Just in case SEC Media Days didn’t get you ready for college football, here are seven of the greatest walk-off touchdowns in the sport’s storied history. Please note that I did not include any of the plays from last week’s column – 7 Plays that Will Get You Ready for College Football – in this list.
7 – The Bluegrass Miracle (LSU at Kentucky, 2002)
There’s a reason they call this play the “Bluegrass Miracle.” Sensing that the game was already over, Kentucky players gave coach Guy Morriss a Gatorade bath before the final snap took place.
That was a BIG mistake, as the Tigers would not be denied. With 75 yards to go and only one play left, LSU called the now-famous play “Dash Right 93 Berlin.” Quarterback Marcus Randall sprinted to his right, and chucked the ball as far as he could. Fortunately (or unfortunately if you bleed blue and white), the ball went off of the hands of a UK defender, and into the capable mitts of LSU’s Devery Henderson, who took it to the house.
This ending was so improbable that some members of the Kentucky student section had already stormed the field thinking that the Wildcats had won.
6 – Tate’s Toss (Iowa vs. LSU, 2005 Capital One Bowl)
Many people expected this game to be special because it was Nick Saban’s finale at LSU. However, no one could have predicted the shocking finish.
It looked like the Tigers were going to bid Saban farewell with a victory. The Bayou Bengals erased a 12-point deficit in the final nine minutes of the game, scoring what appeared to be the game winner on a touchdown pass from JaMarcus Russell to Skyler Green.
Then Tate took over. After completing two passes to get the Hawkeyes to their own 44, Tate found a wide-open Warren Holloway, who outran the stunned LSU defense to the end zone.
Getting ready for 2014, yet?
5 – 55 Flood Tip, aka Hail Flutie (Boston College at Miami, 1984)
What list of exciting finishes would be complete without an underdog in it?
No, I’m not talking about the Eagles, who actually came into the game ranked two spots higher than the defending national champion Hurricanes. I’m speaking of 5’9” Doug Flutie, who Miami defenders didn’t think could throw the ball to the end zone against a 30-mph wind.
But that’s exactly what he did. With six ticks remaining, Flutie took the snap, rolled right, and found Gerard Phelan for the deciding score.
This shocking finish not only solidified BC’s place in the top 10, it propelled Doug Flutie to the Heisman Trophy.
4 – Wisconsin at Michigan State, 2011
Unlike the other plays mentioned here, this one doesn’t have a cool nickname or catch phrase.
But, that doesn’t make it any less exciting.
Truthfully, I stepped out of the room when this happened. With the game tied at 31 late in regulation, I expected this contest to go to overtime, and decided to grab some more popcorn for what I thought would be at 3-OT game.
What a boneheaded decision that was, as I missed the most exciting conclusion of the year. Kirk Cousins heaved one to the end zone, hoping for a miracle. After two Wisconsin defenders attempted to bat the ball down, the pigskin wound up in the hands of Keith Nichol, who fought his way into the end zone for the deciding score.
This unlikely touchdown allowed the Spartans to win the Big Ten Legends Division outright with a 7-1 conference record.
3 – The Statue of Liberty (Boise State vs. Oklahoma, 2007 Fiesta Bowl)
It’s one thing to win a game on a fluke play. It’s quite another to win it using trickeration.
That’s exactly what happened here.
Let’s be honest: Chris Petersen had to go for the win. After struggling early, Oklahoma’s offense caught fire in the second half. With the way Adrian Peterson was running the football, there was simply no way that Broncos were going to keep him out of the end zone in overtime.
Knowing that it was win-or-else, Petersen dug deep into his bag of tricks and pulled a rabbit out of his hat. Using the trips set that the Sooners had seen all night long, Jared Zabransky faked a screen pass and handed it to Ian Johnson, who raced untouched into the end zone for the deciding two points.
With this clutch conversion, Boise State established itself as the top “mid major” program in the land.
2 – War Damn Miracle (Alabama at Auburn, 2013 Iron Bowl)
With just one second on the clock in regulation time, Alabama coach Nick Saban decided to play the percentages and attempt a 56-yard field goal rather throw a Hail Mary. When the kicking team trotted out onto the field, it seemed that the worst thing that could happen from the Crimson Tide’s perspective was that Adam Griffith would miss and that the game would go into overtime.
Surprisingly, it didn’t work out that way. Griffith’s kick fell short, and didn’t make it out of the end zone. Chris Davis took the ball right in front of the end line, and began to advance with it. The Crimson Tide field goal unit was late getting down to cover the kick, resulting in an improbable 109-yard missed field goal return.
This rare type of touchdown gave the Tigers the SEC West title, and propelled them into the BCS National Championship Game against Florida State.
1 – The Play (Stanford at California, 1982)
I use the word never sparingly, but I can safely say that nothing like this will ever happen again in the history of college football. After all, how many times does the opposing team’s band actually factor into the outcome?
Yes, that’s right: It only happened once and this was it. Thinking that the game was over (as many Stanford players such as Rodney Gilmore did), the Cardinal band had marched onto the field to celebrate the victory. However, the Bears managed to keep this kickoff return alive, lateraling the ball five times until Cal’s Kevin Moen – who ironically was the first one to touch the ball – raced into the end zone for the victory. The theatrical (and comedic) flourish provided by his forceful blow against a Stanford band member near the goal line only punctuated the moment even more.
That my friends, is the beauty of college football: You simply don’t know what’s going to happen next.
Fortunately, there are only 39 more days to go before Abilene Christian and Georgia State kick off the 2014 season.