Ranking the Most Memorable College Football Plays Since 2000
Every college football season brings an action-packed sequence of Saturdays loaded with games from all over the country.
While enjoyable, the truth is that most games—however contested and exciting they may be—are soon erased from memory. But special plays are never forgotten.
Game-deciding touchdowns, mishaps and penalties have shaped the sport's history, and we're looking back at the Football Bowl Subdivision's most memorable plays since 2000.
Ordinarily, there was something grand at stake, whether it was a rivalry victory, national championship or even a berth in the BCS title game or College Football Playoff. But sometimes, as was the case with a few honorable mentions, the play was just plain unbelievable.
And it's something this generation will always remember.
Miami's Lateral Touchdown vs. Duke, 2015
From start to finish, the play lasted approximately 50 seconds. The ensuing reviews—yes, two—took about 10 minutes. And depending on your opinion, the referees still messed it up.
Was Mark Walton's knee down, or is an open hand not indicative of full possession despite the ball's touching? Officials missed Sheldrick Redwine's block in the back, though they rightfully corrected David Njoku's crushing block from the side.
The eight-lateral craziness, which followed an inconclusive touchdown by Duke's Thomas Sirk, ended with Corn Elder's running 90-plus yards and shaking a couple of defenders for the game-winning score. History remembers it as a 30-27 Miami win.
In the aftermath, the ACC suspended the officiating crew for two games.
Manziel Magic, 2013
Over a two-year stretch in 2012-13, no quarterback was more exciting than Johnny Manziel, and both of his most memorable moments happened against Alabama.
Although the dynamic quarterback had an exciting scramble and touchdown during his 2012 Heisman Trophy-winning campaign when Texas A&M upset the top-ranked Crimson Tide, what we remember most is the epic completion in 2013.
Manziel eluded what would have been a 17-yard sack and heaved an absolute prayer off his back foot. The ball traveled 40 yards for perhaps the most improbable 14-yard catch in history.
Roy Williams' Superman Dive, 2001
The Red River Shootout Rivalry Showdown has featured more than 100 all-time meetings. In 2001, Oklahoma's Roy Williams provided a legendary play for the historic matchup.
Just 2:06 remained in regulation, and the Sooners were clinging to a 7-3 lead as Texas took possession near its own goal line. Williams perfectly timed a leap over a cutting blocker and deflected Chris Simms' pass into Teddy Lehman's waiting arms.
The touchdown sealed Oklahoma's second of what would be five straight victories over the Longhorns.
Georgia Tech Blocks FSU Field Goal, 2015
"What a time to be alive!" ESPN's Mark Jones memorably exclaimed on his outstanding call of the dramatic play.
Florida State, the three-time defending ACC champion and ranked No. 9 nationally at the time, needed a lengthy 56-yard kick from All-American Roberto Aguayo to avoid overtime.
However, Patrick Gamble blocked the attempt. Lance Austin picked up the miss, headed to the left sideline and sprinted to the house for a shocking 78-yard touchdown.
The Bluegrass Miracle, 2002
More than a decade before Nick Saban found himself on the wrong end of two unforgettable plays, his 2002 LSU squad put a final-play dagger through Kentucky.
The Wildcats surged ahead in the fourth quarter, putting No. 16 LSU on the brink of defeat. Kentucky players even drenched head coach Guy Morriss with the customary Gatorade bath, soon learning to never celebrate a victory until it's official.
With no time on the clock, Tigers quarterback Marcus Randall heaved the ball as far as he could. It skipped off the hands of several Wildcats and right to Devery Henderson, who threw up his arms in celebration as he crossed the goal line.
More Memorable Plays
- Tennessee's Hail Mary Stuns Georgia, 2016
- Central Michigan's Hail Mary vs. Oklahoma State, 2016
- Michigan State's Hail Mary to Beat Wisconsin, 2011
- MSU's "Little Giants" Fake FG, 2010
- Ed Reed's TD Seals Miami's Championship Bid, 2001
- Alabama's Goal-to-Go Stand in SEC Championship, 2012
- Jadeveon Clowney Obliterates Vincent Smith, 2013
- Tim Tebow's Jump Pass, 2006
- Michael Dyer Stays Up, 2011
10. Crabtree's Touchdown Stuns Texas, 2008
In a battle of unbeatens, seventh-ranked Texas Tech had edged into field-goal range against No. 1 Texas. The Red Raiders trailed 33-32 with eight seconds remaining and one timeout.
But seven points is better than three.
Graham Harrell's pass seemed to hang in the air forever, yet it still managed to find Michael Crabtree on the sideline. The two-time Biletnikoff Award winner broke one tackle and scurried into the end zone, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
The loss effectively prevented Texas from appearing in the BCS National Championship Game, though the Longhorns eventually clipped Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.
9. The Prayer at Jordan-Hare, 2013
Auburn had a terrific 2013 roster, but the program enjoyed a couple of fortunate breaks—and one bounce—along the way.
Early in the fourth quarter against Georgia, Cody Parkey's field goal handed the Tigers a comfortable 20-point lead. However, three straight touchdowns from the Bulldogs, including the go-ahead score with 1:49 left on the clock, quieted a stunned hometown crowd.
The Auburn offense struggled to respond, stumbling to face a 4th-and-18 at its own 27-yard line. Then the magic happened.
Nick Marshall heaved a pass into triple coverage and hit Georgia defender Josh Harvey-Clemons in the hands. But Ricardo Louis tracked down the ricochet, bobbling the ball once before securing it and scoring a 73-yard touchdown.
The Tigers would eventually appear in the national championship, but their theatrics weren't done yet.
8. Watson, Clemson Win National Title, 2017
The most recent play of the list, Deshaun Watson's game-winning touchdown to Hunter Renfrow, might not require much explanation.
One year after falling to Alabama on the same stage, Clemson redeemed itself on the two-yard strike.
Many clamored for pass interference because it was clearly a pick play, but Crimson Tide corner Marlon Humphrey initiated contact with Artavis Scott. That technicality allowed Renfrow to separate from Tony Brown, who slipped while trying to avoid the traffic.
Clemson recovered the ensuing onside kick—a similarly brilliant call—to run out the clock and secure the national championship.
7. The Bush Push, 2005
Matt Leinart rolled left and dived toward the end zone. Corey Mays countered, stoning the USC quarterback at the goal line and knocking the ball free. The final seven seconds ticked off the clock, and Notre Dame could celebrate a huge victory.
Well, not so much.
Since the fumbled ball went out of bounds, officials rightfully put those seven seconds back on the clock. On the next play, rather than waste a couple of seconds with a spike to set up a game-tying field goal, Leinart went for the win.
Once again, the Irish appeared to have stonewalled Leinart. Surely there were Fighting Irish fans who erupted in celebration. Instead, Reggie Bush shoved his quarterback across the plane. While technically illegal, it was a rarely called penalty.
USC finished the regular season a perfect 12-0 as Pac-12 champions before losing to Vince Young and Texas in the national championship. But more on that later.
6. Michigan's Botched Punt vs. MSU, 2015
Sean McDonough, with his voice cracking twice in the mayhem, provided a brilliant call on a stunning play.
Unofficially dubbed "Trouble with the Snap," Michigan continued a slide against in-state rival Michigan State because of an improbable sequence after failing to seal the game on offense.
With 10 seconds left and all 11 Spartans at the line of scrimmage, the Wolverines only needed normal execution to bleed the clock. Punter Blake O'Neill didn't handle the snap cleanly, though, and Jalen Watts-Jackson left the Big House in disbelief by returning the fumble for a game-winning touchdown.
Then-No. 7 Michigan State jumped to 7-0 and eventually won the Big Ten championship, making Jim Harbaugh wait another year for his first victory in the rivalry as a head coach.
5. Boise State Statue of Liberty, 2007
This one is a package deal, though the focal point is the two-point conversion that won Boise State the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.
Trailing by seven and facing a 4th-and-18 with 18 seconds left, the Broncos busted out the hook-and-ladder to perfection. Jared Zabransky fired a strike to Drisan James, who pitched the ball to Jerard Rabb. He scooted 35 yards for a touchdown.
An extra point sent the game to overtime, where Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson scored on the first play. Boise State responded with a touchdown, cutting the lead to one.
Chris Petersen, then the coach of the Broncos, decided to attempt a two-point conversion. He called "Statue Left," a play where Zabransky would fake a screen pass and leave the ball behind his back for Ian Johnson. The running back followed his blocks to pay dirt.
Then Johnson proposed to his girlfriend, Boise State cheerleader Chrissy Popadics, on the field. She said yes.
4. Ohio State vs. Miami Pass Interference, 2003
Winners of 34 straight games, Miami entered the 2003 national championship with supreme confidence. The Hurricanes exited the Fiesta Bowl looking back at a heartbreaking loss.
In the first overtime, Ken Dorsey found Kellen Winslow Jr. to give Miami a 24-17 advantage. Ohio State needed a touchdown to extend the game, and an incompletion on 4th-and-3 from the 5-yard line appeared to end the contest.
The 'Canes celebrated as fireworks exploded, but then a flag for pass interference changed it all.
Jim Tressel's team recovered to score game-tying and go-ahead touchdowns and stopped Miami in the second overtime to claim a 31-24 triumph and the national title.
3. App State Brings Down the House, 2007
Appalachian State entered the 2007 campaign as two-time defending winners of what is now the Football Championship Subdivision and added a third straight crown that season.
It's not like Michigan lost to a terrible team, but this was an inexcusable defeat.
Ranked No. 5 nationally, Michigan trailed 28-17 at halftime before edging ahead 32-31 with 4:36 remaining in the game. A field goal with 26 seconds to go pushed the Mountaineers back into the lead, but a 46-yard pass put the Wolverines at the 20 with six seconds left.
However, Corey Lynch blocked Jason Gingell's 37-yard field-goal attempt and secured the jaw-dropping victory.
App State has since made the leap to the Football Bowl Subdivision, where it has compiled an impressive 28-10 mark in three years.
2. Vince Young's Rose Bowl Run, 2006
Vince Young dropped back, looked left, scrambled right and broke the hearts of USC fans across the nation.
Texas trailed 38-26 late in the fourth quarter, but Young led a pair of touchdown drives to push the Longhorns ahead. His second score, an eight-yard scramble, will remain burned in the memories of college football fans.
"[People on the street] tend to ask me about the game-winning play, but their reaction is usually priceless when I tell them the thing I remember most about that TD run," Young wrote for Sports Illustrated in 2016. "I was honestly nervous, and I thought to myself, MAKE SURE YOU DON'T DROP THIS SNAP!"
The defense held, sealing the program's first national championship in 35 years and its 800th all-time victory.
1. Kick Six, 2013
Alabama head coach Nick Saban successfully (and rightfully) lobbied for one second on the clock. But his small victory quickly became a nightmare.
Tied with rival Auburn at 28 apiece, Saban sent out Adam Griffith to attempt a 57-yard field goal. The kick stopped shy of the uprights and fell into the eager arms of Chris Davis, who caught the ball cleanly and started to run it out.
One block. Two blocks. Missed tackle. Three blocks. Missed tackle. Midfield. "Auburn's gonna win the football game!" radio announcer Rod Bramblett screamed.
Jordan-Hare Stadium, which had celebrated the wild victory over Georgia just two weeks earlier, exploded into cheers. The Tigers then rolled Missouri in the SEC Championship Game before falling to Florida State in the final BCS national title game.
Saban admitted to ESPN.com's Chris Low in April 2017 that, among other plays, he'll never get over the Kick Six.
And we'll never forget it.
All recruiting information via Scout. Stats from cfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.