unrealistic. Yet this was as real as it gets.
2. “Hail Flutie”
Boston College vs Miami 1984
The legend of Doug Flutie was cemented as he lead his upstart Boston College team against the high octane Miami attack led by Bernie Kosar. This meeting of top 15 teams took place in Miami’s backyard at the Orange Bowl and was witness to one of the most stunning displays of quarterback play the sport has ever seen. After staking the Eagles a 14-point lead the ‘Canes rallied on the strength of 447 passing yards by Kosar to take a late 4-point lead. Flutie stepped back into the pocket needing to heave the ball into the wind 63 yards to score the deciding touchdown, and after doing just that, to topple Miami and turn the college football universe on its ear, we would later learn that Flutie had a penchant for magical plays.
1. “The play”
Stanford vs UC Berkeley 1982
No American sports list, let alone one centered on college football, can be complete without one of the most dramatic, controversial and bizarre endings to any game ever. Future pro football Hall of Famer John Elway led his Stanford Cardinals into the den of the UC California Golden Bears as the underdog and, after a closely contested game, led his team down the field for what should have been the deciding score. In what would become known as vintage Elway fashion he milked the clock and watched as his kicker put the go-ahead field goal through the uprights. What followed will probably never be seen again as the Bears returned a squib kick and, after a series of laterals that have been dissected on film to no end, Kevin Moen—the man who 5 laterals prior had been the one to accept the kick–trampled Stanford band members, and their fans’ hearts, on his way into the endzone. This resulted in one of the most memorable calls in sports history as the announcer screamed “All right, here we go with the kickoff. Harmon will probably try to squib it and he does. The ball comes loose and the Bears have to get out of bounds. Rodgers is along the sideline, another one… they’re still in deep trouble at midfield, they tried to do a couple of–the ball is still loose, as they get it to Rodgers! They get it back now to the 30, they’re down to the 20… Oh, the band is out on the field! He’s gonna go into the end zone! He’s gone into the end zone!”
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