Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe
With three weeks to go before the season starts, I got my college football fix this morning by checking out Bleacher Report’s entertaining countdown of what it deems “The 13 Wildest Game-Winning Plays of All Time.” To be frank, it's really a collection of the craziest finishes that have been immortalized on YouTube, so more than half are from the last ten years and none predates 1974. I wasn't alive until the 1970s myself, but I’m pretty sure there were some improbable game-enders in the hundred years of college football before then. Also, only one of the games on this list ended in a devastating loss for Notre Dame, which is about 12 too few for me.
That said, this is great stuff, featuring a succession of Hail Marys, hook-and-ladders, a Statue of Liberty play, improbable heroes like Appalachian State and Doug Flutie, and goats like Woody Hayes and the Stanford marching band. In case it's been awhile since you've seen what came to be known as "The Play":
My own list would be a bit different. In addition to Notre Dame implosions, it would of course include several unlikely wins by the Cardiac Cats. You may argue that most wins by Northwestern are unlikely, but I’m talking about some of the true upsets and comebacks, such as their 2000 game against the explosive Michigan team of Anthony Thomas, David Terrell, and Drew Henson.
In case you don’t remember all the thrilling details, let me recount them again for our mutual enjoyment. The Wolverines were leading 51-46 with 1:49 left when Northwestern’s star running back Damien Anderson dropped what would have been the go-ahead touchdown pass. Michigan just had to kill the clock—but with less than a minute remaining the A-Train fumbled the ball. On the next play Wildcat quarterback Zak Kustok hit Sam Simmons for a touchdown, and a 2-point conversion gave NU a 54-51 win.
It was the best game I’ve ever seen in person—a crazy, exciting exchange of big plays, with the teams combining for 1,189 yards of offense. Sports Illustrated ranked it among the top ten college games of the 2000s.
A decade later, my Michigan friends still can’t believe they lost that one. I like to hear them say this. I hope they say it again about another game this fall: the Wolverines visit Evanston on October 8.