Fiesta Bowl: Power Ranking the Top 10 Plays of the BCS Era

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistDecember 25, 2013

Fiesta Bowl: Power Ranking the Top 10 Plays of the BCS Era

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    The Fiesta Bowl won't be going anywhere next season, remaining one of America's signature games in the impending College Football Playoff, but the end of the BCS era still closes another chapter of its storied history.

    Between 1998 and this year's 2014 game, which pits Baylor against UCF in a battle of NFl-caliber quarterbacks, the Fiesta Bowl has crowned two national champions and hosted countless other blue-chip players and programs.

    College football powers such as Tennessee, Florida State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oregon, Ohio State, Miami, Oklahoma, Texas and Stanford have all made the trek to Arizona—many more than once—for the annual game these past 17 years, steeping it in a tradition that few other bowls can match.

    Here are the plays that have defined the BCS era of the Fiesta Bowl.

10. Utah's "Original" Fiesta Bowl Hook and Ladder (2005)

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    Two years before Boise State hook-and-laddered its way into the annals of Fiesta Bowl (and college football) history, Urban Meyer's undefeated Utah squad did the same in a blowout win over Big East champion Pittsburgh.

    The Utes were already up three touchdowns near the end of the third quarter when Meyer reached into his bag of tricks, dialing up a pass from future No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith to Steve Savoy, who tossed it back to Paris Warren for the effortless score.

    That highlight became the signature moment of Meyer's tenure in Salt Lake City. His Utah career ended with the 2005 Fiesta Bowl, after which he signed a seven-year contract to become the head coach of Florida.

9. Terrell Roberts' Punt Return Fumble TD (2001)

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    Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. Against Notre Dame in the 2001 Fiesta Bowl, Oregon State was a little bit of both.

    Leading 19-3 in the third quarter, Oregon State receiver (and future NFL superstar) T.J. Houshmanzadeh took a punt return past midfield but got stripped. The ball bounced around, but happened to go right into the hands of teammate Terrell Roberts, who emerged from the pack and ran it back for a 45-yard score.

    The lucky score gave Oregon State a three-possession lead, which eventually helped it ice Notre Dame before the start of the fourth. After leading just 12-3 at halftime, the Beavers won the third quarter 29-0 and turned the game into a blowout.

8. Ryan Broyles Ices the Game Against UConn (2011)

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    All-American Ryan Broyles was a force to be reckoned with against upstart UConn in 2011, finishing his final college game with a couple of school records: 13 receptions and 170 receiving yards.

    None of those 13 catches were more impressive than his last—his sole touchdown—which iced the game by giving Oklahoma a 41-20 lead in the fourth quarter. From the 5-yard line, Landry Jones rolled out and hit Broyles for an acrobatic, tip-toe grab on the side of the end zone.

    OU's win snapped an embarrassing five-game losing streak in BCS bowls, which included three ugly losses in the national title game. This was the first minor step toward redemption.

7. Maurice Morris' Knee Is Never Down (2002)

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    Note: Scroll to 0:16 in the above video to see the play.

    Oregon's 2001 season was all about Joey "Heisman" Harrington, who also led the way against Colorado with 350 passing yards and four touchdowns. But for one brief moment, running back Maurice Morris stole the show.

    Staked to a 21-7 lead in the third quarter, Morris found a big hole along the left side and went for what appeared to be a long gain before going down at the 21-yard line. After seemingly getting tackled, though, Morris rolled over the defender, got back up on his feet and kept running for the score.

    Morris' knee never touched the ground, helping to ice the game in exciting fashion. Unfortunately, nine years later in the BCS National Championship, karma reared its ugly head when Auburn running back Michael Dyer made a similar play to help defeat Oregon before a last-second field goal.

6. Ohio State Wins National Title on 4th-and-Goal (2003)

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    The 2003 Fiesta Bowl, played for a national championship, is one of the very best games in college football history. However, its defining play—a contentious pass interference call that kept Ohio State alive in overtime—isn't so much a "great" moment as it is merely memorable.

    Instead, let's remember the actual resolution of the ball game, when a perfectly dialed-up blitz on 4th-and-goal at the goal line helped Ohio State stop Miami and storm the field. Cie Grant pressured Ken Dorsey into a hurried throw that gave OSU a national title.

    The Hurricanes were massive favorites heading in, and despite the controversy surrounding the earlier call, Ohio State refused to be denied a victory. It was the only BCS National Championship Game that went into overtime...unless it happens again between Auburn and Florida State.

5. Tee Martin to Peerless Price for National Title (1999)

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    Peerless Price's 199-yard receiving performance, which led Tennessee to its sixth national title and first in 30-plus years, was capped off by one of the biggest plays in BCS history.

    Leading 14-9 in what appeared to be setting up for a photo finish, Tennessee had the ball on its own 21 yard-line. Despite needing just nine yards on a third down, QB Tee Martin cocked his arm and heaved a bomb to Price, who was covered pretty well on the play, and hoped for the best.

    Martin's throw turned out to be perfect, and Price went over the defender to haul it in. His streak down the sideline provided the first points of the second half and all but clinched the title for Phil Fulmer's undefeated Vols.

4. McCoy to Cosby Wins It for Texas (2009)

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    Colt McCoy and the rest of his Texas team were sick of "close but no cigar." After being narrowly left out of the BCS National Championship Game, the Heisman runner-up refused to finish anywhere but on top against Ohio State.

    After leading for most of the game, a furious Ohio State rally saw the Longhorns fall behind with just over 2:00 on the clock. But McCoy led Texas on a two-minute drill for the ages in response, capping off the win on a no-huddle touchdown strike to Quan Cosby with 20 seconds remaining.

    Ohio State had no grounds to complain about the thrilling loss, having used up its late-game Fiesta Bowl karma in the national title game six years earlier. Still, losing in such dramatic fashion was a tough pill for Buckeye fans to swallow.

3. Boise State Statue of Liberty (2007)

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    Remembered in conjunction with another huge play from this game—more on that in a bit—Boise State's walk-off two-point conversion was plenty exciting in its own right.

    After tying the game in improbable fashion at the end of regulation, the Broncos let OU running back Adrian Peterson—maybe you've heard of him?—rush for a 25-yard touchdown to start the first overtime. After scoring their own touchdown, head coach Chris Petersen decided he didn't want to let Peterson get another shot.

    Boise went for two and ran the now-infamous Statue of Liberty play. Jared Zabransky's misdirection fooled the Sooners defense and Ian Johnson breezed in for the score, ending one of the wildest and most memorable games in college football history.

2. Maurice Clarett Strips Sean Taylor (2003)

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    The most exciting national title game of the BCS era might never have even happened if not for Maurice Clarett's...tackling ability?

    Leading by seven in the third quarter, OSU quarterback Craig Krenzel threw a crippling, momentum-shifting interception in the end zone. Miami's Sean Taylor appeared to be headed for a long return—maybe even a touchdown—but Ohio State's freshman running back came out of nowhere and stripped him to retain possession.

    "I thought Sean was going to score," said Miami linebacker Jonathan Vilma in a Sports Illustrated oral history of the game. "Once he got it and took it out [of the end zone] I was like, 'He's gone.' I started celebrating."

    But it wasn't to be. Clarett saved the game and got the ball back for OSU, which would eventually salvage a field goal for the drive. The rest, as they say, was history.

1. Boise State Hook and Ladder (2007)

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    Boise State did well to put up a fight against Oklahoma—a traditional powerhouse that was supposed to beat the Broncos handily—but eventually, the Sooners were just too big and too much to handle, and Chris Petersen's team had run out of magic.

    Or so it appeared.

    As it turns out, the magic was just beginning. On 4th-and-18 with just 18 seconds on the clock, Boise State pulled a ho-hum hook-and-ladder out of its bag of tricks, connecting from Jared Zabransky to Drisan James to Jerard Rabb.

    Rabb gained more than just the 18 required yards, instead heading all the way to the end zone. Boise State forced overtime in the least likely of fashions, helping to set up the No. 3 moment on this list.

    It finished 2006-07 as America's lone undefeated team.