100 Greatest Finishes - No. 6 to 10

Posted Jul 9, 2007

The 100 Greatest College Football Finishes since 1970 ... No. 6 to No. 10

100 Greatest Finishes - 6 to 10

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

Writeups by Pete Fiutak  updated June 2007

1-5 | 11-20 | 21-30 | 31-40 | 41-50 | 51-60 | 61-70 | 71-8081-90 | 91-100  

No. 10 Florida State 18 ... Nebraska 16, Orange Bowl January 1, 1994
At the time: The 1993 Huskers were the forgotten team. In a year that saw an epic season-long battle in the polls between Notre Dame and Florida State, Nebraska came in 11-0 and ranked No. 1. 11-1 Florida State had lost to Notre Dame, but got its shot at the Huskers after the Irish lost on a last-second kick to Boston College.
The setup: The defenses were the stars early in a 0-0 first quarter. After a Seminole field goal, the Huskers struck as Tommie Frazier, known as a running quarterback, tossed a pass into a crowd that was deflected into the hands of Reggie Ball who took it for his first touchdown of the season. But the Noles kicking game kept them alive as Scott Bentley nailed a second field goal to put FSU within one at halftime. The second half belonged to unstoppable Nebraska freshman running back Lawrence Phillips, but the Huskers were still down 15-13 with three minutes to play. Nebraska kicker Byron Bennett was 0-for-4 since kicking his last field goal two-and-a-half months earlier and had missed two field goals in the previous year's Orange Bowl. After a great defensive stand by the Noles from the five-yard line, Bennett came in and coolly gave the Huskers a 16-15 lead punching it through the same uprights that saw Florida State miss a kick in Wide Right II against Miami in 1992.
The ending: With 1:16 to play, the ball was in the hands of FSU's Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward who was having an efficient, but unspectacular, game. A Ward pass to Warrick Dunn, and a personal foul penalty on Nebraska, followed by a pass interference call set up a Bentley field goal for an 18-16 win. Not quite. A celebration penalty resulted in the Huskers getting the ball near midfield with :14 to play. Frazier, after one incompletion, completed a pass over the middle with one second to go. The clock read :00 and Seminole head coach Bobby Bowden was given a Gatorade bath while he was giving a post-game interview wearing a national champion hat with fans pouring onto the field. But no. The fates of the college football world wouldn't make it so easy to give Bowden his first national title. The officials put one second back on the clock ruling that the Husker receiver was down. Bennett would get a final shot to break the hearts of Seminole fans, but there was nothing to worry about as he badly hooked the 45-yard attempt.
How they ended up: Despite the win, there was still some controversy for Florida State being ranked No. 1 and national champion despite losing to Notre Dame and each finishing with one loss. Nebraska finished third in both polls.

No. 9  Ohio State 31 ... Miami 24 OT, Fiesta Bowl January 3, 2003
At the time: Defending national champion Miami was 12-0 and the heavy favorites in the national championship against a 13-0 Ohio State team that wasn't always dominant, but always found a way to win.
The setup: After taking a 7-0 lead on a Ken Dorsey strike to Roscoe Parrish, it appeared that Miami was on its way to an easy win with the Buckeyes not getting a first down until late in the first quarter. The Buckeyes finally got moving midway through the second quarter. After OSU quarterback Craig Krenzel was stuffed on third down on the goal line, head coach Jim Tressel had his first really big decision of the game. He went for it and Krenzel was barely able to get in to tie it at seven. The Buckeyes kept the Canes on their heels in the second half, but after a 57-yard pass play to Chris Gamble, disaster almost struck. Miami's Sean Taylor made a big play preventing an Ohio State touchdown with an interception, but OSU RB Maurice Clarett was able to catch up and rip the ball away from behind to give the Buckeyes the ball back leading to a 44-yard Mike Nugent field goal for a 17-7 lead. Miami star RB Willis McGahee was getting warmed up blowing past the tiring Buckeye front seven, but just as it looked like he'd take the game over, he suffered a blown out knee and was lost for the game. Miami couldn't seem to catch a break as Todd Sievers just missed a 54-yard field goal that would've tied things. However, Ohio State's offense couldn't find a way to run out the clock giving Dorsey had one last drive for a national title set up by a long punt return by Roscoe Parrish. Dorsey got his Canes into position and Sievers came through putting the game into overtime with a 40-yard field goal.  
The ending: The Canes scored on a seven-yard touchdown pass to Kellen Winslow on their first overtime possession. Miami appeared to have the national championship won when Glenn Sharpe broke up a Krenzel pass in the end zone on fourth down, but he was nailed with a controversial pass interference call to keep the game alive. Krenzel punched it in for a one-yard TD run to force a second overtime. Maurice Clarett scored on a five-yard touchdown run on OSU's possession in the second overtime for a 31-24 lead. On Miami's turn, Dorsey got his bell rung and had to come out on the biggest drive of the year. After a few time outs to try and clear the star quarterback's head, Dorsey was able to come back in and completed a perfect fourth down pass to Winslow to keep the season alive. With first and goal on the six, the Buckeyes got nailed with a pass interference call on Chris Gamble to give the Canes first and goal from the one. Jarrett Payton was stopped. Second and goal. Dorsey couldn't connect with a wide-open Eric Winston. Third and goal. Stopped. Fourth and the national title from the one. Ohio State got pressure on Dorsey forcing a prayer that went nowhere, and the Buckeyes had the national title.
How they ended up: Ohio State finished 14-0 and won the national title in both polls. Miami finished second.

No. 8  Miami 31 ... Nebraska 30, Orange Bowl, January 1, 1984
At the time: Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne was trying to win his first national title with what was being called one of the greatest teams of all-time, outscoring its opponents by an average of 52 to 15.5. Miami lost its opening game 38-3 to Florida before winning its final ten games of the regular season to move up to No. 4. By the time the 50th Orange Bowl rolled around on New Year's night, No. 2 Texas was upset in the Cotton Bowl by Georgia while No. 3 Auburn squeaked by an average Michigan team 9-7 in the Sugar Bowl. Miami was now in the game for the national title. 
The setup: Miami took a shocking 10-0 lead led by freshman QB Bernie Kosar and his razor-sharp passing. He stayed hot leading the Canes to an improbable 17-0 lead completing 8 of 14 passes for 142 yards and two scores in the first quarter. The Husker offense finally got going with a slow and methodical drive until it faced a 3rd and five on the Miami 19. It was then that Osborne reached into his bag of tricks for the Fumblerooski. QB Turner Gill took the snap and ran down the right side of the offense looking to pitch the ball with the Hurricane defense following. But Gill intentionally dropped the ball and let it lie on the turf after the snap for the Outland and Lombardi Trophy winning Dean Steinkuhler who rumbled in for the shocking touchdown to put the Huskers back in the game. Miami was able to take a 31-17 lead late in the second half on an Albert Bentley touchdown run, but the game was far from over as the Huskers pulled to within seven with less than seven minutes to play on a Jeff Smith touchdown run. Miami answered by going on a long drive and was in a position to put the game away, but missed a field goal. Even with the setback, the Canes did a great job of taking time off the clock giving it back to the Huskers with 1:47 to play.
The ending: Gill was having an average game overshadowed by Kosar's tremendous performance, but he wasn't getting much help as his all-everything receiver Irving Fryar was nowhere to be found. On first down on their own 26, Gill threw a strike to Fryar, who cut up the field and took it 29 yards before being brought down on a last gasp tackle. With 1:12 to play on the Miami 25, Gill threw another perfect pass, but a wide-open Fryar dropped it in the end zone before collapsing in a grief stricken moment. On the following play, Gill fumbled the ball after getting popped, but Steinkuhler picked it up and rumbled for positive yards making it 4th and eight on the Miami 29. Gill calmly ran the option to the right. At the last possible nanosecond, he pitched the ball to a streaking Smith who tore up the right sideline before diving into the end zone to pull the Huskers to within one point. Without hesitation, Osborne decided to go for two to try to win rather than go for the tie. Gill fired it outside to Smith, but it fell incomplete. On the ensuing onsides kick, Miami recovered preserving the 31-30 win.
How they ended up: With no overtime, if Nebraska had kicked the extra point, it would've been doubtful if there was a voter in America that wouldn't have voted the Huskers the national champions after a tie. Instead, Miami finished No. 1, Nebraska No. 2.

No. 7  Miami 26 ... Florida State 25, October 3, 1987
At the time: No. 3 Miami had beaten Florida and Arkansas to start the season by a combined score of 82 to 11. Florida State was ranked fourth with a 4-0 record averaging 39 points per game. Both teams were ridiculously talented loaded with several future NFL stars. The Hurricanes were led by boisterous wide receiver Michael Irvin and defensive back Bennie Blades going against the Seminole secondary with Leroy Butler, Martin Mayhew and Deion Sanders.
The setup: A big Sanders punt return led to an FSU field goal to go up 19-3 as the Seminole defense held down QB Steve Walsh and the vaunted Hurricane attack. Even though the Noles were dominating, they couldn't convert their great drives into touchdowns and struggled with the kicking game. Walsh suddenly got hot finding Melvin Bratton for a 49-yard touchdown pass to take back some of the momentum, and then made things interesting with a two-point conversion. Down 19-13 in the fourth quarter, Walsh hit Irvin on a 29-yard touchdown pass followed by a two-point conversion to tie the game at 19. FSU came down and missed a field goal, yes, wide right as the kicking game continued to struggle, but got the ball back and went on a late fourth quarter march on the running of Sammie Smith getting down to the Hurricane 10. Just when it looked like the Noles were going to pull it out, Smith fumbled with just over three minutes to play. A tie seemed almost certain.
The ending: After a few plays got the Hurricanes to their own 27, Walsh and Irvin hooked up on what would be the play of the year. On 3rd and seven with 2:32 to play, Walsh audibled out of a short pass and floated a throw up the right sideline hitting Irvin in perfect stride for a 73 yard touchdown and a 26-19 lead. No, he wasn't being defended by Deion. FSU quarterback Danny McManus got the ball back needing to go 75 yards for a touchdown. After sputtering and stalling, with 1:30 to play the Noles went for it on 4th and eight from their own 27 as head coach Bobby Bowden feared his offense wouldn't get the ball back. They converted. Things got even better for the Noles as Dexter Carter made a remarkable 31-yard catch in double-coverage over Bennie Blades to get into scoring position. On the following play, Ronald Lewis one-upped Carter's grab on a diving catch in the back of the end zone while barely dragging his feet. Miami 26, FSU 25. Even though the Seminole kicking game had been miserable all day, Bobby Bowden didn't hesitate to send Derek Schmidt out for the tie. Bowden had said before the game that if it came down to it, he'd kick the extra point and take the tie instead of going for two. McManus and the other FSU players lobbied furiously with their head coach to go for two and the win. Bowden relented. McManus had Lewis wide open in the middle of the end zone, but didn't see him instead tossing an underthrown pass that was broken up in the right corner. Miami held the 26-25 lead before recovering the onside kick with :42 for the win
How they ended up: This turned out to be the game for the national title. Florida State ripped through the final six games of the regular season before beating Nebraska 31-28 in the Fiesta Bowl to finish 11-1 and ranked second in both polls. Miami allowed 89 points over its final nine games (and scored 304) on the way to a 12-0 season and the national title beating Oklahoma 20-14 in the Orange Bowl.

No. 6  Colorado 27 ... Michigan 26, September 24, 1994
At the time: No. 4 Colorado and its high-octane offense had stomped UL Monroe and Wisconsin by a combined score of 103 to 30 to start the season. No. 7 Michigan had squeaked by Boston College 34-26 and Notre Dame 26-24.
The setup: A two-yard touchdown run by eventual Heisman winner Rashaan Salaam and a 27-yard touchdown pass from Kordell Stewart to Michael Westbrook gave the Buffs a 14-9 halftime lead. Michigan roared back with a 17-point third quarter highlighted by a 65-yard touchdown pass to Amani Toomer for a 26-14 advantage. Colorado went on a long 72-yard march capped off with another short Salaam touchdown run to get within five with just over two minutes to play.
The ending: Colorado tried an onside kick with no luck, but Michigan failed to run out the clock hurt by a penalty making it 3rd and 7 rather than 3rd and two. Colorado's Chris Hudson signaled for a fair catch the Michigan punt on his own 15 with :14 to play. The Buffs were also out of timeouts. Stewart and Westbrook hooked up for a 21-yard gain, but there were now only eight ticks remaining and CU was only on its 36. A Stewart spike left six seconds left. The play call was "Rocket Left" with three receivers on the right running as far as they could. Stewart took the snap and rolled to his left back to around the 26, not pressured and able to wait for his receivers to make their way down the field. With no time left on the clock, he let it sail more than 70 yards arching down among a mass of players. Michigan's Ty Law and Chuck Winter went up with CU's Blake Anderson, but the ball bounced off of Anderson and into the air by Law. Westbrook was behind the play and worked behind the mass to dive by Law and grab the deflected throw for a 64-yard touchdown and the 27-26 win.
How they ended up: Michigan recovered to beat Iowa and Michigan State, but lost to Penn State on the way to an 8-4 season ending up with a 24-14 win over Colorado State in the Holiday Bowl and a No. 12 ranking. Colorado got out to a 7-0 start before losing to eventual national champion Nebraska 24-7. The Buffs finished third in both polls with an 11-1 record after beating Notre Dame 41-24 in the Fiesta Bowl.


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