Hail Mary Finishes
With the game tied at 31, Michigan State had one last chance for victory over Wisconsin. Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins lofted the ball toward the endzone, where it caromed off Michigan State receiver B.J. Cunningham's facemask back to Keith Nichol on the one-yard line. Nichol fought two Wisconsin defenders but was ruled just short of the endzone. The play was reviewed upstairs and overturned, giving the Spartans an unlikely victory. This was just one of several amazing Hail Mary finishes in football history. Here are some more.
This game looked to be headed for OT. Tied at 24, Jaguars quarterback David Garrard heaved the ball toward the end zone, where Texans cornerback Glover Quin batted it down. Luckily for the Jaguars, the ball fell right into the waiting hands of receiver Mike Thomas, who caught the ricochet, and scored to give the Jaguars a 31-24 victory. Though Garrard called it "a thank you, Jesus play," it was just one of several amazing Hail Mary finishes in football history. Here are some more.
The never-say-die Browns once again found themselves in a desperate situation with Tim Couch at the helm. This time in December 2008, the Browns trailed 20-14 with dwindling. After taking a sack and picking up an eight-yard gain, Tim Couch lined the Browns up for the final play of regulation. Couch took the snap and lofted the ball for receiver Quincy Morgan who was facing single coverage on the outside. Morgan outleaped cornerback Fernando Bryant and came down with Couch's second Hail Mary touchdown in three years.
On the final play of the game LSU quarterback Marcus Randall heaved the ball downfield looking for the end zone. The ball fell well short of the goal line, and rabid Kentucky fans stormed the field as they believed their team has defeated LSU, who at the time was ranked No. 14 in the country. The ball though, deflected off LSU receiver Michael Clayton's hands right into the hands of fellow LSU receiver Devery Henderson at the 15-yard line. Henderson weaved his way through traffic and found the end zone for a game-winning touchdown. The play is now known as the "Bluegrass Miracle."
Seeking their first victory as an expansion team, the Browns trailed the Saints 16-14. As time expired, rookie quarterback Tim Couch found fellow rookie wide receiver Kevin Johnson on a 56-yard strike for the stunning come-from-behind victory. Ironically, the Giants had completed a similar play against the Saints at the end of the first half a week earlier.
With six seconds left in the game, the Colorado Buffaloes were trailing the Michigan Wolverines 26-21. Buffaloes quarterback Kordell Stewart threw the ball over 70 yards to the end zone, where the ball bounced off Michigan safety Chuck Winters and Colorado receiver Blake Anderson before Colorado receiver Michael Westbrook finally secured the ball for the touchdown and the win.
With MC Hammer on the sidelines, the Falcons were just too legit to quit, again. They trailed the 49ers 14-10 late in the fourth quarter, and all seemed lost as the Falcons' starter, Chris Miller, has been knocked out of the game in the second quarter. But with one second remaining, Falcons quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver found Michael Haynes on a 41-yard strike to beat the 49ers on a Hail Mary for the second time in eight years.
Considered by many to be one of the most memorable moments in sports, "Hail Flutie," came in the fourth quarter of the Boston College-Miami game in 1984. Trailing 45-41, Eagles' quarterback Doug Flutie marched his squad to the Hurricanes 48-yard line. With six seconds remaining, Flutie hiked the ball and scrambled to the right with his eyes on the end zone. He launched the ball 63 yards down the field and found Gerard Phelan waiting behind a hoard of Miami defenders who had doubted Flutie's ability to throw the ball that far.
Bartkowski strikes again. He might not be an all-time great, but Bartkowski, the Falcons career passing yards leader, was as clutch as can be for the Dirty Birds. In 1983 he did it again as the Falcons trailed the 49ers 24-21 late in the fourth quarter. Bartkowski heaved the ball toward the five-yard line, where a crowd of players tipped the ball into the hands of Billy "White Shoes" Johnson at the seven-yard line. In the confusion that followed the tip, Johnson was able to squirm into the end zone for a touchdown and the victory.
With 12 seconds left, and trailing the Browns 23-22, the Vikings began their march down the field. On the first play of the drive, quarterback Tommy Kramer found tight end Joe Senser over the middle of the field for a 27-yard gain. Conscious of the game clock, Senser stepped out of bounds at Cleveland's 47-yard line, leaving only one second on the clock. With only one play left in regulation, Kramer snapped the ball and let the ball fly toward the end zone. A fracas for the ball broke out between the Browns and Vikings in the air space above the end zone, but a forgotten Ahmad Rashad was able to secure the ball and fall into the end zone after the ball was tipped.
Having never won a bowl game, it seemed as though the BYU faithful would have to wait another year as their team trailed 45-24 late in the fourth quarter of the 1980 Holiday Bowl. As BYU fans began leaving the stadium, quarterback Jim McMahon engineered one of the greatest comebacks in college football history. By the last play of the game the Cougars had trimmed the lead to 45-39. As time expired McMahon threw a desperation pass, and BYU tight end Clay Brown, despite heavy coverage, came down with the pass for the monumental comeback victory.
After several middling years, it looked as though the Falcons might make their first playoff berth in 1978. Standing at 6-4, the only thing that stood between the team and the postseason was a 17-13 deficit against the Saints. With the ball at their 43-yard line, the Falcons lined up in the formation, "Big Ben Right," and sprinted for the end zone as time dwindled. Falcons quarterback Steve Bartkowski launched the ball toward the goal line, where Falcons receivers tipped it before it finally landed in Alfred Jackson's hands. The victory would ultimately launch the 9-7 Falcons into the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
During the 1975 NFC divisional game, the Cowboys found themselves down 14-10 to the Vikings. With 24 seconds remaining, Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach threw a desperation pass toward the end zone. Despite being blanketed by cornerback Nate Wright, receiver Drew Pearson trapped the ball and scrambled into the end zone for the win. Staubach used the term "Hail Mary" in the postgame press conference, and the legend was born. What Hail Mary would you add to the list? Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.