No. 80 NC State 23 ... South Carolina 22,
November 1, 1986
At the time:
was in the midst of a strong first season under head coach Dick Sheridan
with a 5-1-1 record and a two-game winning streak after a 27-3 win over
a good Clemson team. South Carolina was going nowhere fast with a 2-4-1
record with one of the wins coming over DI-AA Western Carolina.
The setup: NC State was up 17-3 going into halftime but lost
starting QB Erik Kramer early in the second half to a leg injury. USC's
Todd Ellis hooked up with Sterling Sharpe for a touchdown and it became
a ballgame again at 17-13. Kramer came back in the game, but he fired
two interceptions in the fourth quarter leading to Gamecock points.
Ellis ran for a one-yard score, and USC was up 22-17 late with the ball
with 2:13 to play and with NC State out of timeouts. It should've been
over. A handoff followed by two kneel-downs made it fourth down for USC
on its own 24 with :30 to play (thanks to a controversial clock stoppage
after first down). NC State got the ball back on the USC 39 with :24 to
play after a 15-yard punt, but couldn't do anything as Kramer was sacked
on third down and the clock ran out. However ...
The ending: ... there was a flag on the field. USC LB Kenneth
Robinson was nailed with an offsides call. Many Gamecock fans had
already stormed field, along with the players, but they had to be
cleared for one final play. Kramer threw up a last-gasp pass into the
end zone (as he aggravated his ankle injury) where Danny Peebles pushed
off, leapt up and made the catch as USC safety Chris Major delivered a
major shot. NC State won 23-22.
How they ended up: South Carolina lost the following week to
Florida State before beating Wake Forest and Tying Clemson to finish
3-6-2. NC State blew its shot at the ACC title the following week losing
20-16 to Virginia, but still went on to an 8-3-1 season finishing with a
25-24 Peach Bowl loss to Virginia Tech.
No. 79 Wisconsin 20 ... Purdue 17, October 16, 2004
At the time:
the talk of the college football world. No one was hotter than QB Kyle
Orton, who threw 17 touchdowns and no interceptions before throwing his
first two picks of the year in a 20-13 win over Penn State. There was
even discussion of Heisman after being the best player in the country
over the first half of the year. There was talk of Purdue winning the
Big Ten title, but Wisconsin was also on a roll winning it first six
games led by the nation's best defense that gave up a mere 39 points.
The setup: It was a rough game for the Badgers. Star runner
Anthony Davis was held to 64 yards and pass rushing superstar Erasmus
James was knocked out with an ankle injury. Down 17-7 late in the fourth
quarter, Wisconsin marched through the air finishing off a long drive
with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Booker Stanley. Even so, it appeared
to be too little, too late. All Purdue had to do was get a few first
downs and it was over.
The ending: Orton, who had been held in check all game long, was
trying to dive for a critical first down that would've allowed the
offense to come close to running out the clock. He dove, was flipped,
and he fumbled a split second before his hand hit the ground. Badger
corner Scott Starks picked up the loose ball and raced 40 yards for a
touchdown and a 20-17 lead with 2:36 to play. But Orton would have one
final shot. With a few frantic completions to get in position, Lou Groza
Award candidate Ben Jones had a shot at a 42-yard field goal to send it
into overtime. He missed.
How they ended up: The Badgers went on to beat Northwestern and
Minnesota to start the season 9-0. An apparent lock for the Rose Bowl,
they lost their final two regular season games before losing 24-21 to
Georgia in the Outback Bowl. Purdue never regained its early season
mojo, losing the following week to Michigan on yet another late fumble.
The loss to the Badgers led to a four-game losing streak before beating
Ohio State and Indiana. The season ended on another heartbreaking finish
in a 27-23 loss to Arizona State in the Sun Bowl.
No. 78 Tennessee 35 ... Notre Dame 34,
November 9, 1991
At the time:
shook off an early season loss to Michigan to win seven straight for an
8-1 record heading into the showdown with Tennessee for the 300th game
played at Notre Dame Stadium. The 13th ranked Vols started off 4-0
before losing to Florida and Alabama. A win over Memphis turned things
around a bit, but they needed a big win to get back on track.
The setup: Things couldn't have been going worse for Tennessee,
getting down 31-7 late in the first half when Irish PK Craig Hentrich
lined up for a 32-yard field goal with :40 to play. The kick was blocked
and picked up by Floyd Miley for an 85-yard Volunteer touchdown. The UT
defense dominated the second half, while Aaron Hayden scored two fourth
quarter touchdowns for an improbable 35-34 lead with just over four
minutes to go. Rick Mirer and the Notre Dame offense finally got going,
moving the ball to the Tennessee nine-yard line with four seconds to
The ending: Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz had to put in backup
kicker Rob Leonard to replace an injured Hentrich for the final 27-yard
field goal attempt. Leonard kicked it squarely, but UT’s Jeremy Lincoln
flew in and appeared to dive past the play. The ball bounced off
Lincoln's butt and was pushed wide as time ran out.
How they ended up: Tennessee went on a great run to close out the
year. The Notre Dame win was the second in a five-game winning streak
before losing 42-17 to Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl for a 9-3 record.
Notre Dame got blasted 35-13 by the Nittany Lions the following week
before beating Hawaii and then Florida in the Sugar Bowl to finish 10-3.
No. 77 Oklahoma 29 ... Ohio State 28,
September 24, 1977
At the time:
It was one
of the most anticipated and most hyped non-conference regular season
games ever as No. 3 Oklahoma traveled to Columbus to face No. 4 Ohio
State. The Sooners were 2-0 after surviving in a 25-23 win over
Vanderbilt before pummeling Utah 62-24. Led by head coach Woody Hayes,
the Buckeyes beat Miami and Minnesota by a combined score of 48-7 for a
The setup: Thomas Lott, playing on an injured leg and before
getting knocked out with a sprained ankle, ran the OU wishbone to a 20-0
lead with touchdown runs from Elvis Peacock and Billy Sims. OSU came
back with 28 straight points highlighted by a touchdown catch from tight
end Jimmy Moore off a deflected pass. OU was able to convert a late OSU
fumble into a Peacock touchdown with 1:29 to play, but he was unable to
get in for the two point conversion keeping the Buckeyes ahead 28-26.
The ending: Oklahoma had to go for the onside kick. Uwe Von
Schamann's kick bounced by the Buckeyes and in the hands of OU's Mike
Babb at the 50. Backup Sooner QB Dean Blevins moved the offense to the
Buckeye 24 with six seconds to play giving Von Schamann a shot at the
win with a 41-yard field goal. During a timeout called by Ohio State,
Von Schamann egged on the crowd trying to rally the Buckeye defense to
block the kick. He nailed it for the 29-28 win.
How they ended up: Ohio State bounced back to win seven straight
games, but it didn't beat anyone of note, before losing 14-6 to Michigan
and 35-6 to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl to finish 9-3. The Sooners beat
Kansas the following week before losing 13-6 to Texas. Even with the
loss, they were still in the hunt for the national title ending the
regular season 10-1 ranked No. 2 behind the Longhorns. Texas lost to
Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl opening the door for the Sooners to win
the national title, but Lou Holtz's Arkansas team beat OU 31-6 in the
No. 76 Auburn 36 ... Florida 33, October 15, 1994
At the time:
supposed to be the nationally televised coming out party for the No. 1
ranked, 5-0 Florida Gators against a very good Auburn team that had won
17 straight. Florida had become an elite program, but it hadn't been
considered a No. 1 team for years. With quarterback Terry Dean in
contention for the Heisman and Steve Spurrier's offense humming, the
Gators were supposed to roll at home even though Auburn, on probation at
the time, had started the year 6-0. The Tigers hadn’t played anyone with
a pulse, but it was still playing well.
The setup: The Gators and Tigers battled back and forth, but Dean
started developing a nasty habit of throwing the ball to Auburn as drive
after drive kept ending in disaster. Spurrier benched his Heisman
candidate and replaced him with young backup Danny Wuerffel, who led
Florida back into the lead late in the game. The running of freshman
running back Fred Taylor and play of receiver Jack Jackson seemed to
secure the Gator win, but Auburn would make one last push.
The ending: Down by seven with time winding down, Auburn
quarterback Patrick Nix started a desperation drive utilizing top
receiver Frank Sanders and running back Stephen Davis to keep the chains
moving. Nix threw a jump ball to Sanders for an eight-yard touchdown
with :30 to play for the comeback 36-33 win.
How they ended up: Auburn kept on winning running the streak up
to twenty teams before tying Georgia 23-23. The Tigers closed out the
season with a 21-14 loss to Alabama to finish 9-1-1. Florida bounced
back two weeks later to blow out Georgia 52-14 starting a four-game
winning streak before the classic 31-31 collapse against Florida State.
After winning the SEC title game over Alabama, the Gators lost 23-17 to
the Noles in the Sugar Bowl to finish 10-2-1.
No. 75 Oregon 34 … Oklahoma 33, Sept. 16, 2006
At the time:
was 2-0, but had hardly been impressive. Still trying to jell without
starting quarterback Rhett Bomar, who was suspended in the off-season,
and with an offensive line and secondary that wasn’t nearly as good as
it would be at the end of the year, the Sooners were looking for a big
road win to generate a little bit of a national buzz before getting
Texas in a few weeks. Oregon started off 2-0, but struggled to get past
Fresno State the week before.
The setup: Oklahoma apparently had the win in hand thanks to a
brilliant day from Adrian Peterson, who finished with 211 rushing yards
and a score. Oregon was down 33-20, but managed one of its best drives
of the day and got back into the game with just over three minutes to
play on a touchdown run from quarterback Dennis Dixon. And then the
The ending: Down six, Oregon attempted the onside kick. After it
bounced around a bit, the Sooners came up with the ball. However, the ball appeared to hit an
Oregon player before going ten yards and the officials ruled the ball
was going to Oregon, and the Sooner coaching staff had
the play reviewed. The booth officials botched the replay and failed to
reverse the call, causing Bob Stoops and the Sooner coaching staff to go
berserk. Even so, OU still had a shot to come up with a stop and get the
win, but failed to do it as Dixon connected with Brian Paysinger for a
23-yard touchdown with 46 seconds to play. The extra point gave the
Ducks a 34-33 lead, but OU still had time. Reggie Smith took the ensuing
kickoff 55 yards to get into field goal range, but Garrett Hartley, who
had hit four field goals on the day, got his 44-yard attempt blocked to
seal the win for the Ducks.
How they ended up: Oklahoma went nuts. Forgetting that the
defense failed to come up with a final stop and the field goal was
blocked, Stoops, the OU president, and the entire fan base went
ballistic over the missed replay on the onside kick, blaming that for
the loss. The national title hopes were crushed anyway with a loss to
Texas, but the Sooners rebounded to win seven straight games, including
the Big 12 title, before losing to Boise State in an epic Fiesta Bowl.
Oregon blew away Arizona State the following week, but only won three of
its final nine games to finish a disappointing 7-6.
No. 74 Notre Dame 21 ... Michigan State 17,
September 21, 2002
At the time:
was in the first year of the Ty Willingham era and was enjoying a
tremendous 3-0 start with a 22-0 win over Maryland followed up by a win
over Purdue, on an interception return for a score, and a 25-23 win over
Michigan saved by a broken up two-point conversion attempt. Michigan
State was supposed to be in for a big season under head coach Bobby
Williams, but a stunning 46-22 home loss to Cal put a damper on the 2-1
The setup: All appeared lost for Notre Dame when starting QB
Carlyle Holiday was knocked out with a shoulder injury. Things went from
bad to worse when Spartan star WR Charles Rogers overcame his early case
of the drops to rip apart the Irish secondary in the second half to
finish with seven catches for 175 yards and two touchdowns including a
brilliant 21-yard scoring grab putting MSU up 17-14 late.
The ending: In for Holiday, backup QB Pat Dillingham was trying
to get the Irish in a position for a game-tying field goal, but he got a
whole bunch more as Arnaz Battle took a short pass 60 yards for a
touchdown with 1:15 to play. The Irish sealed it with a Gerome Sapp
interception on a Hail Mary attempt to Rogers.
How they ended up: The Spartan season imploded with issues with
QB Jeff Smoker and the eventual firing of Williams after only winning
two of the final eight games. Notre Dame kept up the magic for a few
more weeks for an 8-0 start before losing 14-7 to Boston College. With a
10-1 record, the Irish got blasted 44-13 to USC before losing 28-6 to NC
State in the Gator Bowl.
No. 73 Washington 42 ... Arizona State 38,
September 5, 1998
At the time:
It was the
season-opener for each team. Washington was coming off an Aloha Bowl
winning season and Arizona State was pumped up after a strong 9-3 1997
The setup: The two offenses traded shot after shot with QB Brock
Huard throwing three touchdown passes on the way to a 35-28 Washington
lead going into the fourth quarter. ASU bounced back with a field goal
before a fantastic J.R. Redmond punt return set up a touchdown pass to
Tariq McDonald for a 38-35 Sun Devil lead with two minutes to play.
Washington was able to get the ball to midfield with just over a minute
to play, but a fumbled pitch meant a 14-yard loss and 4th and 17 from
the UW 37 as time was running out.
The ending: With half a minute remaining and the clock ticking,
Huard audibled at the line checking into the perfect play call finding
tight end Reggie Davis in stride on a post pattern. Sprinting to the end
zone, Davis was caught by ASU defensive star Mitchell Freedman at around
the ten. Instead of going for the tackle, Freedman went for the strip
and Davis rumbled into the end zone for a 63-yard touchdown. The Sun
Devils were able to scramble to the Washington 40, but the Hail Mary
attempt didn't work as time ran out.
How they ended up: Arizona State never recovered finishing 5-6.
Washington beat BYU the following week and got off to a 5-2 start, but a
three game losing streak and a 45-25 Oahu Bowl loss to Air Force meant a
6-6 record and the end of the Jim Lambright era.
No. 72 Colorado 10 ... Notre Dame 9, Orange Bowl January 1, 1991
At the time:
Colorado was playing for the national title in the 1991
Orange Bowl coming in on a nine-game winning streak helped by the
infamous "fifth-down" win over Missouri and a few other close calls.
Notre Dame had a bit of a letdown year (considering it had national
title hopes) going 9-2 losing to Stanford and Penn State. The year
before in the 1990 Orange Bowl, the Irish ruined Colorado's title dreams
with a 21-6 win.
The setup: Notre Dame took a 6-3 lead on a Ricky Watters
touchdown run, but the blocked extra point attempt allowed Colorado to
eventually take the 10-9 lead on a one yard Eric Bienemy touchdown run
and a successful extra point. Clinging to the slimmest of leads, CU had
to punt from midfield with just over a minute to play. Awaiting the kick
was the nation's most exciting player: Rocket Ismail.
The ending: No one expected Ismail to actually return the kick,
but Colorado punter Tom Rouen was instructed to not kick it out of
bounds for fear of a short Irish drive for a game-winning field goal.
Instead, Ismail fielded it inside his own ten and darted up the field.
As he blew past the Buffalo defenders and up the right side, it appeared
he was going to come up with the most dramatic kick return in college
football history and forever make CU head coach Bill McCartney look like
the goat for his decision to allow the return. CU's Tim James was
trailing and had a desperate chance at making a last-ditch play, but he
was blocked by Notre Dame's Greg Lane while Ismail was gone for a
91-yard return. Flag. Lane was nailed with a clipping call that has
forever been called into question. Even so, it didn't diminish the drama
of Ismail's return. Notre Dame wasn't able to do anything with the ball
on its final drive.
How they ended up: Colorado won a share of the 1990 national
title along with Georgia Tech finishing 11-1-1. Notre Dame finished 9-3.
Ismail left college early to go off to the CFL's Toronto Argonauts.
No. 71 Michigan 35 ... Alabama 34,
Orange Bowl, January 1, 2000
At the time:
Michigan had a fantastic season winning the first five
games before losing nail-biters to Michigan State and Illinois. Those
two losses allowed Wisconsin to go to the Rose Bowl, while the
Wolverines won their final four games to finish 9-2 earning a berth in
the Orange Bowl. Alabama overcame a shocking 29-28 early season loss to
Louisiana Tech to come up with an equally stunning 40-39 win over
Florida for a 9-2 record and an SEC West title. A rematch win over
Florida in the SEC championship put the Tide in the Sugar.
The setup: Shaun Alexander scored three touchdowns for Alabama
and David Terrell caught three touchdown passes for the Wolverines in a
fun shootout. With the score tied at 28, Michigan was in range for a
game-winning field goal as time was running out.
The ending: Michigan kicker Hayden Epstein's 36-yard game-winning
field goal try was blocked to force overtime. In OT, Wolverine QB Tom
Brady threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Shawn Thompson on the first
play. Epstein hit the extra point. Alabama answered with a 21-yard
touchdown pass to Antonio Carter. All the Tide needed was the extra
point to force another overtime, but kicker Ryan Pflunger missed wide
How they ended up: Michigan finished the year ranked fourth in
the AP and sixth in the Coaches' poll. Alabama finished eighth in the AP
Poll and tenth in the Coaches'.