Now that the summer movie known as NBA Free Agency is in full swing, many people have suggested that it’s not time to talk about college football.
I disagree. It’s never too early to start preparing for the season.
With that in mind, I’ve decided to remind all of you why we love college football so much, and why it’s the greatest sport of all time. Listed below are seven of the most exciting plays in college gridiron history.
If this doesn’t make you ready for Saturdays in the fall, nothing will!
7 – “JETS FORMATION, ROCKET VICTORY” (Colorado at Michigan, 1994)
Few things will fire up a crowd – or in this case silence over 100,000 people – than a flawlessly executed Hail Mary.
That’s what happened here. Sure, Colorado’s Michael Westbrook wasn’t the intended receiver, but he carried out his assignment by running his route. After Blake Anderson and Rae Carruth tipped the ball, Westbrook pulled it out of the air for the game-winning score.
6 – “FUMBLEROOSKI” (1984 Orange Bowl – Nebraska vs. Miami)
What “best plays” list would be complete without at least one clip of an offensive lineman scoring a touchdown?
In this case, it was poetic justice. The player that lumbered into the end zone was Dean Steinkuhler, who won the Outland Trophy, Lombardi Trophy, and UPI Offensive Lineman of the Year Award in 1983. After opening up huge holes for Heisman Trophy winner Mike Rozier all year long, it was Steinkuhler who scored the Huskers’ first touchdown in the de facto national championship game.
5 – “THE MIRACLE BOWL” (1980 Holiday Bowl – SMU vs. BYU)
This play above capped off the (arguably) greatest comeback of all time. Thanks to a 42-yard run by Craig James, SMU gained a seemingly insurmountable 45-25 lead with four minutes remaining in the contest. However, future NFL quarterback Jim McMahon guided the Cougars to 3 TDs in the final 2:33, helping BYU avoid a third straight Holiday Bowl loss. The way in which the winning touchdown was scored helped make the Cougars’ comeback that much more memorable.
4 – “LITTLE GIANTS” (Notre Dame at Michigan State, 2010)
Call this one the “gutsiest decision of the decade.” Faced with a 4th and 14, and needing just three points to advance to the second overtime, no one would have faulted Michigan State coach Mark D’Antonio for kicking a field goal in this situation. Instead, he called for this timely fake, in which Notre Dame actually took away primary receiver Le’Veon Bell. Fortunately for Spartans fans, holder Aaron Bates went to his next progression, finding an uncovered Charlie Gantt for the deciding score.
3 – “PUNT ROOSKI” (Florida State at Clemson, 1988)
Bobby Bowden always had a knack for calling the right play at the right time. Faced with a 4th and 4 on his own 21 yard line and 1:31 to play, Bowden caught Clemson completely off-guard with a well-executed fake punt. When the dust had settled, Leroy Butler had scrambled 78 yards to the Clemson 1 to set up the game-winning field goal for the Seminoles.
2 – “ROLL LEFT” (Texas vs. Nebraska, 1996 Big 12 Championship Game)
This is the only “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” moment on this list.
Leading the defending national champions 30-27 with just over two minutes to play, Texas head coach John Mackovic elected to go for it on fourth and inches at his own 28. With Nebraska loaded up to stop the run, it looked as though Texas quarterback James Brown was going to be stopped short as he moved left to the short side of the field with little room to maneuver.
But he wasn’t. Brown pulled the ball down and found his trusty tight end Derrick Lewis for a big gain, setting up a Longhorn touchdown to ice a 37-27 victory. The loss eliminated any hopes that Nebraska had of an unprecedented third straight national championship.
1 – “HOOK AND LADDER” (Boise State vs. Oklahoma, 2007 Fiesta Bowl)
I’ve seen this play a million times, and it never gets old.
Let’s be honest: Most people thought the game was over by this point. After all, Oklahoma had taken control of the contest in the second half, grabbing a late 35-28 lead on a pick six by Marcus Walker against a shaken Jared Zabransky.
But the Broncos weren’t going to go down without a fight. While it looked like they had no chance to convert on 4th and 18, Jared Zabransky hit Drisan James, who promptly pitched the ball to Jerard Rabb, who took the ball to the house. This unlikely touchdown took the game into overtime, helping Boise establish its reputation as a giant killer.