100 Greatest Finishes - No. 41 to 50

Posted Jul 9, 2007

The 100 Greatest College Football Finishes since 1970 ... No. 41 to No. 50

100 Greatest Finishes - 41 to 50

The greatest endings in college football history from 1970 to the present

Writeups by Pete Fiutak  updated June 2007

1-5 | 6-10 | 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40 | 51-60 | 61-70 | 71-8081-90 | 91-100  

No. 50  Notre Dame 29 ... Michigan 27, September 20, 1980
At the time: Notre Dame was ranked No. 8 following a 31-10 win over Purdue, one of the Big Ten’s most dangerous teams. Michigan was ranked 16th after barely beating a Northwestern team 17-10 that finished 0-11.
The setup: Notre Dame's offense controlled the first half up 14-0 on a ten-yard touchdown pass to Pete Holohan and a six-yard touchdown run from Phil Carter, but Michigan made it interesting as backup QB John Wangler engineered a long drive with an eight-yard Lawrence Ricks touchdown run. Following a late interception, Michigan closed out the first half with a fake field goal that led to a touchdown pass to tie it up. Down 21-14, Notre Dame's John Krimm picked off Wangler for a 49-yard pick six, but PK Harry Oliver missed the extra point. A Carter touchdown run gave Notre Dame a 26-21 lead after a failed conversion.
The ending: Wangler made amends by driving the Wolverines down to the Notre Dame four with just over a minute to play. TE Craig Dunaway caught a deflected pass off RB Butch Woolfolk for a touchdown, but the two-point conversion failed giving Michigan a 27-26 lead with :41 left. Notre Dame head coach Dan Devine sent in Blair Kiel to quarterback the final drive, but his first pass sailed on him. Fortunately for the Irish, WR Tony Hunter drew a pass interference penalty. After almost throwing an interception on his next two passes, Kiel completed two short throws to get to the Michigan 34 with four seconds to play. In came Oliver, who had only made one career field goal, for a 51-yard attempt with the wind blowing in his face. As legend has it, the wind died down just before Oliver kicked a line drive that just found its way through the left corner for the 29-27 Irish win.
How they ended up: Notre Dame ended up climbing to No. 1 with a 7-0 record before tying Georgia Tech 3-3. A 17-10 loss to Georgia, who was named national champion, in the Sugar Bowl ended the Irish season at 9-2-1 finishing ranked ninth. Michigan lost the next week in another nail-biter to South Carolina 17-14. Things quickly turned around as Bo's boys reeled off nine straight wins including a 23-6 victory over Washington to finish 10-2 and ranked No. 4.

No. 49  USC 45 ... UCLA 42
, November 17, 1990
At the time: USC was 7-2-1 and going to the Sun Bowl even though there was still a game against Notre Dame to be played. UCLA was 5-5 and looking for a winning season and hoping for a bowl bid.
The setup: It was a shootout with USC up 24-21 going into the fourth quarter, started by an interception return for a touchdown, followed up with another pick-six when Jason Oliver stepped in front of a Tommy Maddox pass and took it 34 yards for a Trojan touchdown. UCLA responded with two touchdown passes to Scott Miller for a 35-31 lead midway through the final quarter. The two teams kept trading punches, but UCLA appeared to end it with a one-yard Kevin Smith touchdown run for a 42-38 lead with 1:19 to play.
The ending: The firefight couldn't end without a final big drive. USC QB Todd Marinovich had the ball on his own 25 with 1:13 to play, but things didn't get off to a rousing start as he faced a third and 10 with the USC defense starting to swarm for the first time all game long. With :44 to play, Marinovich found Gary Wellman for 27 yards to get into UCLA territory. One more pass to Wellman put the Trojans on the UCLA 23 with :26 to play. USC WR Johnny Morton, playing with a separated shoulder, blew past the fallen UCLA defensive back to the back corner of the end zone. Marinovich got flattened by Bruin LB Roman Phifer, but he got the ball off just in time to get it to Morton a split-second before UCLA safety Michael Williams could break it up. Morton made a leaping catch for a touchdown with :16 to play and a 45-42 lead. Maddox had one last chance, but his Hail Marys fell incomplete.
How they ended up: UCLA finished the season 5-6. USC went on to lose to Notre Dame 10-6 before falling to Michigan State 17-16 in the Sun Bowl to finish 8-3-1. Maddox and Marinovich were the first two sophomore quarterbacks to ever be drafted.

No. 48  UNLV 27 ... Baylor 24, November 11, 1999
At the time: First year (at least to their programs) head coaches Kevin Steele at Baylor and John Robinson at UNLV were trying to get off to good starts. The Rebels beat North Texas 26-3 before heading to Baylor. The Bears lost a 30-29 heartbreaker to Boston College on a missed extra point.
The setup: Baylor blew a 10-0 lead, but was able to convert a UNLV fumble to go up 17-14 on a one-yard Jermaine Alfred touchdown run. The two teams traded scores with Baylor getting the ball with 4:33 remaining and clinging to a 17-14 lead. Pounding away on a long, sustained drive, the Bears were able to run down the clock and preserve its lead. With no timeouts left, UNLV couldn't do anything to prevent Baylor from taking a few knees and leaving with the win. However, the coaches kept calling handoffs to Darrell Bush, allowing him to pound it out for more yards running more time off the clock. But it wasn't necessary.
The ending: Once again, all Baylor had to do was take a knee. Instead, Bush got another carry to get down to the UNLV eight with :30 to play. With the clock winding down, Baylor gave Bush yet another carry, and he barreled down to the one as the UNLV defenders tried to rip the ball out of his hands. It worked. Rebel LB Tyler Brickell got the ball loose just before Bush crossed the goal line sending it bouncing into the end zone. Kevin Thomas picked it up and went 101 yards untouched for the touchdown as time ran out for the unbelievable 27-24 win.
How they ended up: Baylor's season didn't get much better only beating North Texas 23-10 to finish 1-10. UNLV only won one more game beating Wyoming 35-32 to finish 3-8.

No. 47  Northwestern 34 ... Wisconsin 30, October 19, 1996
At the time: Northwestern was coming off its Rose Bowl season and was back up to its old tricks getting past a 28-27 opening day loss to Wake Forest to win four straight games including a 17-16 squeaker over Michigan. Wisconsin won its first three games before losing heartbreakers to Penn State and Ohio State.
The setup: Wisconsin freshman Ron Dayne was just getting his career going getting most of the workload rushing for 139 yards and a touchdown on the way to what a seemingly easy Homecoming victory. But Northwestern slowly started to come back even with star running back Darnell Autry knocked out in the second quarter with a shoulder injury as Adrian Autry ran for 82 yards and two touchdowns in the second half. Wisconsin still had a 30-27 lead late and appeared to have weathered the storm.
The ending: Wisconsin had the ball on its own 41 with 1:47 to play and Northwestern out of timeouts. Had QB Mike Samuel taken three knees, Wisconsin still would've had to kick the ball away with a few ticks left on the clock. Instead of running a quarterback sneak, head coach Barry Alvarez chose to hand it off to Dayne to let him try for the first down. Samuel and Dayne botched the exchange, which Northwestern safety Eric Collier fell on with :49 to play. Wildcat QB Steve Schnur found D'Wayne Bates two plays later on a streak to the end zone for a 20-yard score and a shocking 34-30 win.
How they ended up: Northwestern ended up going 7-1 before losing to Penn State. Even so, it ended up with another share of the Big Ten title and went to the Citrus Bowl losing to Peyton Manning and Tennessee 48-28 to finish 9-3. The Badgers lost to Michigan State the following week for a four-game losing streak before winning five of the final six games to finish 8-5, culminating in a 38-10 Copper Bowl win over Utah.

No. 46  Miami 19 ... Florida State 16, October 3, 1992
At the time: Miami was the defending national champion on a 20-game winning streak, but many believed 4-0 Florida State was the best team in America. This was the one of the most anticipated games of the 1990s after the classic Wide Right Miami win in 1991.
The setup: Florida State started off with a bang on a 94-yard kickoff return from Tamarick Vanover. Miami came back to take a 10-7 lead, but the Noles got three Dan Mowery field goals to get ahead 16-10 midway through the third quarter. A 33-yard Gino Torretta touchdown pass to Coleman Bell gave the Canes the lead that was upped to 19-16 after a safety.
The ending: Florida State got the ball back with 1:35 to play. Seminole QB Charlie Ward was able to maneuver the offense 59 yards, but the drive stalled with eight seconds to play. In came Mowery, who had made field goals from 22, 38 and 41 yards, to attempt a 39-yard shot to tie the game. Wide right.
How they ended up: Florida State rolled through the rest of its schedule and beat Nebraska 27-14 in the Orange Bowl to finish 11-1. Miami went 11-0 and was expected to easily win its second straight national title, but Alabama had other ideas in a 34-13 Sugar Bowl win.

No. 45  Ohio State 10 ... Michigan 10, November 24, 1973
At the time: 10-0, No. 4 Michigan hosted 9-0, No. 1 Ohio State for the Big Ten title, the Rose Bowl berth, and national title consideration. The Buckeyes had allowed 33 points (an average of 3.67 points per game) and a mere three touchdowns while the Wolverines had given up a total of 49 points.
The setup: In a hard-hitting, intense battle, Ohio State took a 10-0 halftime lead on a 31-yard field goal and a five-yard Pete Johnson touchdown. Michigan battled back in the second half with a 30-yard field goal and a Dennis Franklin ten-yard touchdown run.
The ending: Unfortunately for the Wolverines, Franklin was knocked out for the game with a broken collarbone on what could've been the game-winning drive with 2:25 to play. This would have repercussions on more than just this game (more on that in a moment). Fearing an interception, Michigan head coach Bo Schembechler ordered three straight running plays to give Mike Lantry a long field goal try. Even though it was from 58 yards out, Lantry just missed. Ohio State tried to pull off the win by throwing the ball, but this was a pure running team. Michigan's Jon Drake picked off a Greg Hare pass and got it to the Ohio State 33 with :52 left. After two conservative plays, Schembechler went for the field goal on third down. Lantry missed from 44 yards out for a 10-10 finish.
How they ended up: The Big Ten athletic directors had to vote on who went to the Rose Bowl. With Franklin hurt, some believed Michigan wouldn't be the stronger of the two teams and sent the Buckeyes to Pasadena by a vote of 6-4. OSU beat USC 42-21 to finish 10-0-1 and No. 2 in the AP poll. Michigan finished ranked sixth.

No. 44  Alabama 25 ... Auburn 23, November 30, 1985
At the time: No. 7 Auburn was a solid 8-2 going against unranked, 7-2-1 Alabama in the 50th anniversary of the Iron Bowl. After starting off 4-0, Ray Perkins' Tide team lost two straight before going on a good run with only a tie against LSU breaking up a winning streak. The Tigers had won five of their previous six.
The setup: Two Bo Jackson touchdown runs, including a one-yard leap midway through the fourth quarter, helped match three field goals from Alabama’s Van Tiffin to tie it at 16. Tiger kicker Chris Johnson missed the extra point after the second Jackson score, but Bama was called for too many men on the field allowing an extra chance, which Johnson hit, for a 17-16 lead. The Tide responded on the next drive with a 74-yard Gene Jelks touchdown run, but a missed two-point conversion made it only 22-17 with just under six minutes to play.
The ending: Auburn took the ensuing drive down to the Alabama one taking off every second of the clock possible. Reggie Ware pounded it in with less than a minute to play, but the two-point conversion was broken up by Alabama's Cornelius Bennett for a 23-22 Tiger lead. Alabama QB Mike Shula couldn't get the final drive going, taking a sack to put the ball on the Tide 12 with :37 to play. Eventually faced with 4th and 4, the Tide shocked the Auburn defense with a reverse for 20 yards leaving only :21 to play. Shula was able to find Greg Richardson across the middle, but he had to get out of bounds. He was barely able to do it, getting out at the Auburn 35 with six seconds to play. In came Tiffin for a 50-yard attempt and his fourth field goal of the game. He nailed it for a 25-23 win.
How they ended up: Auburn went to the Cotton Bowl where it lost 36-16 to Texas A&M to finish 8-4. Alabama went to the Aloha Bowl and beat USC 24-3 to finish 9-2-1.

No. 43  Penn State 14 ... Miami 10, Fiesta Bowl, January 2, 1987
At the time: Miami was the dominant team in 1986 rolling to an 11-0 record led by Heisman Trophy winning QB Vinny Testaverde. The brash Canes caused a stir with their trash talking and controversial army fatigues worn to a pre-bowl dinner, and were considered a near-lock to win the title. Penn State was anything but flashy using its defense to go 11-0 to play in its second straight national title game after losing to Oklahoma the year before in the Orange Bowl.
The setup: The high-powered Miami attack moved the ball well, but turnovers halted drive after drive. Even so, Miami held a 10-7 lead in the fourth quarter when Testaverde threw his fourth interception of the game leading to a D.J. Dozier eight-yard touchdown run with just over eight minutes to play. Miami got the ball for its final drive with three minutes to play starting on its own 23.
The ending: After a rocky start to the drive and a fourth down conversion, Testaverde started to look like Testaverde marching the offense with ease down to the Penn State six with :25 to play. After a sack and a dropped pass, Miami faced fourth and goal from its 13 with :18 left. The national title came down to one play. Testaverde had receiver Brett Perriman open for an instant, but Penn State LB Pete Giftopoulis stepped in front of the throw to force the seventh Hurricane turnover and the fifth interception.
How they ended up: Penn State finished the year No. 1 and the national champions. Miami was No. 2, but bounced back the following season to go 12-0 and win the national title.

No. 42  Michigan 21 ... Washington State 16, Rose Bowl January 1, 1998
At the time: 11-0 Michigan, and Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson, were in the Rose Bowl with a chance to win the national title. Washington State, led by QB Ryan Leaf, was 10-1 with only a 44-31 loss at Arizona State to mar a great season.
The setup: Even though Leaf was the marquee quarterback, Michigan’s Brian Griese made the biggest plays connecting with Tai Streets for scoring passes of 53 and 58 yards for a 21-15 lead. With 7:25 to play, Griese led the Wolverine offense on a 16-play drive that ate up 6:26 before giving it back to Leaf on his own seven with :29 to play.
The ending: Washington State needed a prayer, and it was answered on a desperation 46-yard completion to Nian Taylor, who pushed off to make the catch, to keep the game alive. Leaf was able to move the offense down to Michigan 16 with two seconds left, but without any timeouts, the Cougars had to run furiously to the line to spike the ball. While it would've been interesting to see one of the best quarterbacks in college football have one last throw to the end zone to try to win the Rose Bowl, time ran out just as Leaf spiked it giving Michigan the win, even though there appeared to be at least one tick left on the clock.
How they ended up: With the win, Michigan gave the Big Ten its first national title since 1968 winning the AP title. Nebraska won the Coaches' poll with Michigan finishing second. Washington State finished 10-2 ranked ninth in both polls.

No. 41  Ohio State 10 ... Purdue 6, November 9, 2002
At the time: Ohio State was in the stretch run of a dream season with a number two ranking and a 10-0 record facing an unranked 4-5 Purdue team that had lost all five games by a touchdown or less.
The setup: Purdue was outplaying Ohio State on both sides of the ball, but couldn't pull away as the Buckeye defense held the Boilermaker offense to only a field goal in the first half and forced two key turnovers. The Buckeyes were fortunate to get three points at the end of the first half as the field goal team had to sprint on to the field to get off a Mike Nugent 22-yard try as time was running out. Purdue head coach Joe Tiller complained that there wasn't time left, but TV replays proved there was still one second on the clock. A 32-yard Berin Lacevic field goal midway through the fourth quarter gave Purdue a 6-3 lead.
The ending: Ohio State got the ball to the Purdue 46 with just over three minutes to play thanks to a 20-yard Chris Gamble punt return. Buckeye QB Craig Krenzel was sacked for four yards and threw an incompletion before hitting Ben Hartsock for a 13-yard gain. On 4th and 1 with 1:36 to play, Ohio State didn't run the ball with Maurice Clarett, and it didn't use Krenzel on a quarterback sneak. Instead, Krenzel dropped back and went deep to Michael Jenkins, who made an over-the-shoulder catch for a dramatic touchdown. Depending on whose perspective you want, either Jenkins pushed off on Purdue CB Antwaun Rogers to get the ball, or the two were simply bumping their way down the field. Down 10-6, Purdue’s final drive was ended by a Gamble interception.
How they ended up: The hard-luck Boilermakers won their final three games to finish 7-6 ending with a 34-24 win over Washington in the Sun Bowl. Ohio State's games got more and more dramatic, beating Illinois in a 23-16 battle before surviving Michigan 14-9. A classic 31-24 overtime win over Miami in the Fiesta Bowl gave the Buckeyes the national title.


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