2000s: Top 10 College Football Games
Northwestern 54, Michigan 51
The fans at Ryan Field knew they were in for a show when Northwestern covered 85 yards in 2:17 to score on its opening possession, and Michigan responded by marching 67 yards for a score of its own on its ensuing possession. By the time Zak Kustok hit Sam Simmons for an 11-yard score with 20 seconds remaining to lift the Wildcats to a 54-51 win, those fans had to be exhausted. They had seen the teams combine for 105 points and 1,189 yards of offense. After the win, Northwestern students stormed the field and tried unsuccessfully to tear down a goalpost. ''We need to get some of those students in the weight room,'' Wildcats coach Randy Walker joked to the <i>Chicago Tribune.</i>
Cincinnati 45, Pitt 44
Cincinnati's undefeated season seemed lost on the regular season's final day when Pittsburgh quarterback Bill Stull scored on a three-yard run to give the Panthers a 21-point lead late in the first half. But Bearcats receiver Mardy Gilyard returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, and the Bearcats got lucky with 1:36 remaining when Pitt's holder bobbled the ball on an extra point try. After Armon Binns caught a 29-yard Tony Pike touchdown pass with 33 seconds remaining, Jacob Rogers booted the extra point to give Cincinnati a 45-44 win and its second consecutive Big East title.
LSU 28, Florida 24
Tensions began before the Gators ever got to Baton Rouge. LSU fans found Florida quarterback Tim Tebow's cell-phone number and deluged him with mocking calls and text messages. Tebow wasn't intimidated by the stunt. After scoring a first-half touchdown, he ran toward the LSU student section and put his hand to his ear to mimic a phone call. Down 10 in the fourth quarter, the Tigers roared back behind battering ram Jacob Hester, who plowed through Florida defenders on two fourth-down plays to set up a two-yard touchdown run that capped LSU's eight-minute, 11-second, game-winning drive. A 28-24 win vaulted the Tigers to the top of the polls, and though they suffered two losses later that season, they still won the BCS title.
Arkansas 58, Ole Miss 56
The score was tied at 17-17 when the clock struck zero. Seven overtimes and 80 points later, the Razorbacks celebrated a 58-56 win. The game came to a merciful end when Razorback Jermaine Petty stuffed Ole Miss tight end Dough Ziegler two yards shy of the goal line on a two-point conversion attempt that would have forced overtime No. 8 if successful. The game, which lasted four hours, 14 minutes, set NCAA records for overtimes, points scored in overtime and number of plays run (198).
Texas Tech 39, Texas 33
After a Longhorns defender dropped an interception that would have ended the game, Texas Tech wound up with the ball on the Texas 28-yard line with eight seconds left. A field goal wasn't a sure thing; the Red Raiders were using a kicker who had won an in-game contest earlier in the season. So when Michael Crabtree caught Graham Harrell's pass at the six, he had to choose between stepping out of bounds to set up a kick or trying to reach the end zone. Crabtree spun left and into daylight. The score destroyed the Longhorns' national title hopes. A few weeks later, the Big 12 used the BCS standings to break a three-way tie in the South Division between Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech. Oklahoma edged Texas by 0.128, and the Sooners went on to win the Big 12 title and play for the BCS title.
USC 34, Notre Dame 31
USC's 23-game winning streak seemed over as the Trojans, trailing by three thanks to the heroics of Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn, faced fourth-and-nine from their own 26 late in the fourth quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. But USC quarterback Matt Leinart refused to let the streak end. Leinart hit Dwayne Jarrett for a 61-yard gain, and moments later, with time running out and no timeouts remaining, USC ran a quarterback sneak from the one-yard line. The Fighting Irish stuffed Leinart at the line, but USC tailback Reggie Bush pushed Leinart over the goal line to seal a 34-31 win and keep the streak alive.
Ohio State 42, Michigan 39
A day after the death of legendary Wolverines coach Bo Schembechler, No. 2 Michigan and No. 1 Ohio State played a game for the ages. Michigan's Steve Breaston's two-point conversion with 2:16 remaining closed the gap to three, but Buckeyes receiver Ted Ginn fielded the Wolverines' onside kick, allowing the Buckeyes to run out the clock and clinch a spot in the national title game.
Ohio State 31, Miami 24
Miami's Todd Sievers kicked a 40-yard field goal as time expired to force overtime, and it appeared Kellen Winslow's touchdown in overtime would give Miami its second consecutive national title when Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel's fourth-down pass fell incomplete in the end zone. But three seconds later, field judge Terry Porter threw a flag and called Miami's Glenn Sharpe for pass interference. The Buckeyes scored to force a second overtime, and Maurice Clarett's five-yard touchdown provided the game-winner. The Buckeyes won the title, and Porter's call remains one of the most controversial in any national title game.
Texas 41, USC 38
Before the 2006 Rose Bowl, no one wondered if Texas would win. All the pregame talk centered on where USC would fall in the pantheon of all-time great teams after its inevitable victory. Apparently, no one told Longhorns quarterback Vince Young, who dueled Heisman Trophy winners Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush for most of the night. With Texas trailing by five late, the Longhorns faced fourth-and-five from the USC eight. Young noticed USC defensive end Frostee Rucker had crashed inside, so Young raced right. He crossed the goal line with 19 seconds remaining, and added the two-point conversion to complete the best individual performance of the BCS era.
Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42
The game of the decade began as a rout. Boise State led Big 12 champ Oklahoma by 18 in the third quarter, and the Broncos seemed ready to cruise to a historically significant but relatively unexciting win. But Oklahoma roared back, taking a 35-28 lead on Marcus Walker's interception return for a touchdown with 1:02 left. Then came the Circus. That's the name of the play Boise ran on fourth-and-18 from the 50, when Jared Zabransky hit Drisan James at the 35, and James pitched to Jerad Rabb, who crossed the goal line with seven seconds to go. After Adrian Peterson scored to give Oklahoma the lead in overtime, the Broncos answered on a halfback pass. Not content to play a second OT, coach Chris Peterson called Statue, the Broncos' version of the ultimate backyard play, the Statue of Liberty. Ian Johnson scored the two-point conversion to shock the Sooners and then ran down the sideline, where he proposed to his girlfriend, cheerleader Chrissy Popadics. She said yes.