No. 90 Washington State 34 ... UCLA 30,
November 29, 1988
At the time:
Led by star
QB Troy Aikman, UCLA was 7-0 and ranked number one in the nation.
Washington State, led by QB Timm Rosenbach, was on a two-game losing
streak dropping conference games to Arizona and Arizona State to fall to
4-3. Wazzu led the Pac 10 in offense but was last in defense.
The setup: UCLA got on an early roll with a 27-6 lead in the
third quarter after an eight-yard Eric Ball touchdown run. Rosenbach
struck back throwing two touchdown passes to Tim Stallworth including an
81-yard play to tie it at 27. Aikman was able to march the Bruins to a
30-yard field goal, but Rosenbach was better leading the Cougars on a
long drive ending in a Rich Swinton one-yard touchdown run for a 34-30
lead with just over six minutes to play. After trading drives, Wazzu had
to punt the ball giving Aikman :44 to work with. He got UCLA down to the
Cougar six on a 33-yard pass play to Charles Arbuckle with :32 to go.
The ending: After throwing it away on first down to stop the
clock, Aikman's next pass was broken up and his third just missed
leading to fourth and goal from the six with :26 to play. Aikman lofted
a pass deep into the end zone, but Cougar DB Vernon Todd was able to
just get a hand on it knocking it away from UCLA WR David Keating.
Rosenbach took a knee to seal the win.
How they ended up: UCLA's dream season was gone, but it was still
in a position to win the Rose Bowl after beating Oregon and Stanford.
Unfortunately, Rodney Peete and USC came through with a 31-22 win to go
to Pasadena. Aikman and the Bruins went to the Cotton Bowl and beat
Arkansas 17-3 to finish with a 10-2 record. This win for Washington
State kicked off a five-game winning streak to close out a 9-3 season.
Rosenbach and the Cougars beat Houston 24-22 in the Aloha Bowl.
No. 89 Purdue 15 ... Notre Dame 14, September 26, 1981
At the time:
year of the Gerry Faust era at Notre Dame got off to a rocky start
beating LSU 27-9 in the opener before getting steamrolled by Michigan
25-7. With the number one ranking gone, the Irish traveled to Purdue
which was also 1-1 after beating Stanford and losing a 16-13 battle at
The setup: Notre Dame couldn't pull away as Harry Oliver missed
two 51-yard field goals. However, Irish RB Phil Carter was having a
great game scoring on a 30-yard touchdown to break a 7-7 tie with just
under three minutes to play. Purdue QB Scott Campbell started the final
drive on his own 20. Helped by a fourth down conversion, a 28-yard pass
play to Eric Jordan, and a dropped interception, Campbell drove the team
down to the one connecting with Steve Bryant on a desperation pass with
:39 to play.
The ending: On fourth and goal from the seven with :23 to play,
Campbell lofted a perfect pass to Steve Bryant for a touchdown with :19
to play. Down 14-13, Purdue chose to go for two and the win. Running the
same play only to the other side of the field, Campbell's pass wasn't
quite as perfect as the touchdown toss but Bryant made a leaping catch
for the conversion. Purdue DB Tim Seneff intercepted a Hail Mary Notre
Dame pass to seal the win.
How they ended up: This win was the highlight of the Purdue year.
The week after, the Boilermakers lost 20-14 at Wisconsin before winning
three straight for a 5-2 start. A four-game losing streak closed out a
disappointing 5-6 season. As bad as things were in West Lafayette, life
was worse for Faust in South Bend. The Irish bounced back to beat
Michigan State 20-7, but lost the next two games before going on a
three-game winning streak. Just when things started to turn around, the
Irish lost the final two games to Penn State and Miami to finish 5-6.
No. 88 West Virginia 17 ... Pittsburgh 14, November 8, 1975
At the time:
Bowden's West Virginia team was starting to get on a bit of a roll
following a bad 16-14 loss to a lousy Temple team. The Mountaineers were
6-2 before going against rival Pittsburgh in the Backyard Brawl in what
many considered a make-or-break game for Bowden, who was on a bit of a
hot seat. Pittsburgh was also 6-2 coming off a convincing 38-0 win over
The setup: Pittsburgh's Tony Dorsett was the marquee back in the
game, but West Virginia's Artie Owens was equally strong rushing for 101
yards and a touchdown. Dorsett ran for 107 yards and caught a short
touchdown pass to tie the game at 14 late in the fourth quarter. West
Virginia drove deep into Pittsburgh territory and well into field goal
range, but fumbled it was to Pittsburgh for what appeared to be a tough
tie. Panther head coach Johnny Majors ran two conservative plays from
the Pittsburgh 17 before short third down pass left it fourth and two
for Pitt on its 25. Unfortunately for the Panthers, QB Matt Cavanaugh
thought it was still third down and called a play. Unable to hear the
coaches going nuts on the sideline over the yell of the crowd, Cavanaugh
went up to the line. To stop the play, Majors and assistant coach Joe
Avezzano ran on the field and drew an unsportsmanlike foul call which
put the ball back to the 13, but it stopped Cavanaugh from making a huge
mistake and allowed Pitt to punt. West Virginia got the ball on the Pitt
48 with ten seconds to play.
The ending: Mountaineer QB Dan Kendra, who changed Bowden's play
call in the huddle, got off his pass a split-second before getting
popped. Tight end Randy Swinson hauled it in at the Pitt 22 before going
out of bounds with four seconds to play. WVU's Bill McKenzie had only
connected on two of his five career field goal attempts, but his 38-yard
boot went through as time ran out.
How they ended up: Pittsburgh closed out its season with a win
over Notre Dame (in which Dorsett tore off 303 yards), a loss to Penn
State, and a 33-19 win over Kansas in the Sun Bowl to finish 8-4. The
following year, the Panthers went 12-0 and won the national title. West
Virginia beat Richmond the following week before losing a 20-19 squeaker
to Syracuse. Bobby's boys beat Lou Holtz and NC State 13-10 in the Peach
Bowl to finish 9-3. The following year, Bowden took the job at Florida
No. 87 Arizona State 21 ... Stanford 17,
October 9, 1982
At the time:
It was a
battle between Stanford's star QB John Elway and Arizona State's number
one defense. In the first five games of the season, the Sun Devils were
5-0 and having given up a mere 30 points. Stanford lost a 35-31 shootout
with San Jose State, but bounced back to shock Ohio State 23-20 on the
way to a 3-1 start.
The setup: Elway was amazing early on, leading the Cardinal to a
10-0 lead before the Sun Devil defense clamped down. ASU QB Ton Hons
rallied the team back for two solid touchdown drives highlighted by a
31-yard scoring pass to Ron Brown. ASU got down to the Stanford one
late, but FB Tex Wright lost a fumble that would've put the game on ice.
Elway then showed off some of his magic throwing a 15-yard touchdown
pass to Mike Tolliver with :49 to play for an apparent 17-14 win. With
80 yards to go, Hons did his Elway impersonation marching the Sun Devils
down to the Stanford one with :13 to play.
The ending: Wright made amends for his earlier fumble by running
the same play he lost the fumble on for the game-winning touchdown. ASU
had gone 80 yards in 38 seconds for the win.
How they ended up: ASU went on to win three more games running
the record up to 9-0 before losing 17-13 to number one Washington. The
Sun Devils lost the following week 28-18 to archrival Arizona, but
finished 10-2 after beating Oklahoma 32-21 in the Fiesta Bowl.
Stanford's loss to Arizona State was nothing compared to what came later
on against Cal to end Elway's career. The Cardinals lost five of their
final seven games to go 5-6.
No. 86 USC 18 ... Ohio State 17,
Rose Bowl January 1, 1975
At the time:
Bowl was considered by many to be the battle for the 1974 national
title. USC, led by Heisman runner-up Anthony Davis, had won four
straight games following a 15-15 tie with Cal. The Trojans hadn't lost
since the opening week of the season in a 22-7 gaffe at Arkansas, but a
stunning 55-24 win over Notre Dame in the season finale had launched
them up the polls. 10-1 Ohio State, ranked number two and led by Heisman
winner Archie Griffin, were dominant with the only loss coming to
Michigan State, 16-13, on a miracle finish (more on that later on down
the list). The defense had allowed a mere 111 points on the season
allowing ten points or fewer in nine games.
The setup: The battle of great running backs didn't happen. Davis
ran for 67 yards before leaving with a leg injury, and Griffin was held
to 75 yards and fumbled twice inside the USC ten. However, the
quarterbacks came through. Down 17-10 with under four minutes to play,
USC's Pat Haden engineered a long drive culminating with his second
touchdown pass of the day connecting with John McKay in the corner of
the end zone for a 38-yard touchdown pass with just over three minutes
The ending: USC head coach John McKay, who had been burned in the
1967 Rose Bowl against Purdue by going for two, eschewed the extra point
to go for the win. Haden made a good pass into the back of the end zone,
and Shelton Diggs made a better catch for the two points and an 18-17
lead. Cornelius Greene, who had a solid game, led the Buckeyes to the
USC 45, but punter Tom Skladany's 62-yard field goal attempt came up
How they ended up: USC finished number one in the UPI poll while
Oklahoma ended up getting the AP top spot. Ohio State dropped to number
four. McKay went on to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the following
season while USC slid to a 7-4 season. Ohio State came roaring back in
1975 going 11-0 before losing to UCLA in the Rose Bowl.
No. 85 Auburn 17 ... Alabama 16,
December 2, 1972
At the time:
Auburn vs. Alabama has always been big, but this is
when it got really, really big. Alabama was 10-0 and shooting for
a national title. Auburn (called "The Amazins”) had an overachieving
season shocking the SEC by going 8-1 with only a 35-7 loss at LSU
screwing things up. If a bitter rivalry game between two top teams
wasn't enough, Bama head coach Bear Bryant turned things up a few
notches by saying he'd "rather beat that cow college than beat Texas ten
The setup: Alabama ran over Auburn for a 16-0 lead, but the extra
point after a first quarter Steve Bisceglia touchdown run was blocked.
Auburn's offense went nowhere all game long, but it finally got on the
board with a 42-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter.
Alabama seemingly had things in hand when it tried to punt it away.
Auburn's Bill Newton stuffed the kick which bounced to David Langner who
took it for a 25-yard touchdown with 5:30 to go. Bama was able to run
more than two-and-a-half minutes off the clock, but had to punt it away
The ending: Another Bama punt, same improbable result. Newton
blew into the Tide backfield and blocked the kick. Langner picked it up
again and ran 20 yards for a touchdown. Auburn took a one-point lead
with 1:34 to play. Alabama had one final shot, but Langner picked off
his second pass of the game with :55 to play to close it out.
How they ended up: Auburn finished the season with a six-game
winning streak ending with a 24-3 Gator Bowl win over Colorado and a
number five finish. Alabama not only lost to that cow college, but it
also lost to Texas 17-13 in the Cotton Bowl finishing the year number
No. 84 UCLA 20 ... USC 19,
October 20, 1982
At the time:
its Rose Bowl dreams all but die in a 10-7 loss to Washington, but there
was still a glimmer of hope to play again in Pasadena with a win over
USC. The Bruins were 8-1-1 and appeared headed for the Aloha Bowl no
matter what the outcome in the crosstown rivalry game. USC opened the
year with a loss to Florida before winning seven of its next eight games
only losing at Arizona State.
The setup: UCLA and QB Tom Ramsey jumped out to a quick 14-3 lead
before USC came back with a Todd Spencer touchdown run set up by a
Ramsey fumble. Down 20-10 in the fourth, USC started its rally with a
21-yard field goal. Getting the ball back with over five minutes to
play, the Trojans went on a long march as QB Scott Tinsley caught fire
making play after play to get the offense down to the UCLA four. After
three unsuccessful downs, USC had it fourth and goal from the one with
three seconds to play.
The ending: Tinsley connected with Mark Boyer in the back of the
end zone for a touchdown and only an extra point away from the tie.
Instead, USC head coach John Robinson chose to go for two. Tinsley
dropped back and had a wide open receiver in the end zone, but he
couldn't find him as UCLA's Karl Morgan blew up the middle for the sack
preserving the win.
How they ended up: For UCLA to go to the Rose Bowl, Washington
had to be stunned by Washington State and Arizona had to upset Arizona
State. Both happened and the Bruins went (or stayed) in Pasadena beating
Michigan 24-14 and a 10-1-1 season. USC, on probation and unable to go
to a bowl, bounced back to beat Notre Dame 17-13 to finish 8-3.
No. 83 Stanford 13 ... Michigan 12,
January 1, 1972
At the time:
supposedly had the unbeaten season wrapped up. 11-0 and with a defense
that only gave up 73 points on the season (6.6 pointer per game), an
average Stanford team wasn't supposed to provide much resistance as 10.5
point underdogs. QB Don Bunce spent his career playing behind Stanford
legend Jim Plunkett, but he came through with a big senior season
leading the way to an 8-3 record with the three losses coming by six to
Duke, one to Washington State and one to San Jose State.
The setup: The Michigan offense had a hard time getting cranking
taking a 3-0 lead into halftime and leading 10-3 early in the fourth
quarter. A safety with just over three minutes to play appeared to ice
it for Michigan with a 12-10 lead. But Bunce had one final chance.
Connecting on dump-off pass after dump-off pass, Bunce led Stanford 64
yards on eight plays in the final 1:48. In came Rod Garcia with :12 to
play with a 31-yard field goal attempt. Garcia missed five field goals
two games earlier in the 13-12 loss to San Jose State.
The ending: With all the pressure of the season on his foot,
Garcia nailed the 31-yard with three seconds remaining to win the Rose
How they ended up: Stanford finished tenth in the final AP
ranking. Michigan finished sixth.
No. 82 Texas 20 ... UCLA 17,
October 3, 1970
At the time:
22-game winning streak and blowout wins over Cal and Texas Tech to start
the season, the defending national champion Texas Longhorns had to
battle Ohio State in the polls for the top spot. This was a banged up
team, but it was winning with ease and wasn't supposed to have too many
problems at home against No. 13 UCLA. The Bruins were coming off a
strong 1969 campaign and began 1970 with a three-game winning streak
beating Oregon State and Pittsburgh on the road and Northwestern at
The setup: The Texas wishbone attack had a nightmare of a time
moving on UCLA's funky defense. The Bruins had all but locked up the
monster upset as Texas had the ball on the UCLA 45 with only :25 to
play. Remember, the wishbone wasn't exactly conducive for big passing
plays in a pinch.
The ending: On third and 19 with :20 to play, Texas ran "86
pass". WR Cotton Speyrer ran over the middle hauling in a perfect pass
from Eddie Phillips. The UCLA defender was there, but couldn't make the
tackle as Speyrer made a move at the 20 and ran into the end zone with
:12 to play
How they ended up: UCLA suffered another heartbreaker the
following week with a 41-40 loss to Oregon. Alternating wins and losses
the rest of the way, the Bruins finished 6-5 closing out with a 28-17
loss to a great Tennessee team. Texas rolled the rest of the regular
season finishing 10-0 with a 42-7 win over Arkansas. In the days before
bowl games mattered much in the national title outcome, the Longhorns
lost to Notre Dame 24-11 in the Cotton Bowl but still finished first in
the UPI poll. They dropped to fourth in the final AP poll.
No. 81 Miami 32 ... Florida 20, September 1, 1984
At the time:
national champion Miami kicked off its season by beating No. 1 Auburn
20-18 in the Kickoff Classic. On a 12-game winning streak, the Canes'
last loss came in the 1983 season opener getting whacked 28-3 by
Florida. The 17th ranked Gators, coached by Charley Pell, wanted the
same result in its opening game of the 1984 season.
The setup: Freshman QB Kerwin Bell had a rocky start, but Florida
still had a 10-3 lead thanks to a 64-yard Lorenzo Hampton touchdown run.
Miami moved the ball with little luck settling for several short field
goals and a 19-13 fourth quarter lead. Bell went on a roll converting on
a late fourth down leading to a five-yard touchdown pass to Frankie Neal
for a 20-19 lead with :41 to play. That was still too much time for
Miami QB Bernie Kosar.
The ending: Kosar rolled Miami down to the Florida 19-yard line
with two perfect throws in 14 seconds to get into field goal range.
After setting up for the perfect spot, Kosar and head coach Jimmie
Johnson chose to still push for the end zone. Kosar floated a perfect
pass to Eddie Brown for a touchdown and a 26-20 lead with seven seconds
to play. With one second left, Bell was intercepted by Tolbert Bain who
ran 59 yards for a score.
How they ended up: Florida tied LSU 21-21 the following week
before going on a nine-game winning streak despite being under the
pressure of a major scandal. Pell announced he would quit at the end of
the season after various NCAA violations including no bowl for the 9-1-1
team. Off the wins over Auburn and Florida, Miami took over the number
one spot only to lose 22-14 to Michigan the following week. After a 38-3
loss to Florida State, the Canes went on a run winning five straight
games before blowing a huge lead to lose 42-40 against Frank Reich and
Maryland in the greatest comeback in college football history. The
following week, Miami lost to Doug Flutie and Boston College in the Hail
Mary game. With a 39-37 Fiesta Bowl loss to UCLA, the Canes finished