100 Greatest Finishes - No. 31 to 40

Posted Jul 9, 2007

The 100 Greatest College Football Finishes since 1970 ... No. 31 to No. 40

100 Greatest Finishes - 31 to 40

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 | 41-50 | 51-60 | 61-70 | 71-8081-90 | 91-100  

No. 40  Oregon 41 ... UCLA 40, October 10, 1970
At the time: 3-1 UCLA was trying to overcome the previous week's heartbreaking last-second loss to second-ranked Texas. Oregon was 2-2 with a tremendous passing attack led by QB Dan Fouts and WR Bobby Moore (a.k.a. Ahmad Rashad) orchestrated by offensive coordinator John Robinson.
The setup: Oregon went up 21-17 going into halftime helped by two Fouts touchdown runs and a Moore rushing score. UCLA was able to stay in it on a 62-yard Marv Kendricks touchdown run and a one-yard score from QB Dennis Dummit. The Bruins took a 40-21 lead on three Dummit touchdown passes and had things seemingly in hand with 4:38 to play. Fouts was pulled for injured Tom Blanchard, who threw a touchdown pass to Moore to get within 12. With less than four minutes to play, UCLA put in its backups thinking it was over, but reserve QB Jim Nader fumbled giving the ball back to the Ducks. Moore scored his third touchdown of the game on a 40-yard pass play from Blanchard to make it 40-35 with 2:10 left. Oregon got the onside kick and had one final drive.
The ending:
Blanchard stayed in the game despite suffering a separated shoulder. On the play after the injury, he threw a jump ball for Leland Glass, but UCLA's Jerry Jaso timed his leap and caught it at the same time Glass did. Both were holding on to the ball, but the officials ruled it was Oregon's ball on the UCLA 11. Blanchard had to come out to put Fouts back in the game. Oregon had it 3rd and 14 on the UCLA 15 with time winding down. With UCLA focused on stopping Moore, Greg Specht was wide open in the middle for a touchdown with :30 to play and the 41-40 lead. The two point conversion failed. UCLA's final Hail Mary pass was picked off.
How they ended up: UCLA alternated wins and losses the rest of the way out to finish 6-5. Oregon used this win over UCLA as part of a four-game winning streak, but only won one of its final four games to finish 6-4-1.
No. 39
  Miami 17 ... Florida State 16, September 16, 1991
At the time: Bobby Bowden's No. 1 Seminoles were 10-0 hosting the second-ranked, 8-0 Hurricanes in the year's most anticipated showdown. Miami had ruined Florida State's national title hopes in three of the previous four seasons.
The setup: The Canes got up early as Gino Torretta easily marched the offense leading to a Stephen McGuire touchdown from two yards out. Florida State could only muster a Gerry Thomas field goal after a 51-yard pass to Amp Lee, but it became the first team to score a touchdown on the Canes in the first half when Paul Moore ran in a one-yard score on fourth and goal for a 10-7 halftime lead. A long Seminole drive to start the second half ended in a field goal, and then another Thomas three gave FSU a 16-7 lead early in the fourth. Miami took got a 45-yard Carlos Huerta field goal, and went ahead with a three-yard Larry Jones touchdown run after a converting a fourth and six from the FSU 12. The Noles got the ball back with less than three minutes to play down 17-16.
The ending: FSU countered the previous Miami drive by converting on a fourth and one to stay alive as QB Casey Weldon took a shot at the end zone resulting in a pass interference call putting the ball on the Miami 18 with :53 to play. After one running play and spiking the ball to stop the clock, Thomas came in for a 34-yard try and his fourth field goal of the day. FSUs other kicker, Dan Mowrey, normally came in for the long field goals, but Bowden chose to go with the hot hand (or foot) in Thomas. Set up on the left hash mark, the ball went up ... Florida State started to celebrate, but the ball went wide right. Had the game been played the year before, Florida State would've won as the width of the goal posts had been narrowed before the 1991 season
How they ended up: Miami won its final three games with ease to finish 12-0 and split the national title with Washington. Florida State lost the following week to Florida 14-9, but beat Texas A&M 10-2 in the Cotton Bowl to finish 11-2 and ranked fourth in both polls. The following year Dan Mowrey pushed a game-tying field goal wide right against the Canes.

No. 38  Georgia Tech 41 ... Virginia 38, November 3, 1990
At the time: The 7-0 Cavaliers were ranked number one in the country behind the sensational pass-catch combination of QB Shawn Moore to WR Herman Moore. Georgia Tech was ranked 11th with a 6-0-1 record with a 13-13 tie against North Carolina.
The setup: The Cavaliers went up by scores of 13-0 and 28-14 helped by three Shawn Moore touchdown runs only to have Tech quarterback Shawn Jones lead the Yellow Jackets back time and time again highlighted by a 43-yard touchdown pass to Jerry Gilchrist. Virginia had its share of big plays as well with a 63-yard touchdown pass to Herman Moore late in the third quarter, but once again, Tech responded with a touchdown drive to tie it at 35 before going up by three on a 32-yard Scott Sisson field goal. With 2:34 to play, the Yellow Jackets held the Cavaliers on a goal line stand stopping two cracks from the one and surviving a called back touchdown on a penalty forcing Virginia to kick a game-tying field goal to knot it up 38. (Many Virginia fans, and Herman Moore, wanted to go for it from 4th and goal from the six, but head coach George Welsh later explained that he thought his defense would give the offense another chance.) Georgia Tech got the ball with 2:26 to play on its own 24-yard line.
The ending: Jones ripped through the Cavalier defense marching the offense 56 yards, but things stalled on the Virginia 20. The clock ran down to before Tech called a timeout to bring in Sisson to ruin Virginia's national title dreams. After two Cavalier timeouts, Sisson nailed the 37-yard kick for a 41-38 lead. A last gasp Moore pass was picked off and the Yellow Jackets came away with the win.
How they ended up: Georgia Tech went on to win the rest of its games and take a share of the national title (along with Colorado) with a 11-0-1 record after a 45-21 Citrus Bowl win over Nebraska. Virginia beat North Carolina the following week 24-10 before going in the tank losing its final three games finishing 8-4 after a 23-22 Sugar Bowl loss to Tennessee.

No. 37  Pittsburgh 24 ... Georgia 20, Sugar Bowl January 2, 1982
At the time: In the 1982 Sugar Bowl, Dan Marino's Pittsburgh team was 10-1 after losing the final regular season game 48-14 to Penn State and fell to tenth in the polls. Georgia was also 10-1 and ranked second in the country with the only loss coming to No. 1 Clemson early in the season. However, if the Tigers lost the Orange Bowl to Nebraska and the Bulldogs beat Pittsburgh, there was talk about Georgia being named national champion.
The setup: Walker ran for two touchdowns for Georgia, but Marino threw two touchdowns passes for a 17-13 Panther lead early in the fourth. Georgia took a 20-17 lead on an eight-yard touchdown pass to Clarence Kay midway through the final quarter, and then Dawg Terry Hoage snuffed out a Pittsburgh fame punt attempt to all but seal the win. The Panther defense came through forcing a Georgia punt with 3:46 to play.
The ending: Marino kept the final drive going running for eight yards on a 4th and 4, but it stalled on the Georgia 33-yard line after the Panthers were able to pounce on a FB Wayne DeBartoa fumble. On fourth down with only :42 to play, Pitt head coach Jackie Sherrill was considering going for a 50-yard field goal to finish in a tie, but Marino talked him out of it and the Panthers went for the first down. Marino dropped back to pass in the face of a Georgia blitz and found TE John Brown open in the middle of the field. Pitt wasn't just going for the first down, it was going for a touchdown. Marino's pass hit Brown in the hands just as he was popped by Georgia safety Steve Kelly. Brown hung on and Pittsburgh won 24-20.
How they ended up: The Panthers finished up 11-1 ranked fourth in the AP poll and second in the UPI. Georgia finished 10-2 and ranked sixth in the AP and fifth in the UPI. Clemson beat Nebraska to win the national title.

No. 36  Florida State 24 ... Clemson 21, September 17, 1988
At the time: Bobby Bowden's Florida State was everyone's preseason No. 1 before getting blanked 31-0 in the season opener against Miami. The week after, the Noles blew out a great Southern Miss team 49-13 to start out 1-1. Third-ranked Clemson started out the year 2-0 beating Virginia Tech and Furman by a combined score of 63-10.
The setup: Clemson dominated the first half but was only up 14-7 after a seven-yard Rodney Williams touchdown run. FSU finally got kickstarted by star defensive back and kick returner Deion Sanders on a 76-yard punt return for a score in the third quarter to tie it up at 14. A Dayne Williams touchdown run gave the Noles a 21-14 lead they couldn't extend when a Richie Andrews' kick field goal attempt was blocked. The Tiger offense responded with a good drive culminating in a Tracy Johnson touchdown run for a 21-21 tie. The Clemson defense fed off the momentum forcing 4th and 4 and a Seminole to punt to Tiger star Donnell Woolford with 1:33 to play.
The ending: With Death Valley rocking and Clemson about to get the ball back, Bowden decided to take a big gamble. He put safety LeRoy Butler as an upback for the punt with Williams behind him. The snap went to Williams who snuck up and put the ball between Butler's legs before taking off to the right pretending he still had it. Meanwhile, punter Tim Corlew faked like the ball went flying over his head. The Tiger defense went to tackle Williams while Butler stood in place for a split second before taking off up the left side going 79 yards before being stopped by Woolford. The "puntrooski" got the Noles in a position to pound it in for the win, but a Williams touchdown was wiped out by a penalty. Andrews came out and hit the 19-yard field goal with :32 to play for the 24-21 win.
How they ended up: This was part two of a ten-game FSU winning streak ending with a 13-7 win over Auburn in the Sugar Bowl to finish third in both polls. Clemson won eight of its last nine only losing a 10-3 battle to NC State before beating Oklahoma 13-6 in the Citrus Bowl to finish ninth in the AP poll and eighth in the UPI.

No. 35  Miami 27 ... Florida State 24, October 7, 2000
At the time: No. 2 Florida State was 5-0 and on a 17-game winning streak shooting for its second straight national title. Sixth-ranked Miami had lost 34-29 at Washington, but was 3-1 and starting to hum on offense.
The setup: The Orange Bowl was rocking as the young Hurricanes appeared to be on their way to a blow out after taking a 17-0 first half lead. Concerned about the kicking game, Seminole head coach Bobby Bowden passed up two field goal opportunities in the first half to go for it on fourth down missing on each one. FSU came back to within seven on an 18-yard Matt Munyon field goal and a 48-yard Chris Weinke touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin. Weinke, who finished with 496 yards, stayed hot throwing two more touchdown passes to make the comeback complete to take a 24-20 lead late.
The ending: Miami QB Ken Dorsey had come up with two good games in a row, but there was still a bit of concern among the Miami faithful after a horrible performance in the loss to Washington. He had a chance to make amends with his final drive. During the drive, backup tight end Jeremy Shockey kept telling Dorsey, who finished with 328 yards, that he was open. Dorsey paid attention finishing the clutch march by finding the precocious young star on a 13-yard touchdown pass with :46 to play for a 27-24 lead. Weinke had one final chance. The future Heisman winner was able to make the key throws needed to get in a position to try to force overtime with a 49-yard attempt. Munyon was only 3-of-6 on the year and shanked a 22-yard attempt earlier in the fourth quarter but he got his leg into the final attempt. This was Florida State vs. Miami; it went wide right.
How they ended up: Florida State recovered to get a spot in the national title game against Oklahoma after outscoring its final six opponents 277 to 51 (an average of 46.2 to 8.5), but lost in the Orange Bowl 13-2 to finish fifth in the AP and fourth in the Coaches' Poll. Miami rolled the rest of the way finishing 11-1 after a 37-20 win over Florida in the Sugar Bowl to end up second behind the Sooners in both polls.

No. 34
  Virginia Tech 22 ... West Virginia 20, November 6, 1999
At the time: Virginia Tech, led by star QB Michael Vick, got off to a big 7-0 start highlighted by a 62-0 win over a fantastic Syracuse team and a 31-7 win over Virginia. West Virginia was struggling to keep its head above water with a 3-5 record needing to win out to go to be bowl eligible.
The setup: Vick wasn't having his best game, but the Hokies were still winning in the fourth quarter helped by a 46-yard Andre Kendrick touchdown run and a six-yard dash from Shyrone Stith for a 19-7 lead. The Hokie defense had allowed a mere 9.2 points per game on the season meaning the average West Virginia offense would have to pull off a miracle with less than five minutes to play.
The ending: Following Virginia Tech's final touchdown, West Virginia got a big kickoff return and a late hit call to get the ball on the Hokie 24. WVU backup QB Brad Lewis, who was in for starter Marc Bulger because of an injured hand, threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Jerry Porter to pull to within five. Trying to run out the clock, Stith fumbled giving the ball back to the Mountaineers with 1:46 to play. It took only four plays to go 68 yards finishing with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Khory Ivy for a 20-19 lead after the missed two point conversion. Stith returned the ensuing kickoff to the 15 with only 1:06 to play. Vick threw an incompletion and threw a completion to Terrell Parham to get to the Tech 29. The Hokies, out of timeouts with :35 to play, got the play that turned Vick into a legend. He dropped back looking for a long pass, but no one was open. Starting to scramble, he appeared to be dead-to-rights as two Mountaineer defenders seemingly had him stopped before he zipped up the field for a 24-yard gain to get to the WVU 36 with :23 to go. One play later, Vick was able to get to the 27 and spike it with just five ticks left on the clock with time for a 44-yard field goal. Shayne Graham came on and nailed his first game-winning kick for the 22-20 Hokie win.
How they ended up: Tech beat Miami 43-10 the following week and Temple 62-7 the week after. A win over Boston College wrapped up an 11-0 season, but the national title dream died with a 46-29 loss to Florida State in the Sugar Bowl. Tech finished second in the AP poll and third in the Coaches' Poll. West Virginia lost to BC the following week before finishing up with a 52-21 win over Pittsburgh to finish 4-7.

No. 33  Texas 21 ... Notre Dame 17, Cotton Bowl January 1, 1970
At the time: It was the 1970 Cotton Bowl with the national championship on the line for 10-0 Texas, who won a thriller a month earlier beating Arkansas 15-14 on a converted 4th and three for a 44-yard gain. Notre Dame was 8-1-1 and playing in its first bowl game in 45 years.
The setup: Notre Dame, led by QB Joe Theismann, was up 10-0 helped by a 54-yard touchdown pass to Tom Gatewood. Texas used its option attack to work its way back to take a 14-10 lead held until late in the fourth quarter. The Irish got another big play from Theismann on a 24-yard touchdown pass to Jim Yoder with less than seven minutes left to take a 17-14 lead. 
The ending: With the national title on the line for the Longhorns, they went for it twice on fourth down highlighted by a diving catch by Cotton Speyrer on 4th and two down to get down to the Notre Dame two. The Notre Dame defense was stingy stuffing the option on the first two plays. On third and goal, QB James Street faked inside and pitched outside to Billy Dale for a touchdown with 1:08 to play and, after the extra point, a 21-17 lead capping a 17-play, 76-yard drive. Theismann had one last chance to pull off the upset, but he was picked off by Tom Campbell with :28 to play.
How they ended up: Texas had already been awarded the national championship by President Richard Nixon after the Arkansas game, but there was no question after this win finishing on top of both polls. Darrell Royal's team won the first ten games of 1970 to bring its winning streak up to thirty games, before losing to Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl. Even so, the Longhorns finished No. 1 in the 1970 UPI poll. The Irish won its first nine games of 1970 before losing to USC. The 24-11 win over Texas in the Cotton Bowl rematch gave Notre Dame the No. 2 spot in the AP poll and fifth spot in the UPI.

No. 32 Boston College 41 ... Notre Dame 39, November 20, 1993
At the time: Notre Dame was 10-0 and ranked number one after a thrilling 31-24 win over Florida State in 1993's version of the Game of the Century. All it needed to do was beat Boston College and it would likely go to the Orange Bowl to play for the national championship. No. 16 Boston College rallied from an 0-2 start to reel off seven straight wins before going to South Bend.
The setup: Boston College cranked out a 38-17 lead thanks to the combination of QB Glenn Foley and TE Pete Mitchell. Foley threw four touchdown passes with Mitchell catching two of them and keeping drive after drive going with clutch catches finishing with 13 grabs for 132 yards. But the Irish didn't go away as Lee Becton ran for a 29-yard score midway through the fourth quarter and then threw a two-point conversion pass to QB Kevin McDougal to pull within 13. A Foley fumble gave it back to the Irish leading to Ray Zellars' second touchdown run of the game cutting the BC lead to 38-32 with just over four minutes to play. BC couldn't move the ball giving it back to the Irish with less than three minutes to play. McDougal connected with Derrick Mayes for a 46-yard completion and then found Lake Dawson on fourth and goal from the four for a touchdown and a 39-38 lead after the extra point. There was 1:09 left.
The ending: A personal foul call on the Irish gave BC the ball on the 25. On the first play of the drive, the game almost ended as Foley's pass slipped through the hands of ND LB Pete Bercich. With new life, Foley got hot moving methodically down the field helped by a big catch from Mitchell. BC's Ivan Boyd took a short pass down to the Irish 24 with five seconds to play with time for a 41-yard field goal, but BC kicker David Gordon had been shaky all season long not hitting a field goal longer than 39 yards for his career. He cranked a line drive knuckle ball that appeared to be going wide, but moved back to go over the crossbar for the 41-39 win.
How they ended up: Notre Dame got passed over by Florida State to play No. 1 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl for the national title and had to settle for a No. 2 finish after beating Texas A&M 24-21 in the Cotton Bowl. BC couldn't keep the momentum going losing to 10-0 West Virginia 17-14 the next week, but was able to beat Virginia in the Blockbuster Bowl to finish 9-3 and ranked 12th in the Coaches' Poll and 13th in the AP.

No. 31  Texas A&M 36 ... Kansas State 33, Big 12 Championship, December 5, 1998
At the time: This was all set to be the biggest day in Kansas State football history. The 11-0, top-ranked Wildcats had averaged over 46 points per game in their previous six games and just needed to beat the 10-2, 10th ranked Aggies to have a shot at the national championship. A&M lost to Texas 26-24, but still won the Big XII South with a ten-game winning streak before the Longhorn loss.
The setup: Kansas State's offense made a several mistakes, but it also rolled for some huge yards and big plays with a 66-yard touchdown pass to Darnell McDonald and a touchdown run from star QB Michael Bishop for a 27-12 lead going into the fourth quarter. But a funny thing happened along the way. KSU was in a battle with unbeaten Tennessee and UCLA for a spot in the Fiesta Bowl with all three teams playing on the same day. The Bruins lost to Miami 49-45 with the game finishing midway through the Big XII title game. The score flashed on the scoreboard and the Wildcat fans and players started to celebrate knowing that a spot in the championship was assured with a win. With time winding down, A&M got hot as QB Branndon Stewart led a crisp drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Leroy Hodge to get within nine.
The ending: All KSU had to do was go on a long drive of its own to run out the clock and be off for the national title, but Bishop fumbled giving A&M life. Sirr Parker caught a nine-yard touchdown pass and the two-point conversion for a 27-27 tie with just over a minute to play. Kansas State almost came up with one of the greatest plays in college football history as Bishop threw a 54-yard bomb to Everett Burnett as time ran out, but it came up just short as A&M was able to force overtime by stopping Burnett at the two. The two teams traded field goals in the first overtime. KSU took a 33-30 lead in the second OT with a 25-yard Martin Gramatica field goal. A&M was in trouble on its possession facing 3rd and 17 on its own 32 and out of field goal range. Stewart was able to connect with Parker on a quick slant pattern to try to get into good position for the field goal, but the Aggies got even more as Parker eluded a tackle and raced up the right sideline. KSU's Lamar Chapman tried to make a last gasp play, but Parker was able to reach the ball across the pylon for the touchdown and the dream-killing 36-33 win.
How they ended up: Tennessee won the SEC championship to earn a spot in the Fiesta Bowl to play Florida State. Kansas State ended up going to the Alamo Bowl to face Purdue and lost in another crushing finish as Drew Brees made a last-second play for a 37-34 Boilermaker win. The Wildcats, so close to a chance to playing for the national title, finished 11-2, tenth in the AP Poll and ninth in the Coaches' Poll. A&M finished 11-3 ranking 11th in the AP Poll and 13th in the Coaches' Poll after losing 24-14 to Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl.


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