We’re entering the deepest part of the offseason, which means it’s time to figure out how we’d react to classic games if they happened now…
From Patrick: What three games from college football history would have garnered the most shocked/euphoric/overjoyed/bewildered reaction from college football Twitter if they have happened today?
The key here is the shocking moment. A few readers suggested the 1913 Notre Dame–Army game, which brought the forward pass into the national consciousness and helped turn Notre Dame into a national brand. There would have been a lot of “WHAT IS THIS SORCERY?” tweets followed by an abundance of gifs of bewildered Army defenders and then a week’s worth of thinkpieces comparing Gus Dorais and Knute Rockne to the Wright Brothers. But I think what Patrick is looking for is that moment that makes us all say OOOOOOOOOOOH simultaneously. The best example of this is the Kick Six, which turned Twitter timelines into this:
So we need games that had high stakes and/or a huge audience and a massive holy-smokes moment near the end. I think I have the trio.
The 1980 Holiday Bowl
I originally thought this had to be the Fiesta Bowl played on Jan. 1, 2007 between Oklahoma and Boise State, but there probably were some people trading Facebook posts about the game that ended with the American Dream wrapped up in a single backyard play. (Twitter wouldn’t launch until later that year.) But the bowl game that would have melted college football fans’ timelines took place in San Diego, where a Jim McMahon-led BYU team trailed Pony Express-era SMU by 20 with less than three minutes remaining. The Cougars scored a touchdown, recovered an onside kick and then scored another touchdown. They then stopped the Mustangs’ offense and blocked a punt. That set up McMahon’s Hail Mary to Clay Brown as time expired that gave BYU a 46–45 win.
On social media, this one would have built steam as the Cougars came back and reached a crescendo on the Hail Mary. Add in the fact that BYU Twitter is especially active and you have a recipe for a timeline full of astonished reactions.
Boston College at Miami, 1984
This game featured two top-15 teams playing on national TV on the day after Thanksgiving. (No one called it Black Friday yet.) It was an amazing quarterback duel between Miami’s Bernie Kosar (school-record 447 passing yards) and eventual Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie (472 passing yards, four passing TDs). You already know the play. It was called 55 Flood Tip, and it was Flutie’s Heisman moment. It went down as a 48-yard touchdown to Gerard Phelan, but Flutie actually released the ball at his own 37 after dodging a rusher. The bomb lifted the Eagles to a 47–45 win, and it cemented Flutie’s place on the list of all-time great college QBs.
Colorado at Missouri, 1990
This game didn’t end on a crazy play but on a crazy officiating sequence. It would have been fascinating to watch College Football Twitter melt down as officials gave the Buffaloes a fifth down—which turned into backup quarterback Charles Johnson’s one-yard touchdown run as time expired to give Colorado a 33–31 win. (Had replay reviews existed in 1990, Johnson’s TD might have been overturned anyway because he might have been stopped short of the goal line.)
This game would have been a powder keg in the social media era. People would have gotten fired on Sunday.
EDIT: I’m adding a fourth because I’m a moron. I somehow managed to overlook the biggest holy smokes play in college football history. Just imagine if people had been able to tweet when they realized THE BAND IS ON THE FIELD.
From Mark: Which 1990s QB would you most enjoy seeing in a Lincoln Riley offense?
Our favorite Louisville radio host asks a good follow-up question to the one I answered two weeks ago. I didn’t put a quarterback from the past with Riley, and that was a glaring oversight.
This is an easy one, though. I would love to see Charlie Ward in Riley’s offense. Like Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, Ward always seemed to know where to go with the ball. And Ward was doing that in a more complicated yet somehow far less imaginative offense at Florida State. Give him the creative freedom Riley gives his QBs, and he’d be even more magical than he was when he played for the Seminoles.
I had a great chat with Ward last year when I wrote a feature about Murray. Ward isn’t a big fan of the what-if questions, but he knows he would have torn up defenses playing in one of today’s offenses. Also, the fact of the matter is the NFL was in the stone age offensively. Had Ward not had the option to play in the NBA, I think he would have been drafted way too low and then developed into a good NFL quarterback because his talent would have transcended the schematic limitations and the lingering racism that black quarterbacks still faced in the 1990s.
But Ward didn’t consider his choice that difficult because he had enough pre-draft intel to know that an NBA team would take him in the first round. That gave him confidence he could have a long career in basketball, and he was correct. He played in the NBA for all or part of 12 seasons.