100 Greatest Finishes - No. 11 to 20

Posted Jul 9, 2007

The 100 Greatest College Football Finishes since 1970 ... No. 11 to No. 20

100 Greatest Finishes - 11 to 20

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

Writeups by Pete Fiutak  updated June 2007

1-5 | 6-10 | 21-30 | 31-40 | 41-50 | 51-60 | 61-70 | 71-8081-90 | 91-100  

No. 20  Virginia 33 ... Florida State 28, November 2, 1995
At the time: Florida State was 7-0 and ranked second in the country coming into Virginia on a Thursday night with a 29-0 conference record since joining the ACC. 24th ranked Virginia overcame a heartbreaking 18-17 loss to Michigan to reel off five straight wins before losing two of three games for a 6-3 record.
The setup: Virginia stunned the Noles by getting out to a 24-14 lead thanks to a 64-yard Tiki Barber touchdown run and a 72-yard Mike Groh touchdown pass to Demetrius Allen. But Danny Kanell and FSU came back on a 38-yard touchdown pass to E.G. Green to finish the first half with 320 passing yards, three touchdowns and a 27-21 deficit. The party had started in Charlottesville after Rafael Garcia's fourth field goal with less than seven minutes to play for a 33-21 lead. FSU wasn't dead yet going 80 yards in less than a minute getting a seven-yard Warrick Dunn touchdown run to make it 33-28. Virginia ended up with the ball with a few minutes to play, but the Seminole defense forced a three and out giving it back to Kanell with 1:37 left.
The ending: Kanell and Andre Cooper hooked up three times before Dunn caught a short pass to the Virginia 13 with nine seconds to play. Virginia got nailed with an illegal participation penalty giving FSU the ball on the six. Kanell had to throw it away on first down to allow for one last shot with four seconds left. FSU lined up with four wide receivers spreading the field with Kanell in the shotgun. But the snap went directly to Dunn who weaved his way through the Cavalier defense before being hit by two Virginia defenders. Just as Dunn was about to cross the goal line, Virginia LB Melvin Jones made the stop inches short. While it looked like it could've been ruled either way, the officials signaled it wasn't a touchdown, giving Virginia the 33-28 win.
How they ended up: The two teams ended up tying for the ACC title. Virginia closed out with a win over Maryland and a loss to Virginia Tech before beating Georgia 34-27 in the Peach Bowl to finish 9-4 ranking 16th in the AP poll and 17th in the Coaches'. Florida State won three of its final four games with a 35-24 loss to Florida before beating Notre Dame 31-26 in the Orange Bowl finishing fourth in the AP and fifth in the Coaches' Poll.

No. 19  Michigan State 16 ... Ohio State 13, November 9, 1974
At the time: No. 1 Ohio State was 8-0 with a high-octane offense that was averaging 45 points per game, while the defense failed to allow double-digit points in its previous six games. Michigan State turned things around after a rough patch to be 4-3-1.
The setup: The two teams pounded the ball with their running games as Ohio State and Archie Griffin were marching without a problem, but had a hard time scoring with only a 6-3 lead going into the fourth quarter. The Buckeyes caught a break on a fumble from MSU QB Charlie Baggett, which led to a Champ Henson touchdown run and 13-3 lead midway through the fourth quarter. The Spartan offense came up with a bolt of lightning as Baggett and Mike Jones hooked up for a 44-yard touchdown pass, but missed on the two-point conversion to be down 13-9. The defense held, giving the Spartan attack another chance with 3:30 to play.
The ending: On its own 12-yard line, MSU called for a conservative running play to fullback Levi Jackson to get out of trouble. Instead, Jackson found himself past the line and in the clear, cutting up the right sideline with OSU defenders diving and missing on the way to an 88-yard touchdown run and a 16-13 lead. OSU started its final march from its own 29, but it appeared to end before it began as Cornelius Greene's first pass was intercepted by a diving Terry McClowry. One official called it an interception, but the umpire waved it off saying it hit the ground. Griffin tore off 31 yards on the next play leading the Buckeyes eventually down to the one with :26 to play and no time outs. OSU head coach Woody Hayes had no thoughts about a field goal and the tie. Instead, he called for Henson to power it in, but the play was stuffed with :14 left. The Spartan defenders hardly moved off the Buckeyes making it nearly impossible to set up for another play. As the OSU offense frantically got to the line, Greene missed the snap just as the clock read 0:00 and the ball hit the turf. Brian Baschnagel picked it up and ran for an apparent game-winning Buckeye score with one official raised his hands for the touchdown signal. However, two other officials were waving off the play saying time had run out. The Spartan fans stormed the field and tried to tear down the goalposts as the officials huddled to try to figure out what the correct call was. Both teams were told to go to their locker rooms until chaos could be restored. The officials had to leave the stadium, along with Big Ten commissioner Wayne Duke, to try get a little bit of peace and to discuss what to do. Duke spoke to the officials and then went to each locker room to talk with the coaches. Meanwhile, the fans were still waiting to find out exactly what happened. 45 minutes later, Duke went to the press box to give the outcome. The famous words in MSU lore came out of the PA system, "Ladies and gentlemen. Michigan State has been declared the winner by the score of 16-13." It was determined that the back and field judges, whose job it was to keep the time, had ruled that time had expired. Replays later showed that the Buckeyes weren't set anyway and should've been flagged for an illegal procedure penalty.
How they ended up: Ohio State beat Iowa and Michigan to finish the regular season 10-1 before losing 18-17 to USC in a classic Rose Bowl to end up fourth in the AP poll and third in the UPI. MSU, helped by this classic victory, won its final five games to finish 7-3-1 to finish 12th in the AP poll and 18th in the UPI.

No. 18  Northwestern 54 ... Michigan 51
, November 4, 2000
At the time: No. 12, 6-2 Michigan was four points away from being perfect losing 23-20 to UCLA and 32-31 to Purdue. Northwestern was blasted by TCU and Purdue, but was still ranked 21st in the AP poll with a 6-2 record.
The setup: The statistics were mind-boggling as the two teams finished with 1,189 yards of total offense. Michigan's Anthony Thomas rushed for 199 yards and three touchdowns, David Terrell caught nine passes for 117 yards and three touchdowns, and Northwestern's Damian Anderson rushing for 268 yards and two touchdowns. The two offenses traded shot after shot until Michigan took the lead 51-46 late in the fourth on a one-yard Thomas run.
The ending:
Northwestern had the ball at the Michigan 12 with 1:38 to play when Zac Kustok found Anderson open in the end zone. Anderson dropped the perfect pass, and the storyline for the game appeared to be written. All Michigan had to do was run out the clock and it would escape with a wild victory, and with Rose Bowl hopes still intact. Thomas was running well, keeping the clock grinding, when he suddenly got a huge hole to tear through and appeared to be off to the races. Northwestern's Sean Wieber was able to slap at the ball, and Thomas dropped it on the turf, losing it to the Wildcats on the Michigan 30 with :46 to play. Kustok was flawless with two quick completions to get down to the 11 with :20 left. He ended his 322-yard passing day with a strike to Sam Simmons for a touchdown and a 54-51 lead after a successful two-point conversion. But Michigan wasn't done. A few quick completions from Drew Henson allowed the Wolverines to try a 57-yard field goal with confidence after Hayden Epstein had nailed a 52-yard shot in the third quarter. The snap went through the holder's hands forcing Epstein to throw a last gasp pass to Evan Coleman to the Northwestern 33, but time ran out.
How they ended up: With a shot at the Rose Bowl in its grasp, Northwestern blew it with a sloppy 27-17 loss to a horrible Iowa team. The Wildcats ended up 8-4 after getting obliterated 66-17 to Nebraska in the Alamo Bowl. Michigan won its final three games including a 31-28 victory over Auburn in the Citrus Bowl to finish 9-3 and 10th in the Coaches' Poll and 11th in the AP.

No. 17  LSU 7 ... Auburn 6
, October 8, 1988
At the time: Auburn was 4-0 after dominating its first four games by a total of 161 to 44. LSU was 2-2, but had blown out Tennessee and Texas A&M before losing to Ohio State and Florida.
The setup: It was the ultimate defensive battle with each offense failing to do much of anything. Auburn's attack, which was averaging over 40 points per game, could only manage two field goals for a 6-0 lead late in the game. The Tigers had a few chances with Eddie Fuller dropping a touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. LSU QB Tommy Hodson finally moved the ball enough to get down to the Auburn ten with 1:41 to play.
The ending: Hodson was able to finally get the attack moving with a key first down to Willie Williams and getting good protection from the offensive line. On the Auburn 11, Fuller came up with a catch in the back of the end zone, but he was out of bounds. Eventually faced with a 4th and nine, LSU didn't even think about the field goal and the onside kick, considering the offense had struggled so much against the loaded Auburn defense. Hodson dropped back and found Fuller in the seam. This time, the Tiger receiver hung on to tie it 6-6 causing the Death Valley crowd of 79,341 fans to go so ballistic that they caused a tremor that was registered by the LSU Geology Departments seismograph. At precisely 9:32 p.m., the LSU fans literally rocked the world. David Browndyke nailed the extra point for the 7-6 lead. Auburn had one final drive, but the LSU defense came up with the stop.
How they ended up: LSU would finish the season a 8-4, but it won the SEC title before losing 23-10 in Syracuse in the Hall of Fame Bowl ending up 19th in the AP poll. The earthquake play might have prevented Auburn from playing for the national title. Auburn won its remaining six games giving up a total of 31 points in the process. If Auburn had beaten LSU, it most likely would've faced Notre Dame for the national championship. Instead, it played Florida State in the Sugar Bowl losing 13-7 as Deion Sanders picked off a late pass in the end zone to finish 8th in the AP and 7th in the UPI poll.

No. 16  Iowa 30 ... LSU 25, Capital One Bowl, January 1, 2005
At the time: No. 12 LSU was 9-2 on a six-game winning streak going into the Capital One Bowl. No. 11 Iowa was 9-2 and co-Big Ten champions coming in on a seven-game winning streak.
The setup: It appeared to be the coming out party for LSU QB JaMarcus Russell. The freshman came off the bench to complete 12 of 15 passes with two touchdown throws to Skyler Green to rally the Tigers back from a 24-12 fourth-quarter deficit. Iowa had jumped out to the lead highlighted by a 57-yard Drew Tate touchdown pass to Clinton Solomon and a blocked punt for a score. LSU stayed alive on a 74-yard Alley Broussard touchdown run, but it was Russell who was stealing the show.
The ending: With 5:06 to play on its own 21, LSU drove the field in 11 plays culminating in a three-yard Russell touchdown pass to Green for a 25-24 lead with less than a minute remaining. Iowa was able to return the kickoff to its 30, but there was only :26 left to play. Tate was able to complete an 11-yard pass to Ed Hinkel and then hit Warren Holloway for nine yards, but the drive wasn't going anywhere with a penalty putting the ball on the Hawkeye 44 with only time left for one more play. Tate was able to find Holloway, who broke free thanks to a blown assignment by the Tiger secondary. Holloway, who hadn't caught a touchdown pass in his Hawkeye career, got the perfectly thrown pass at around the LSU ten and got in the end zone with no time left on the clock for a 56-yard touchdown and the 30-25 win.
How they ended up: This was a sensational end to the Nick Saban era at LSU. The head coach left to take over the Miami Dolphins closing out his time at Baton Rouge with 9-3 season finishing 16th in both polls. Iowa finished 10-2 and eighth in the polls.

No. 15  LSU 33 ... Kentucky 30, November 9, 2002
At the time: Kentucky was having a strong 6-3 season under head coach Guy Morriss. LSU bounced back after an opening day loss to Virginia Tech to crank out six straight wins before losing to Auburn 31-7. 
The setup: It was a game of big plays. Kentucky started off the scoring with a 43-yard touchdown pass to Aaron Boone, but Devery Henderson came up with touchdown grabs of 70 and 30 yards in the second quarter for a 14-7 Tiger halftime lead. The haymakers kept on coming as LSU's Joseph Addai tore off a 63-yard touchdown run on the first drive of the second half, but UK's Jared Lorenzen led the Wildcats back with three of his four touchdown passes in the second half including a 44-yard pass to Boone to tie the game at 27 with 2:24 to play.
The ending: On the ensuing kickoff, LSU got the ball on its own 19 and did nothing suffering a sack and two plays that didn't go anywhere. A lousy Donnie Jones punt and an 18-yard return by Derek Abney gave the Wildcats the ball on the LSU 39 with 1:07 to play. An LSU penalty and a nine-yard Artose Pinner run put UK well into field goal range, and a two-yard Lorenzen sneak set it up perfectly for a 29-yard Taylor Begley field goal and a 30-27 lead with just :11 remaining. LSU was dead with a penalty on the kickoff putting the ball on the Tiger nine. QB Marcus Randall hit Michael Clayton for a 17-yard pass to get out to its 26, but only two seconds remained. Wildcat fans were celebrating, and Morriss was even doused with Gatorade while fireworks popped from the scoreboard. LSU gave it a shot anyway. Randall faded back and heaved a throw as far as he could. Meanwhile, UK fans stormed one end zone and jumped on the goalposts. It looked like the Wildcats were in a position to intercept the pass, but the ball was tipped, and then tipped again into the arms of Henderson at the 20. The Wildcats had one last chance, but Derrick Tatum missed on a diving attempt. Henderson got to the end zone completing one of the most miraculous plays in college football history. On the day, Henderson caught five passes for 201 yards and three touchdowns.
How they ended up: LSU couldn't sustain the momentum, getting blasted 31-0 by Alabama the following week and lost three of its final four games including a 35-20 loss to Texas in the Cotton Bowl to finish 8-5. Kentucky alternated a win with a loss the rest of the way out to finish 7-5.

No. 14  Colorado 33 ... Missouri 31, October 6, 1990
At the time: 3-1-1 Colorado was ranked 12th after starting the season with a tie against Tennessee and a 23-22 loss to Illinois. Missouri was 2-2 coming off a win over Arizona State before hosting the Buffs in the Big 8 Conference opener.
The setup: Missouri battled hard with Kent Kiefer throwing touchdown passes of 19 and 49 yards to offset a 29-yard Eric Bienemy touchdown run and a 68-yard dash from Mike Pritchard. With starting quarterback Darian Hagan hurt, Colorado's Charles Johnson had to run the offense and came up with a 70-yard touchdown pass to Pritchard. But Kiefer came back giving Mizzou a 31-27 lead on a 38-yard touchdown pass to Damon Mays with just over two minutes to play.
The ending: Despite his inexperience, Johnson marched the offense on a 15-play, 85-yard drive down to the Tiger three with :30 left. On first down, Johnson spiked the ball. One second down, Bienemy rumbled down to the two causing CU to call its final timeout. The official on the sidelines failed to flip the down marker as it still showed second down even though it was third down. Bienemy was stuffed, causing a mad scramble with time ticking away. On what was supposed to be fourth down, Johnson, who had seen the 3 on the sideline marker, spiked the ball to stop the clock at two seconds. Missouri fans, thinking the game was over, stormed the field and tore down one of the goalposts. Even so, Colorado lined up and quickly ran another play with Johnson running to his right and diving for the end zone just as he was hit. He barely got the ball over the goal line causing even more confusion among the officials. Finally, the official signaled touchdown making it a 33-31 Colorado lead with no time left on the clock. Meanwhile, Tiger coaches and fans were screaming that the play was run on fifth down. After nearly a half an hour of discussion, Missouri had to come back out on the field for the extra point, but Johnson simply took the snap and fell down. After the game, Colorado head coach Bill McCartney never even hinted that his team won unfairly and refused to suggest that Missouri should've been given the win, whining about the field being in bad condition. Even if Colorado had tried to do the right thing, it wouldn't have mattered as a rule was put in place several years earlier stating that once a game had concluded, that was it, and the outcome couldn't be changed.
How they ended up: Missouri's season didn't get much better with four losses in its final six games to finish 4-7. Colorado won the rest of its games, including a thrilling 10-9 victory over Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl, to finish 11-1-1 and first in the AP poll, but second in the Coaches' Poll.

No. 13  Notre Dame 31 ... Miami 30, October 15, 1988
At the time: It was billed as the Catholics vs. the Convicts. Defending national champion and top-ranked Miami had won 36 straight regular season games, but was pushed early in 1988 needing a miracle comeback to beat Michigan 31-30. In its other three games, Miami beat Florida State, Wisconsin and Missouri by a combined score of 109 to three. No. 4 Notre Dame also beat Michigan in thrilling fashion opening up with a 19-17 win before blowing out Michigan State, Purdue and Stanford on the way to a 5-0 start.
The setup: It was literally a fight from the start with the two teams getting into a pre-game scuffle. On the field, Miami moved the ball without much of a problem only to turn it over seven times with a 60-yard interception return by Pat Terrell giving Notre Dame a 21-7 lead. But Hurricane QB Steve Walsh, who finished with 424 passing yards, fought back throwing two touchdown passes, including a 15-yard throw to Cleveland Gary, to tie it at 21 before halftime. The Irish weren't intimidated scoring all ten points of the third quarter for a 31-21 lead. Miami wouldn't go quietly getting a 23-yard Carlos Huerta field goal before one of the most controversial moments of the 1988 season. With over seven minutes to play and the ball 4th and seven at the Irish 11, Miami head coach Jimmy Johnson chose to go for it. The gamble paid almost paid off as Gary caught a Walsh pass and spun stretching his arm for the goal line, but appeared to be down at the one. As he fell, the ball came loose and Irish LB Michael Stonebreaker recovered for what the officials ruled was a fumble. Johnson went ballistic on the sidelines, but Miami had one more shot thanks to a forced fumble of its own.
The ending: On the Irish 14, Miami's offense had a hard time moving and was stuck with a 4th and 11 with less than a minute to play. Walsh threw a perfect pass to Andre Brown in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown to pull the Canes to within one. Without hesitating, Johnson went for two and the win. Walsh went back to pass and had time to throw, but couldn't find anyone open. Finally pressured, he forced a high pass into the end zone, but Irish DB Pat Terrell was there to jump in front and bat it down to save a 31-30 Irish lead. Notre Dame’s Anthony Johnson recovered the onside kick to seal the win.
How they ended up: Notre Dame was never threatened the rest of the season, plowing through the final six games with ease to finish No. 1 after beating West Virginia 34-21 in the Fiesta Bowl. Miami won its final seven games including a 23-3 victory over Nebraska in the Orange Bowl to finish second.

No. 12  BYU 46 ... SMU 45, Holiday Bowl, December 19, 1980
At the time: BYU had one of the nation's most explosive offenses averaging 47 points per game led by star Jim McMahon. Coming into the Holiday Bowl on an 11-game winning streak after losing the opener 25-21 to New Mexico, the Cougars were looking for their first ever bowl win. SMU, led by the running back tandem of Eric Dickerson and Craig James, was 8-3 with its young team.
The setup: SMU ran amok, getting out to a 29-7 lead and up 38-19 in the fourth quarter. After James scored SMUs fifth rushing touchdown to take a 45-25 lead with less than four minutes to play, McMahon led the Cougar offense to what seemed to be an oh-by-the-way touchdown on a 15-yard pass. The two-point conversion failed. BYU got the ball back at midfield after recovering the onside kick and McMahon went back to work marching the offense down to the one finishing with a one-yard Scott Phillips touchdown run and a two-point conversion to get within six with less than two minutes to play. The onside kick didn't work and SMU appeared ready to run out the clock needing just one first down.
The ending: The Pony Express wasn't able to get the job done as Dickerson was stuffed on third down forcing a Mustang punt. SMU punter Eric Kaifes couldn't get his kick off as BYU's Bill Schoepflin came in untouched for the block putting the ball on the SMU 41 with:13 left. McMahon's first two passes fell incomplete, but he had one final shot with just three seconds to play. McMahon dropped back and launched a high-arching pass that made its way down in between a mass of Mustang defenders, and into the hands of tight end Clay Brown. SMU's Wes Hopkins also had the ball, but the catch goes to the receiver when two players have it at the same time. The official signaled touchdown BYU to tie it at 45. BYU kicker Kurt Gunther hit the game-winning extra point for the 46-45 win. Dickerson ran 23 carries for 110 yards and two TDs while James carried it 23 times for 225 yards and three touchdowns. McMahon threw for 446 yards and four touchdowns.

How they ended up: SMU finished 8-4 and 20th in both polls. As painful as this loss was, it helped motivate SMU for the following year going 10-1 with only a 9-7 to Texas. BYU finished 12-1 ending up 11th in the UPI poll and 12th in the AP.

No. 11  Texas 41 … USC 38, Rose Bowl, January 4, 2006
At the time: Arguably the greatest national title matchup ever, USC and Texas had been ranked 1-2 all season long with the excitement for the game building from the summer. USC was on a 34-game winning streak and had won 46 of its last 47 games, while Texas was on a 20-game winning streak having won 30 of its last 32 games. The star power was of the highest magnitude with the three Heisman finalists, winner Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, and Vince Young, all on the game’s biggest stage.
The setup: USC held a 38-26 lead with under seven minutes to play, but Texas pulled within five on a six-yard Young run with under four minutes remaining. USC tried to run out the clock by going for it on fourth and two from the Texas 45, but LenDale White was stopped for the first time all game long giving Texas one final shot.
The ending: This would be the drive that made Young a legend. Things started off slowly, but Texas was helped by a face mask call on third and 12 to move the ball into USC territory. Two passes to Brian Carter and a seven-yard Young run helped give Texas a first down on the USC 13. Young threw two incomplete passes and ran for five yards setting up fourth and five from the USC eight, but he was up to the task tearing through the Trojan defense for an eight-yard touchdown with 19 seconds to play. Following another Young run for the two point conversion and a 41-38 lead, USC had one final shot. Mario Danelo was one of the nation’s most accurate field goal kickers, but he didn’t have a huge leg meaning the Trojans had to get down to at least the Texas 35 to have a prayer of tying it. On his own 31, Bush took a shovel pass for a 26-yard gain, but time was quickly running out. Leinart held on to the ball on the final play a bit too long trying to make something happen, but his final pass fell incomplete and time ran out. 
How they ended up: Texas won the national title and USC finished the year number two.


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