The 25 Best Moments of the 2013 College Football Season

Brian PedersenFeatured ColumnistJanuary 10, 2014

The 25 Best Moments of the 2013 College Football Season

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    What will you remember most from the 2013 college football season?

    It all began back in late August, and then over the course of 19 weeks, we witnessed countless comebacks, blowouts, milestones and monumental finishes. So many memories, where do you begin?

    With this, here's our compilation of the 25 best moments from 2013-14.

25. All Players United Movement Hits the Field

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    On an otherwise normal Saturday of college football in September, a grassroots movement to protest the treatment of collegiate athletes hit the mainstream when several players from Georgia, Georgia Tech and Northwestern wore wristbands and towels with the acronym "APU" scrawled on them for their games.

    It stood for "All Players United," a phrase meant to show solidarity and support for college athletes in various manners and to push for reforms that might someday include compensation.

    The movement was organized by the National College Players Association, a student-run organization that went on to organize other protests during the season. The most recent included flying a banner over the BCS National Championship Game in Pasadena, Calif., that called for concussion reform.

    Whether this movement will lead to any changes in college sports is unknown, but APU at least got the dialogue going with its exposure.

24. Scott Gets Season Off to Fast Start

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    The 2013 college football season began on Thursday, Aug. 29, with a slate of mostly uninteresting games and one very exciting conference tilt.

    Ole Miss and Vanderbilt opened with an SEC clash that served as a preview for how wild and crazy that league was going to be that fall, with the visiting Rebels pulling out a 39-35 victory.

    The game was back and forth all night, with Vanderbilt going up 35-32 with 1:30 remaining, only to see Ole Miss' Jeff Scott take off on a stellar 75-yard touchdown run with 1:09 left on the clock.

23. Now That Is How You End a Losing Streak

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    Southern Mississippi went 0-12 in 2012, a complete reversal for a team that had won the Conference USA title the year before. That dreadful year got Ellis Johnson fired after one season, though he probably got over that after serving as defensive coordinator for an Auburn team that played for the national title.

    The Golden Eagles somehow looked even worse at times under new coach Todd Monken in 2013, going 0-11 and entering their finale on a school-record 23-game losing streak.

    Southern Miss finally ended that skid on Nov. 30, and in quite a dominating fashion, winning 62-27 on the road against UAB. The point total was particularly astounding for a team that came in averaging 13 points per game and had failed to register more than 51 points in any three-game stretch.

22. Welcome Back, Paul

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    Colorado wide receiver Paul Richardson missed the 2012 season after tearing an ACL and needing surgery. Coming back from such an injury, he had no idea how he'd fare once he returned to live action, let alone whether his explosive speed and big-play ability would still exist.

    All those questions were answered on the Buffaloes' first passing play on Sept. 1, when the junior scored on an 82-yard reception that set the tone for a 41-27 win over rival Colorado State in the debut of new coach Jim McElwain.

    Richardson, who had 10 catches for 208 yards and two touchdowns in the win, would go on to record 83 receptions for 1,343 yards and 10 TDs and would declare for the NFL draft after the season.

21. Best Fat-Guy/Fake-Punt Touchdown Ever

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    Kent State's 4-8 season in 2013 didn't have a lot of highlights, especially as it came after a year in which the Golden Flashes won 11 games and played in the Mid-American Conference title game.

    But Kent still found a way to grab some positive national attention during its Nov. 19 finale when, during the course of a 44-13 blowout win at Ohio, it pulled off a fake punt that turned into a wow moment.

    Nose tackle Nate Terhune, serving as an up man on the punt, took the direct snap and ran around the left end. He'd easily gained the yardage for the first down but was still going when, as an Ohio tackler tried to engage, he hurdled the Bobcat en route to a 61-yard touchdown run.

20. DeVon Edwards' 16-Second Hightlight Reel

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    The best season in Duke football history included a division title, a trip to a high-profile bowl game and numerous signature victories.

    The Blue Devils' 10-4 mark also featured some good fortune, particularly during a one-minute stretch late in a Nov. 9 home win over North Carolina State. A week after upsetting Virginia Tech on the road, Duke was having a classic letdown performance against a team that would finish 3-9 overall and 0-8 in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

    But after scoring to take a 24-20 lead with 3:31 remaining, that's when the fun began. Cornerback DeVon Edwards intercepted a pass and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown just 10 seconds after the go-ahead score, and then 16 seconds after that, he picked off another pass and brought it back 45 yards for a TD.

    The entire game was a personal-hype video for Edwards, a freshman, who also scored on a 100-yard kickoff return earlier in the contest.

19. Jump-Pass Fake-Out

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    Game-winning plays are usually special ones, particularly those that come in the closing moments of the game. They're even more exciting when they come against a rival, on the road and by way of using an old-school football move to accomplish them.

    All of that describes Patton Robinette's five-yard touchdown run with 16 seconds left in a 14-10 Vanderbilt win at Tennessee on Nov. 23. The quarterback dropped back to pass, then moved toward the line and began to do what appeared to be a jump pass, only to hold on to the ball and then scoot around the end as the completely faked-out defense was frozen and unable to tackle him short of the TD.

18. Gators Drown in the Swamp

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    Upsets are an every-week part of college football, and 2013 was no different. From the opening week (when eventual FCS national finalists North Dakota State and Towson knocked off FBS programs Kansas State and Connecticut, respectively) to several of the most high-profile bowl games, the underdogs often came out ahead.

    But an SEC team? At home? Against a lower-division opponent that was having a subpar season? That's a horse (er, upset) of a different color.

    But it happened on Nov. 23, when Georgia Southern—a former FCS power that's moving into FBS in 2014—went into the Swamp in Gainesville, Fla., and knocked off Florida 26-20.

    The victory helped earn Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken a promotion, as he was later hired to coach Army, while it put a huge exclamation point on the worse Gators season in more than 30 years.

17. The Debut of Famous Jameis

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    Before the season began, Jameis Winston was known. But it wasn't until after he hit the field for the first time that he became known.

    The redshirt freshman quarterback made a splashy debut on Labor Day 2013, completing 25 of 27 passes for 356 yards and four touchdowns in Florida State's season-opening 41-13 win at Pittsburgh.

    That performance was just a preview of what we'd see from the player who would quickly become known as "Famous Jameis," as he went on to win the Heisman Trophy and, ultimately, lead the Seminoles to their first national title in 14 years.

16. The Clang in Columbia

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    The sounds normally associated with the end of a game include things such as cheering, band instruments and maybe a whistle or two.

    But on Oct. 26 in Columbia, Mo., a thrilling game between Missouri and South Carolina instead ended with a resounding "clang," one that resonated throughout the nation.

    After blowing a 17-0 lead in regulation, unbeaten Missouri had a chance to send the game into a third overtime with what amounted to a chip-shot field goal. But instead of going to another extra period, Andrew Baggett's 24-yard try doinked off the left goal post, giving the visiting Gamecocks a 27-24 win.

15. Lynch Goes Long, Then Longer

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    Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

    Jordan Lynch was unable to lead his Northern Illinois squad back to the BCS for the second straight year, but that didn't keep the exciting senior quarterback from leaving his mark on the game—and on the record books.

    Lynch twice set the FBS record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game, going for 316 yards in an Oct. 19 win over Central Michigan and then topping himself with 321 yards on Nov. 26 in a win over Western Michigan.

14. Red River Sendoff

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    Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    After a 1-2 start that included blowout losses at BYU and at home to Ole Miss, the writing was on the wall that this was going to be the final year of the Mack Brown era at Texas. Whether he was going to be let go or allowed to go on his own, it appeared Brown was on his way out in Austin.

    But not before a few more big wins, starting with a spirited takedown of rival Oklahoma during the annual Red River Shootout.

    The Longhorns won 36-20 on Oct. 12 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, dominating on offense and defense in beating the Sooners for the first time in four years.

13. Midshipman's Milestone

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    Football players from the U.S. Naval Academy tend not to get much attention beyond being good athletes who will soon represent the country in the military, Roger Staubach being the notable exception.

    Sophomore quarterback Keenan Reynolds may never reach Staubach-like status, but he's certainly putting together a career full of great moments. That includes an FBS record that may stand for quite a while.

    In a nondescript Friday night game in late November, Reynolds rushed for seven touchdowns, most ever by a quarterback, with the last one coming in triple overtime to give the Midshipmen a 58-52 win.

    Reynolds finished the year with 31 touchdowns, which tied for the national lead.

12. Penn State and Michigan Play (Almost) Forever

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    Every now and then there's a football game that just seems to never end, and usually it's one that you don't want to see end because of the amazing performances.

    The Oct. 12 meeting between Michigan and Penn State didn't ultimately have that big of an impact on the overall college season, what with the Wolverines faltering in the second half of the year and the Nittany Lions banned from postseason competition. But the game still provided plenty of highlights, not to mention an inordinate amount of missed or blocked kicks in clutch situations.

    After Christian Hackenberg drove PSU down the field for the tying touchdown late in regulation, the game became a battle of attrition with kickers. Both teams missed field goals in the first and third overtimes, while both made one in the second OT.

    Michigan's Brendan Gibbons then connected on a 40-yarder in the fourth OT, but Penn State was able to finally end the marathon game with a Bill Belton TD run for a 43-40 victory.

11. A Two-Way Superstar Is Born?

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    Myles Jack was having himself a pretty darn good year as a true freshman linebacker. Then UCLA coach Jim Mora decided to put the ball in his hands, and that's when things got really interesting.

    Jack, who was a two-way star in high school, suddenly found himself being used as a running back midway through the Bruins' Nov. 9 game at Arizona. He carried the ball six times, rushing for 120 yards and a touchdown in the same game that he recorded eight tackles and recovered a key fumble on defense.

    For the year Jack ended up rushing 38 times for 267 yards and seven touchdowns in limited action, but it was enough for him to earn both the Pac-12 Conference's offensive and defense Freshman of the Year awards.

10. Fight On, Orgeron

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    Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Ed Orgeron had been a head coach once before, managing just a 10-25 record in three years at Ole Miss, and he never thought he'd get another shot.

    But Oregon was given a second chance, albeit in a very unique situation, taking over as interim coach for USC after the school fired Lane Kiffin following a 3-2 start. What followed was one of the most motivated turnarounds by a team in quite some time, with the Trojans winning seven of nine games for the man they called "Coach O."

    Orgeron moved quickly to change the culture with USC football, starting with simple things like bringing sweets and treats back to the team's training table. The players responded to his approach, playing inspired football the rest of the season.

    The most telling moment was when USC upset No. 4 Stanford at home on Nov. 16. Normally a school used to being near the top of the rankings, the win prompted the crowd at the Los Angeles Coliseum to rush the field, with nearly everyone running toward Orgeron cheering near midfield.

9. Central Florida Shocks Louisville

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    Teddy Bridgewater was a quarterback who entered the 2013 season with a lot of hype, and as a result, his Louisville team had high expectations that included national-title hopes.

    Many of the Cardinals games were given prime TV slots in order to show off Bridgewater and his Cardinals teammates, with little attention given ahead of time to the opponents. That's why Central Florida's 38-35 win at Louisville on a Friday night in mid-October was so shocking. It was so unexpected.

    It shouldn't have been, as the Knights had already won at Penn State and took South Carolina to the wire at home, but so much focus was being put on Louisville that it seemed like UCF came out of nowhere to win that game.

    Central Florida wasn't a hidden gem anymore after that game, finishing unbeaten in the American Athletic Conference and going to the Fiesta Bowl, where again it "shocked" the world by beating Baylor 52-42, despite being heavy underdogs.

8. They Call It Bedlam for a Reason

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    Rivalry games always have that extra edge to them, with both teams playing like it's the most important game in the world.

    It actually was for Oklahoma State when it hosted Oklahoma on Dec. 7 in the latest rendition of the game known as "Bedlam." The Cowboys would win the Big 12 with a victory and thus head to the Fiesta Bowl.

    But Oklahoma wouldn't have any of that, conjuring up some of the fire and swagger that had been absent for much of the 2013 season to pull off the upset, knocking OSU out of the BCS and consequently boosting itself in.

    The game featured two special teams touchdowns by the Sooners, one on a punt return and the other when coach Bob Stoops dialed up a fake field goal, having his holder throw a TD pass to the kicker. It also involved the teams scoring 20 points in the final 1:46, with the lead changing hands twice.

    In other words, it was bedlam.

7. Epic Egg Bowl

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    Speaking of rivalry games, the traditional Thanksgiving tilt between Ole Miss and Mississippi State had the added intrigue in 2013 of being an elimination game of sorts for host MSU. At 5-6, the Bulldogs had to win to be bowl-eligible.

    They trailed 10-7 late in the fourth quarter when injured quarterback Dak Prescott came off the bench to orchestrate a late game-tying field-goal drive. Prescott, who had a nerve injury to this non-throwing arm, then scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

    But the intrigue didn't stop there, as Ole Miss drove for a possible tying TD of its own in OT, only to have Rebels quarterback Bo Wallace fumble just short of the end zone. The ball rolled into the end zone, where MSU recovered to seal the win.

6. Sparty Stuns Ohio State

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    For two years, no team had beat Ohio State. The Buckeyes had rattled off back-to-back 12-0 campaigns, but because of a postseason ban, they didn't have anything to show for it, and as a result, they were considered by many to be somewhat of a paper champion.

    The Big Ten Conference title game Dec. 7 in Indianapolis was a chance to change that designation, and with a win it was likely that Ohio State was headed to the BCS National Championship.

    But that required the Buckeyes beating Michigan State, a team that somehow managed to stay relatively under the radar, despite going 11-1. And with all the pressure and focus on OSU, the Spartans raced out to a 17-0 lead.

    OSU came back, though, and led 24-17 before Michigan State once again went into steamroller mode and scored the game's final 17 points, winning 34-24 to end the Buckeyes' perfect season, knock them out of the title game and send MSU to its first Rose Bowl in 26 years.

5. Hail Mary in Lincoln

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    Nebraska had one of the most up-and-down seasons any team that goes 9-4 could ever have. From a blowout loss at home in September to UCLA to another one in the regular-season finale against Iowa, as well as in subpar performances against Minnesota and Michigan State, the Cornhuskers seemed to find ways to underachieve and disappoint at every turn.

    It looked like Nebraska was headed toward a particularly embarrassing home loss to Northwestern on Nov. 2. The Huskers trailed 24-21 with just over a minute left, and with four seconds remaining, they had only made it to the Northwestern 49.

    All that was left was to try the old Hail Mary pass, which hardly ever works, right?

    Hardly ever. But sometimes it does, as was the case this time, when Ron Kellogg III somehow connected with Jordan Westerkamp on a pass that was deflected and tipped before getting to the backup receiver.

4. Johnny Being Johnny

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    Johnny Manziel's highlight reel is filled with big plays, amazing escapes and stupendous displays of agility and elusiveness. Many of them only result in small gains, and often they came in games his Texas A&M team didn't win.

    Such was the play in the above video, which shows Manziel twisting and turning all over the backfield to elude Alabama defenders, one having a handful of jersey and nearly pulling him down for a sack. He finally got away and launched a prayer of a deep pass that was caught by Edward Pope—for a 12-yard gain.

    A few plays before, Manziel would get intercepted in the end zone in a game the Aggies would lose 49-42.

    That was Johnny Manziel in a nutshell during his brief two-year college career.

3. The Prayer at Jordan-Hare

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    Auburn's season of destiny always seemed to be just a play or two away from getting ruined at nearly every turn, starting with a close victory over Washington State and continuing throughout the year.

    One of the most telling of these moments came at the end of a Nov. 16 game at home against Georgia. Auburn led 37-17 early in the fourth quarter, only to have Georgia storm back to score three touchdowns and take a 38-37 lead with 1:49 remaining.

    The Tigers began to push for a game-winning score, but the drive stalled quickly, and suddenly they faced a 4th-and-18 from their own 27-yard line with 25 seconds left.

    With no other choice, Auburn's receivers went deep, and quarterback Nick Marshall was forced to throw into double coverage and hope something miraculous would happen. It did, in a play that was first coined by a Huntsville, Ala., TV station as "The Prayer at Jordan-Hare."

    Marshall's pass toward receiver Ricardo Louis was a little short, but instead of two Georgia defenders knocking the ball down, it was batted into the air and behind them, where Louis was still running. The ball more or less landed in his hands as he kept moving, and before anyone could blink, he'd scored on a game-winning 73-yard TD.

2. Auburn's Kick-Six

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    As if Auburn's storybook run to the BCS National Championship didn't already have enough amazing moments, the way it ended the annual rivalry game with Alabama (known as the Iron Bowl) was by far the wildest.

    The regular-season finale had been back and forth between the host Tigers and the Crimson Tide, with the winner moving on to the SEC title game the following week. It was tied at 28 after Marshall connected with Sammy Coates on a 39-yard touchdown pass with 32 seconds remaining—a score that was only made possible after Alabama had a 44-yard field goal blocked a few minutes earlier.

    'Bama got it to the Auburn 39 before regulation time had seemingly expired, but coach Nick Saban lobbied to have one second put back on the clock. A review determined there was still a second remaining, which allowed the Tide to attempt a 57-yard field goal using backup kicker Adam Griffith.

    The kick was on the mark, but fell a few yards short, and right into the hands of Auburn's Chris Davis, who was set up in the end zone for just such a short-of-the-mark kick.

    From that point, it essentially became a kickoff return. Davis raced up the left sideline and scooted around Alabama's charging defenders (while somehow managing to stay inbounds) to score on a 100-yard return that gave Auburn an improbable 34-28 victory.

1. Winston to Benjamin for the Win

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    The 16-year run of the BCS as college football's ultimate determiner of which team was the best in the game closed with a classic title game between Auburn and Florida State, a contest that saw Auburn jump out to a big lead only to have FSU come back to trail just 21-20 in the fourth quarter.

    The teams traded leads throughout the fourth, with the Seminoles going up 27-24 on a 100-yard kick-return TD by speedy Kermit Whitfield with 4:31 left, then Tre Mason scored on a powerful 37-yard run with 1:19 left to give Auburn a 31-27 advantage.

    But that was just enough time for FSU and its Heisman-winning freshman quarterback, Jameis Winston, to give us one last great drive.

    Winston drove the Seminoles downfield, getting big plays here and there before ultimately sealing FSU's first title since 2000 with a two-yard TD pass to Kelvin Benjamin with 13 seconds left for a 34-31 championship win.