With the FBS regular season slated to begin Wednesday night with Abilene Christian facing off against Georgia State, it’s time to provide one final list of plays to get you ready for the college football season. Much like last week’s edition, this list will have a little bit of everything.
7 – Lutzenkirchen’s Extra Effort (2011, Ole Miss at Auburn)
Better known for his touchdown grab that won the 2010 Iron Bowl, Phillip Lutzenkirchen’s greatest effort came on this catch and run against Ole Miss. Up 34-17 with 4:59 to play, Auburn called a play-action pass on third-and-goal. Quarterback Clint Moseley threw the ball to Lutzenkirchen, who made a one-handed grab behind his back. After running with the ball for a few strides, he alertly switched it into his inside hand, allowing him to place the pigskin inside the pylon for the score.
This type of extra effort is exactly what college football is all about. While most would consider this situation “garbage time,” Lutzenkirchen treated it as though the national championship was on the line, and did everything he could to punch the ball across the goal line.
6 – A Game-Changing Pick (Oregon at Arizona, 2013)
Sometimes a little bit of extra effort is the difference between winning and losing.
In this case, the Arizona defense’s additional measure of hustle helped spark a stunning upset that knocked Oregon out of the Rose Bowl.
This outstanding effort started out as just an ordinary play. Duck signal caller Marcus Mariota – who had not thrown an interception all year – threw to Bralon Addison for what appeared to be a five-yard gain. However, Addison wasn’t able hang on to the ball thanks to wet conditions, and it looked like the Ducks were going to face second and 10.
But, the play wasn’t over. Shaquille Richardson tracked down the loose pigskin and tipped it back to teammate Scooby Wright, who returned it to Oregon 45.
This unlikely turnover would swing the momentum in Arizona’s favor. The Wildcats promptly marched down the field to take a 7-0 lead and raced out to 28-9 margin by halftime.
5. Nebraska’s Hail Mary
A Hail Mary pass is a lot like going to the hospital: You hope you don’t find yourself in that situation, but if you do, you want it to go your way.
That’s exactly what happened here. With four seconds left in this contest last year against Northwestern, Nebraska trailed by three and needed to march 49 yards to earn a “W.” With just one play remaining, quarterback Ron Kellogg dropped back and heaved a desperation toss into the end zone. As the ball was in the air, the play seemed doomed to failure with seven Northwestern defenders in the area.
Yet, it still worked out well for the Huskers. Wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp, who was behind everyone on the play, alertly grabbed the ball out of the air, giving Nebraska a seemingly impossible win.
4. LSU’s Fake Kick (South Carolina at LSU, 2007)
Nothing fires up a crowd quite like a special teams touchdown.
Let’s be honest: This was an absolutely brilliant call by Les Miles. With just under 90 seconds to play in the first half, everyone in the stadium was expecting LSU to take the three points and go into the locker room with a 10-point lead.
However, instead of playing it safe, Miles decided to go for the jugular by calling a fake field goal. In this well-executed fake, the snap went straight to holder Matt Flynn, who then flipped the ball over his shoulder to kicker Colt David, who raced into the end zone untouched. The touchdown put the Bayou Bengals up by 14 at the half and completely took the wind out of the Gamecocks’ sails.
3. Braxton Miller’s heroics (Wisconsin at Ohio State, 2011)
While I wrote earlier this week that losing a star QB early in the season doesn’t prevent a team from having a successful campaign, it’s easy to see why Ohio State fans are so upset about losing Braxton Miller. No matter what the situation was, Miller always seemed to come up with a big play when the Buckeyes needed it the most.
Enter this clip from his freshman season into evidence as Exhibit A. With only 30 seconds to play, Ohio State trailed Wisconsin, 29-26, and needed a couple of first downs to get into field goal range to tie the game. On first and 10, the Badger pass rush broke through the line and forced Miller out of the pocket. Rather than running for a few yards and stepping out of bounds to stop the clock, Miller fired the ball to Devin Smith, who was wide open in the end zone. Instead of tying the score, Miller led the Buckeyes – who limped to a 6-7 record under interim head coach Luke Fickell that season – to a victory over the eventual conference champions.
2. Not Your Average Punt Return (Duke at Miami, 2005)
As exciting as David’s run was for LSU in the fake field goal documented earlier, it’s not the top special teams play on the list. That distinction belongs to Miami’s Devin Hester.
This return is one of greatest individual efforts I’ve ever seen. Hester probably should have been tackled immediately after he caught the punt. However, he made the first man miss to keep the play going. With little running room in front of him, he reversed his field. After breaking two tackles, Hester sprinted to the other side of the field in an attempt to outrun the coverage. While several Duke players were able to close in on him, Hester eluded them all, breaking three more tackles before sprinting into the end zone for a touchdown.
1. Holieway’s Home Run Ball (Penn State vs. Oklahoma, 1986 Orange Bowl)
Since this is the final item of this series (for this offseason), I decided to pick an exciting play that ultimately won a national championship. After all, a crystal football is what every college football fan dreams of.
Here was the situation in the 1986 Orange Bowl. Down by three, Oklahoma faced a third-and-23 crisis on its own 29. In order to force a quick throw, Penn State decided to bring the house. Holieway – a true freshman at the time – immediately recognized the blitz and lofted a long pass downfield for Keith Jackson, who outran his defender to the end zone.
This touchdown gave the Sooners the lead for good, giving OU its third national championship under Barry Switzer.