The 50 Most Gutsy Play Calls in College Football History

Dan Vasta@CI_StatsGuruSenior Writer IIINovember 4, 2011

The 50 Most Gutsy Play Calls in College Football History

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    The Game of the Century is less than 48 hours upon us, and it features two of the best coaches in America.

    However, the "Mad Hatter" Les Miles has been known as the "gambler" and has had his fair share of gutsy decisions as a head coach.

    Looking at the history of college football (recent memory a tad more), I rank the 50 most gutsy calls of all time.

    There are hundreds of different choices to choose from (shoot me your own) but without further ado, here are my top 50.

No. 50 Hawkeyes Pull off Halfback Pass to Stun Nittany Lions

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    Iowa 21, No. 10 Penn State 20: Oct. 19, 1996

    The Hawkeyes needed a touchdown, but Hayden Fry had a gutsy call on his mind. He had his running back Rob Thein throw a halfback pass completion from mid-field to Demo Odems.

    The play gave them a chance to score a touchdown and it did not take long. Tavian Banks scored on the next play and the Hawkeyes prevailed in Happy Valley against the 10th-ranked Nittany Lions.

No. 49 Tom Brady Comes Through as Usual

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    No. 8 Michigan 35, No. 4 Alabama 34 (OT): BCS Orange Bowl (Jan. 1, 2000)

    This was a great game with a depressing ending for the Crimson Tide. The gutsiest play call of the game had to be the very first play of overtime since it resulted in a touchdown for the Wolverines.

    Tom Brady found his tight end Shawn Thompson who waltzed into the end zone for the first score of overtime. How many times in a vital BCS bowl do we see a team just run it to start things off? 

    Alabama then added a touchdown, but lost the game on a missed extra point. The Wolverines and Brady survived and it was their gutsy first-down heave that allowed them to have a chance to win it.

No. 48 Mark Richt Gets Gutsy Twice Against the Gators

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    No. 22 Georgia 24, Florida 20: Oct. 29, 2011

    Mark Richt had been owned by the Gators (2-8 going into the year), so I guess going for it on fourth down on two different occasions is not shocking.

    So, Bulldog quarterback Aaron Murray completed his two touchdown passes on fourth downs (Gator QB John Brantley also threw a TD on fourth down), which ultimately gave Georgia the 24-20 victory. The first touchdown came on a 4th-and-6 from the Gators 14-yard line.

    Murray threw a nice jump ball to Tavarres King, who came down with the game-changing touchdown catch. The first touchdown came on a 4th-and-5 strike to Michael Bennett which was another touchdown, albeit from 20 yards out. 

    Despite several special-teams failures, the Bulldogs ponied up and won their fourth victory in the past 22 seasons against the Gators. 

No. 47 Matt Leinart's Receiving TD Puts Game Away

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    No. 3 USC 28, No. 4 Michigan 14L Rose Bowl (Jan. 4, 2004)

    It was in the grand-daddy of them all and USC was only up two touchdowns late in the third quarter. It was a 2nd-and-goal at the 16-yard line.

    The Trojans pitched the ball to Hershel Dennis who gave it to wide receiver Mike Williams. Big Mike then threw it to a wide-open Matt Leinart, who cruised into the end zone for the knockout punch touchdown.

    Had the Trojans botched the trick play, it could have spelled doom for them against a solid Michigan team.

    Instead, the Trojans won the game 28-14 and were proclaimed co-national champions with LSU. 

No. 46 Fake Field Goal by Les Miles, No Way?

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    No. 2 LSU 28, No. 14 South Carolina 16: Sept. 22, 2007

    The Bayou Bengals were up 14-7 in the second quarter while attempting a 32-yard field goal. Instead, they faked the field goal and Colt David ran in for an easy 15-yard touchdown.

    Had that play failed, it could have easily been a loss to South Carolina, but Les Miles will always find a way to get an edge over his opponent.

No. 45 LSU Goes Ahead and Never Looks Back

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    No. 2 LSU 38, No. 1 Ohio State 24: BCS National Championship (Jan. 7, 2008)

    In the 2008 BCS National Championship, the LSU Tigers and the Ohio State Buckeyes were tied up at 10 with 7:30 remaining in the first half.

    Following a blocked field goal, LSU had a huge third down to convert at the Ohio State 10.

    LSU's quarterback Matt Flynn rolled out to his left while facing pressure and he threaded it in the corner of the end zone where Brandon Lafell beat Malcolm Jenkins for a huge touchdown that gave LSU their first lead of the game.

    LSU never gave the lead back and they ended up winning the 2008 BCS National Championship 38-24 over the Buckeyes.

No. 44 No Guts, No Glamor for Mizzou

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    No. 9 Oklahoma 38, No. 1 Missouri 1: Big 12 Championship (Dec. 1, 2007) 

    Like I had mentioned earlier, there are so many different choices to choose from, but I needed to throw in a "no guts" play call that arguably cost Missouri the ball game.

    Football is about momentum and being able to control your opponent at will in many areas (mentally, physically). Top-ranked Missouri trailed 7-3 early in the second quarter, but had a crucial 4th-and-goal from the Sooners' 1. 

    Most teams would have ended up going for it, but Gary Pinkel took the guaranteed points. Going up against a Sooners offense that was in the top five in scoring offense, averaging 40 points a game, should have made Pinkel and Missouri aware that they needed a ton of points.

    Instead, they chose to take the field goal on the one instead of perhaps sneaking it in for an easy go-ahead touchdown.

    After the field goal, the Tigers would end up getting outscored 31-11 as their BCS National Championship hopes were dashed with authority by Oklahoma. 

    The Sooners ended up playing in a BCS Bowl and a team who Missouri defeated earlier in the season (Kansas) also made a BCS Bowl over them since they had one fewer loss.

    Going from possible BCS National Champions to out of the entire BCS process is about as brutal of a nightmare as it gets these days.

No. 43 Lowly 4-7 Panthers Stunned Mountaineers on 4th Down

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    Pittsburgh 13, No. 2 West Virginia 9: December 1, 2007

    West Virginia was one win away from playing in the national championship, but it was the courage and dominating defense that propelled Pittsburgh to pull off the upset in the Backyard Brawl. 

    Pitt, who was just 4-7 entering the game, trailed 7-3 at halftime though they had knocked out Pat White. The Panthers faced a 4th-and-1 at the West Virginia 39.

    All WV had to do was come up with a big stop and perhaps they would come away with a huge victory.

    Instead, fullback/linebacker Shane Murray converted on fourth down and sustained a drive that eventually led to a Panthers touchdown that gave them the 10-7 lead. West Virginia never scored in the second half until it was the final play, where an intentional safety on Pittsburgh was put on.

    The Panthers had one final play to run and instead of punting the ball to allow the Mountaineers to perhaps block or return it, Pitt just went through the back of the end zone to come out victorious, 13-9.

    The Murray play was one that arguably cost the Mountaineers a national title berth, though most would admit losing Pat White in the most important game was one of the main reasons.

    Note: West Virginia did shock Oklahoma 48-28 a month later in the BCS Fiesta Bowl

No. 42 Cyclones Come Up Short

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    Nebraska 31, Iowa State 30 (OT): Nov. 6, 2010

    Paul Rhodes had his Cyclones in overtime, but after they allowed a quick touchdown, they answered back with one of their own.

    However, they faked the extra point as they figured the gutsy play call would go in their favor into pulling off the upset.

    Instead, Daniel Kuehl's pass was picked off, and the Cyclones fell short of their upset bid.


No. 41 Urban Meyer Avoids Hitting Rocky Bottom

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    No. 10 Florida 31, Tennessee 17: Sept. 18, 2010

    Urban Meyer was just in his third game in the post-Tim Tebow era, but when the game was tied up at 10 apiece in the third quarter, he pulled off a fake punt.

    The Volunteers started to get all the momentum and yet the Gators pulled off a huge fake punt that set up the go-ahead touchdown to give the Gators the 24-17 lead.

    They eventually hung on and won in Neyland Stadium 31-17, but it was Meyer's fake punt run by Omarious Hines that helped set up the victory.

No. 40 Steve Spurrier Digs Deep into His Bag of Tricks

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    No. 12 South Carolina 45, Georgia 42: Sept. 10, 2011

    The "Ol' Ball Coach" Steve Spurrier faked a punt from his own 32-yard line and ran it with his best athlete not named Lattimore or Jeffery.

    Melvin Ingram ran 68 yards for a backbreaking touchdown that arguably cost Georgia the ball game.

    Aaron Murray did throw a pick-six and had a fumble returned for a touchdown, but that may have never have happened had the 'Dawgs not been trailing.

    Regardless, Spurrier pulled a trick out of the bag and it cost UGA dearly. 

No. 39 West Virginia Fakes the Punt to Hang on

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    2006 Sugar Bowl West Virginia 38, Georgia 35: Jan. 1, 2006

    Rich Rodriguez and the Mountaineers pulled off the upset in the Atlanta Georgia Dome over the SEC champion Georgia Bulldogs. 

    After rushing for nearly 400 yards, the Mountaineers were eventually forced to punt back to the Bulldogs at the end of the game.

    Rich Rod pulled off a gutsy call by faking the punt. Phil Brady needed five yards from mid-field, but he ended up getting 10 to secure the shocking victory.

No. 38 Buffaloes Gutsy Fake Field Goal Backfires

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    It was a first-half fake field goal that Colorado thought they could sneak by the Irish in the 1990 Orange Bowl. 

    The Buffaloes were the top-ranked team in the nation and went up against a legit top five Irish squad.

    However, three turnovers did them in. The game-changing play was perhaps that fake field goal in which the ball was inside the Irish 5-yard line.

    Notre Dame stopped Colorado just shy of the end zone and it proved to go a long way as Notre Dame won 21-6, with all the scoring coming in the second half.

No. 37 McElroy and Alabama Go for the Knockout Punch Against Gators

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    No. 2 Alabama 32, No. 1 Florida 13: 2009 SEC Championship (Dec. 5, 2009)

    Alabama had the lead 19-13, but they would just need a field goal to make it a two-score game. However, they rolled the dice a bit and played to win the game.

    It just happened to be a national title play-in game and on first down, Greg McElroy threw across the field to his solid yet nationally unknown tight end Colin Peek.

    Peek caught it over his shoulders for the knockout punch touchdown which ultimately dethroned the top ranked Florida Gators, 32-13.  

    Alabama, of course, knocked off Texas to capture the BCS National Championship.

No. 36 LSU Backs into BCS Title on Ill-Advised and Gutsy Vols Pass Play

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    No. 4 LSU 21, No. 14 Tennessee 14: 2007 SEC Championship (Dec. 1, 2007)

    One of the craziest final weekends in college football history involved the fourth-ranked LSU Tigers, who had to take on No. 14 Tennessee without their starting quarterback Matt Flynn.   

    The Bayou Bengals were losing 14-13 with just 10 minutes left in regulation. The Vols had it deep in their own territory on a third-and-five. 

    Instead of perhaps running the ball, Tennessee's Erik Ainge went back to pass and threw a pick-six to Jonathan Zenon.

    LSU went up 21-14 and hung on with that remaining the final score. The top two ranked teams lost that day (Missouri lost to Oklahoma and West Virginia lost to Pitt), so the Tigers moved all the way up to second in the BCS with the victory.

    Despite being ranked fourth and perhaps not even being the best team in the SEC (Georgia fans have their opinion), the Bayou Bengals later played in the BCS National Championship where they beat Ohio State 38-24.

No. 35 Hogs Get Tricked by Gators

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    No. 4 Florida 38, No. 9 Arkansas 28: SEC Championship Game (Dec. 2, 2006)

    The college football finish in 2006 was unforgettable. The Buckeyes and Wolverines finished off an epic game in which Michigan lost in a nail-biter.

    However, USC was expected to beat UCLA and play in the BCS National Championship.

    Instead, the Trojans choked against the Bruins, and the Gators had a shot if they were able to knock off a dangerous Arkansas squad.

    With Florida driving inside the Razorbacks 10 while up 31-28 with 10 minutes remaining in regulation, the Gators could have just run the ball a few times.

    Instead, on 1st-and-goal, they ran a reverse to Andre Caldwell, who threw a six-yard touchdown pass to tight end Casey Tate. The Gators hung on to their 10-point led and won 38-28.

    The aftermath was that they went on to shock the world in the 2007 BCS National Championship by defeating Ohio State 41-14.

No. 34 Tim Tebow Puts the Dagger in Alabama's Heart

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    No. 4 Florida 31, No. 1 Alabama 20: SEC Championship Game (Dec. 6, 2008)

    The Gators were only fourth in the BCS standings as they went up against the top-ranked Crimson Tide in the 2008 SEC championship.

    However, with Florida driving and leading 24-20, most would take the field goal to go up a touchdown and rely on their defense. 

    It was third-and-goal from Alabama's 5-yard line. Tim Tebow threw a strike to a diving Riley Cooper who hauled in the five-yard touchdown that gave the Gators not only the 2008 SEC championship, but a spot in the BCS National Championship.

    They would then go on to knock off the high-octane Oklahoma Sooners, 24-14.

No. 33 Saban Goes for It on 4th-and-Goal in SEC Championship

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    LSU 31, No. 2 Tennessee 20: SEC Championship 2001 (Dec. 8, 2001)

    The Tennessee Volunteers were heavy favorites and just needed a victory to get their second BCS National Championship appearance.

    LSU was not even ranked in the Top 25 of the BCS standings and most did not give them a shot to even keep it close.

    After a few turnovers by the Volunteers, LSU had a chance to put the game on ice. However, it was a 4th-and-goal at the Vols 1. If LSU got stopped, Tennessee had a chance to march down 99 yards and win the game (unlikely but possible). 

    Nick Saban opted to go for it and his running back Domanick Davis went up and over the defender for the decisive touchdown that put the Bayou Bengals up for good, shocking the nation by winning the SEC championship 31-20. 

No. 32 Wanna Get Away, Les?

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    Ole Miss 25, No. 8 LSU 23: Nov. 21, 2009

    Can this go down as one of the "Did I really just see that" moments, because surely Les Miles did not intend for his team to lose.

    This gutsy decision was an all-time backfire as LSU completed a 4th-and-26 from midfield all the way down to the Rebels 6.

    However, though the clock appeared to still have two seconds left it went down to just one second, and the Bayou Bengals never even got the field-goal kicking team on the field. 

    Yet when the offense stayed on the field it officially got crazy. In fact, this finish was a catastrophe as Jefferson spiked the ball with already one second on the clock (which is not possible to give you a chance to have another play).

    The Tigers had no timeouts left and ran out of time in Oxford, as Ole Miss prevailed with a mind-boggling two-point thriller.

No. 31 Boise State's Fake Punt Gives Them the Fiesta Bowl

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    2010 Fiesta Bowl: Boise State vs. TCU, Jan. 4, 2010

    On a 4th-and-9 from their own 33-yard line, Broncos punter Kyle Brotzman faked the punt with a pass to Kyle Efaw for 29 yards. The gutsy call and conversion continued the drive for Boise State and they scored the game-winning touchdown later on that drive.

    There were under eight minutes to go in the game and though TCU got to the Broncos 30, Andy Dalton threw an interception and Boise State prevailed. 

No. 30 Boise State Looks Dead in the Water After Pick-Six

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    Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42 (OT): Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 1, 2007) 

    Though a gutsy call is always considered to go in your favor, how about when it backfires at the least opportune time?

    Jared Zabranky and the Broncos had the lead the entire game and after the Sooners tied it up, Boise State decided to go for the victory with just a minute remaining in regulation.

    Instead, Zabransky's pass went to nobody but Oklahoma's Marcus Walker, who tightroped down the sidelines for what seemed to be the game-winning touchdown.

No. 29 Hurricanes Fail To Score at the 2

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    2003 Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State 31, Miami 24 (2 OT), Jan. 3, 2003

    The gutsy calls or lack thereof by the Hurricanes led them to stand as one of the greatest teams to never win a BCS National Championship.

    After the Hurricanes converted a fourth down, they had it 1st-and-goal at the Buckeyes 2. The play calls were questionable, though they simply could not execute. 

    Jarrett Payton ran it for a yard down to the 1, but on second down, Ken Dorsey overthrew a wide open Eric Winston in the flat.

    Then on third down, fullback Quadtrine Hill got stuffed at the 1 to bring up a 4th-and-goal. It was do-or-die time for the mighty Hurricanes.

    Cie Grant brought pressure on Dorsey and he threw the ball up for grabs which was easily knocked down by Buckeye defenders.

    Ohio State had won the BCS National Championship and many questioned Larry Coker for not throwing to All-American targets Kellen Winslow II or Andre Johnson.

    The game remains as one of the greatest ever and it was questionable or a lack of guts from Coker and the 'Canes that prevented them from winning the BCS National Championship.

No. 28 Early Comes Up Big at Night

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    No. 5 LSU 35, No. 15 Arizona State 31: Sept. 10, 2005

    The game was supposed to be played in Baton Rouge, but it was eventually changed to Tempe, Ariz., due to LSU lending their campus as a refuge from Hurricane Katrina.

    It just happened to be the very first game of the Les Miles era, and this game went down to the wire. One could argue this game in itself will forever describe Les Miles and his team. 

    Trailing 31-28 with 1:23 remaining in regulation made everybody in the crowd stand on their feet. LSU had to go for it, but they just needed 10 yards as they were at midfield.

    JaMarcus Russell went for the jugular as he found Early Doucet in the end zone for the game-winning 40-yard touchdown reception.

    Doucet had a few drops in the game and yet he came through when it mattered most for Les Miles and the LSU Tigers. 

No. 27 Florida State's Chris Rix Game-Winning TD Pass to P.K. Sam

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    Florida State 38, Florida 34: Nov. 29, 2003

    There was just a minute to go in the ballgame and the Seminoles had it 1st-and-10 on their own 48-yard line. They were trailing 34-31, but Florida State's Chris Rix chucked it deep into the back of the end zone to P.K. Sam, who caught the game-winning 52-yard touchdown.

    The Seminoles (10-3) would go on and play in the BCS Orange Bowl, while the Gators (8-5) would play in the Outback Bowl.

No. 26 Tee Martin Airs It Deep Despite Trailing

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    No. 1 Tennessee 24, No. 23 Mississippi State 14: SEC Championship (Dec. 5, 1998)

    Not many teams throw it deep when the game is on the line, especially when it is not a last-second Hail Mary. We tend to see conservative plays, but Tee Martin aired it deep on a 1st-and-10 from the Bulldogs 41-yard line.

    He hit Peerless Price in the end zone for what would be the game-winning touchdown.

    The Vols were fortunate to avoid turning it over and not many teams have the guts or confidence to just air it out when knocking on the door. Then just two plays later after the kickoff, Tee Martin slammed the door on an upset bid, finding Cedric Wilson from 26 yards out.

    The Vols went on to knock off Florida State en route to winning the first-ever BCS National Championship.

No. 25 Real McCoy Runs It Down to the Last Possible Second

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    No. 3 Texas 13, No. 22 Nebraska 12: Dec. 5, 2009

    Talk about all-time gutsy play calls—Colt McCoy and the Longhorns had the guts and brains (or lack thereof) to run a final play to get even closer into field-goal range even though the clock was running. Remember, they were trailing in a game that would decide their title aspirations.

    So, McCoy snapped the ball with seven seconds to go and he scrambled around before throwing it out of bounds with no seconds on the clock. Nebraska ran onto the field as if they had won the Big 12 Championship.

    However, after review there was still one second left and Hunter Lawrence booted a 46-yarder at the buzzer as the Longhorns squeaked by the Huskers 13-12 en route to their BCS National Championship appearance.

No. 24 Weinke Goes Deep to Minnis for a 98-Yard Score

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    No. 4 Florida State 54, No. 10 Clemson 7: Nov. 4, 2000

    Chris Weinke and the 'Noles were backed up all the way to their end zone despite leading only 3-0. Weinke faked the entire Clemson secondary as he hid the ball behind his back.

    Weinke then flicked it to Snoop Minnis as he cruised to paydirt for the 98-yard touchdown.

    The Seminoles would go on to win the game 54-7 as they ended up playing in the BCS National Championship that season against Oklahoma. Weinke would later get injured (neck), and it was the Sooners who knocked off Florida State in the BCS National Championship.

No. 23 Mack Wishes He Had Just Taken a Knee Going into the Half

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    No. 1 Alabama 37, No. 2 Texas 21: BCS National Championship (Jan. 7, 2010)

    The Longhorns were about to go into the half trailing top-ranked Alabama 17-6. Plus, they had lost Colt McCoy on the first drive of the game, so they were expected to take a knee and call it a half, right?

    Wrong! 

    Backup Garrett Gilbert filled in admirably since he was thrown into the fire right out of the gates. So, after Alabama tacked on a field goal to go up 17-6, the Longhorns decided to run a few plays.

    Tre Newton ran for nine yards on first down and the Longhorns supposedly thought they could throw a 25- to 30-yard strike within seven or eight seconds which would lead to a last-second field goal before the half.

    However, Texas tried an ill-advised shovel pass from Gilbert that was tipped in midair and brought back to the house for a pick-six by Marcell Dareus. 

    The Crimson Tide went up with an emphatic 24-6 lead at halftime and they hung on to win 37-21.

No. 22 Cam Newton Gives Alabama Nightmares

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    Auburn 28, Alabama 27: Nov. 26, 2010

    Cam Newton and Auburn were in a situation where if they won against the Tide on the road, they would play in the BCS National Championship. 

    The Tigers were trailing 27-21 with under 14 minutes of play in regulation. However, Auburn faced a 4th-and-3 from the Alabama 47-yard line.

    Most teams would punt since they would certainly get two more possessions with nearly a full quarter of play left. 

    Auburn opted to go for it and Newton completed a crucial nine-yard pass to Darvin Adams which eventually led to the game-winning touchdown drive. It was capped off by Newton threading a pass across the field to an open Phillip Lutzenkirchen.

    The rest was history as Alabama was knocked off in their own backyard to their hated rivals 28-27 in a game where Alabama led 24-0 (plus they squandered two touchdown drives on fumbles).

No. 21 Les Miles Goes for It Five Times on Fourth Down Against Florida

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    LSU 28, Florida 24: Oct. 6, 2007

    Les Miles is known for his wacky and insane fourth-down conversions. Well, in the biggest game of the regular season for LSU, Miles went for it on fourth down five times against the talented Gators (twice on one drive).

    Jacob Hester converted consecutive 4th-and-1's with none bigger than the last one from the Gators 7-yard line. They could have kicked the game-tying field goal and won in overtime.

    However, Miles rolled the dice and converted both fourth downs which ended with Hester capping it off eventually on a two-yard plunge to paydirt for the victory, 28-24.

    The Bayou Bengals went on to win the BCS National Championship, while the Gators lost in the Capital One Bowl (Tim Tebow won the Heisman, and Lloyd Carr coached his final game).

No. 20 Why Go for the Kick When You Have Andrew Hatch as Your Quarterback?

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    No. 6 LSU 26, No. 10 Auburn 21: Sept. 20, 2008

    It may seem like I am an LSU homer, which I am not, but I just call it like I see it. Les Miles has always had a history for gambling a bit and he never plays with a ton of logic.

    He does what he thinks gives his team the best chance to win, and if that means throwing the ball with under a minute to go, then so be it.

    Quarterback Andrew Hatch threaded an out route to Brandon Lafell, who caught it as the Auburn defender ill-advisedly went for the interception.

    Lafell cruised into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown as LSU hung on, 27-21. Les Miles continues to amaze the landscape of college football and there should be no doubting that he may pull out all the stops to knock off Alabama in the "Game of the Century."

No. 19 Heisman Winner on the Sidelines When It Matters Most

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    Texas 41, USC 38: 2007 Rose Bowl- January 4, 2006

    It was 4th-and-2 for the Trojans who just needed to run out the clock to win the BCS National Championship. Yet, Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush was on the sidelines.

    Sure, he was not a north-south pounder, but not even having him on the field to make Texas think twice was quite the gutsy call. 

    The dive up the middle to LenDale White backfired since USC was stopped short and the rest was history.

    Vince Young led his team down the field for the game-winning touchdown, and at the time, it put a huge damper on the USC dynasty.

No. 18 LSU Fakes the Game-Tying Field Goal To Go on and Win

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    LSU 33, Florida 29: Oct. 29, 2010

    LSU was down three and had a chance to tie the game up with a 53-yard field goal. However, Les Miles once again pulled a rabbit out of his hat with a fake field-goal pass.

    The kicker Josh Jasper was able to pick up the first down after the holder tossed it backwards behind his head (ruled legal since it was not forward) on a bounce.

    The Tigers then scored on a three-yard pass to the corner of the end zone from Jarrett Lee to Terrence Toliver.

    It was just another game for LSU, since they have been accustomed to winning these type of games from the past few years.

No. 17 FSU Puntrooskie 1988

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    Florida State 24, Clemson 21: September 17, 1988

    On 4th-and-long the Seminoles were backed up to their end zone and were set to punt things away. Instead, Bobby Bowden called for a fake punt on a puntrooskie against the Clemson Tigers.

    Leroy Butler nearly went 90 yards and set up the game-winning field goal as the Seminoles came out alive with the three-point victory.

    FSU would finish the season ranked third in the Coaches' Poll with Clemson finishing eighth.

No. 16 Sooners Get Swamped on Fourth Down

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    No. 2 Florida 24, No. 1 Oklahoma 14: BCS National Championship (Jan. 8, 2009)

    It stands as the most explosive, productive offense in college football history. The top-ranked Sooners had averaged over 50 points per game while eventually totaling 716 points in the season.

    And yet they could not score on the swarming Florida Gators defense when it mattered most in the 2009 BCS National Championship.

    Oklahoma had a 2nd-and-goal from the Gators 4, yet it all of a sudden came down to a fourth down at the 1. It was just halfway through the second quarter and the game was tied at 7-7. 

    Bob Stoops and the Sooners should have kicked it (hindsight now), but elected to go for it and they were stuffed at the line of scrimmage and turned it over on downs. Running back Chris Brown had five straight carries on a drive which followed an interception from Tim Tebow.

    The Sooners made a gutsy call by going for it by attempting to take a commanding one-touchdown lead, but instead the Gators took command in the second half.

    Florida outscored the Sooners 17-7 in the final two quarters and they went on to win the BCS National Championship 24-14.

No. 15 Twice the Charm for LSU

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    No. 10 LSU 24, No. 6 Alabama 21: Nov. 6, 2010

    The Crimson Tide were up 10-7 and the LSU Tigers failed to pick up a first down in the second half. The average coach would have punted it away at their own 40-yard line.

    Instead, LSU's Josh Jasper faked a punt and ran for the first down. Even though LSU ended up missing the game-tying field goal, it pinned the Tide back and set the momentum for the second half.

    In fact, there was another gutsy call later in the game.

    On a 4th-and-1, DeAngelo Peterson (ball at the Tide 26) capped off a 25-yard gain on a reverse. LSU scored three plays later and got the two-point conversion to go up by a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

    Miles was a crazy man to go for it on fourth down twice in one game. Still, he was the one who escaped with the three-point victory over Nick Saban, thanks to his gutsy fourth-down decisions.

No. 14 Tee Martin Delivers Gold on 3rd-and-Long

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    No. 1 Tennessee 23, No. 2 Florida State 16: BCS National Championship (Jan. 4, 1999)

    The Florida State Seminoles came in as the most dominant team college football had seen in a few years, but they were a tad vulnerable without their star quarterback Chris Weinke (neck).

    The Vols were up 13-9 over the 'Noles with just 9:32 remaining in the game. Tee Martin and Tennessee could have run a simple draw and punted it away to Florida State since their own defense was playing well.

    Instead, Tee Martin aired it deep and found Peerless Price, who streaked 79 yards down the sidelines for what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown in the 1999 BCS National Championship.

No. 13 Michigan Torches the Irish Secondary

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    Michigan 35, Notre Dame 31: Sept. 10, 2011

    With eight seconds left in regulation, even Kirk Herbstreit thought they would play for overtime. Instead, Denard Robinson threw it to the end zone from the Irish 16-yard line, where he found Roy Roundtree (his only catch) for the game-winning touchdown. 

    Michigan remains in the Big Ten hunt, whereas Notre Dame has continued to have a disappointing season since the loss. 

No. 12 Black 41 Flash Reverse Pass

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    No. 3 Nebraska 20, No. 2 Oklahoma 10: Oct. 27, 2001

    Eric Crouch won the stiff arm trophy and he won it with several Heisman moments. However, none was bigger than Black 41 Flash Reverse.

    From their own 36-yard line on a 1st-and-10, the Huskers pulled off a gutsy call that would secure them the victory. 

    Thunder Collins received what looked to be a jet sweep from Crouch, but Collins then pitched the ball to split end Mike Stuntz, who found a wide open Crouch streaking down the sidelines for a 63-yard, victory-securing touchdown. 

    The Huskers reached the Rose Bowl (BCS National Championship Game), though they were taken to the woodshed by the Miami Hurricanes, 37-14.

No. 11 Michigan State Fakes FG in Overtime for the Win

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    Michigan State 34, Notre Dame 31 (OT): Sept. 18, 2010

    The Spartans were lined up to attempt the game-tying field and force a second overtime. Instead, Mark Dantonio opted to fake the field goal and win it without worrying about a second overtime. 

    The fake was perfectly sold, as it was the last thing Notre Dame was expected to see. The touchdown may have given Dantonio some issue with his heart, but he was able to bounce back for the rest of the season, as was his team. 

    Michigan State was left out of the BCS but went 11-1 until they were romped by Alabama in the Capital One Bowl.

No. 10 Matt Leinart Gets Some Irish Luck Against the Domers

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    No. 1 USC 34, No. 9 Notre Dame 31: Oct. 15, 2005

    USC was down three, and it was 4th-and-9 deep in their own territory. They had to go for it since Notre Dame would have won the game by running the clock out, so the play call was the gutsy part. Plus, everybody and their mother knows only in video games can you throw it deep and complete a pass.

    However, the play call will forever be gutsy. Leinart went to his All-American receiver Dwayne Jarrett, but he ran an easy-to-defend passing play.

    Well, at least it was expected to be easy to defend. The simple fly route down the sidelines was completed from Leinart to Jarrett as Ambrose Wooden was burned deep, never turning his head around in time to defend the pass. Jarrett ran all the way down the sidelines just outside the 10.

    Finally, Matt Leinart eventually sneaked in from the 1-yard line thanks in part to the "Bush Push" and USC ended up playing in the BCS National Championship against Texas that season.

No. 9 Demetrius Byrd Catches 22-Yard Touchdown with One Second Left

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    LSU 30, Auburn 24: Oct. 20, 2007

    Are you kidding me, Les Miles?

    Another one of his gutsy play calls makes the list, except this time it was done with just one second remaining on the clock. In a game where LSU could have kicked the game-winning field goal, Miles opted to allow the clock to run all the way down inside 10 seconds before his quarterback (Matt Flynn) threw a strike to Demetrius Byrd for the game-winning touchdown with just one second left.

    This was a magical season because LSU became the first-ever (still only) two-loss BCS national champion. We may never see that occur again in the modern-day BCS, which tells you how magical of a season it was for the Bayou Bengals, who went on to knock off Ohio State, 38-24.

No. 8 Holy Buckeye!

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    Ohio State 10, Purdue 6: Nov. 9, 2002

    The Buckeyes had the ball, and their BCS National Championship hopes were on the line. It was 4th-and-1 from the Boilermakers 37-yard line and instead of running for the first down, Ohio State went for the jugular.

    With just 1:38 remaining in regulation, quarterback Craig Krenzel hit Michael Jenkins in the end zone on a simple go route which was the deciding game that propelled the Buckeyes to win the 2003 BCS National Championship.

    Note: The original play was expected to be a run up the middle to Lydell Ross, but Krenzel audibled out of it to throw it deep to Jenkins. The rest, as we know, is history.

No. 7 Boise State Pulls off the Hook-and-Ladder

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    2007 Fiesta Bowl: Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42, Jan. 1, 2007

    In what will be remembered as one of the greatest games of all time, Boise State pulled out all the stops in order to pull off the win. 

    After leading for most of the game, Oklahoma stormed back to take the lead on a pick-six. Boise State had a huge 4th-and-18 yards to go at the 50.

    Give one of the gutsiest pats on the back to both Chris Petersen and Bryan Harsin because Jared Zabransky put on a show that night.

    On the 4th-and-forever with just 18 seconds left, Zabranksy completed a hook-and-ladder from Drisan James to Jared Rabb. 

    This was one of the three miraculous plays that the Smurf Turfs were able to pull off that night. Even fans of college football who did not even watch a single snap of the Broncos that year still talk about the game to this date.


No. 6 Huskers Go for Two and the Win

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    Orange Bowl: Miami 31, Nebraska 30, Jan. 2, 1984

    Tom Osborne and the Huskers attempted to go for the win on a two-point conversion against the Howard Schnellenberger-led Hurricanes.

    Remember, there were no overtimes and Nebraska did not want to put their season in the hands of the voters. So they refused to tie and instead went for the win.

    Miami's Kenny Calhoun batted down the attempted pass from signal-caller Turner Gill to running back Jeff Smith. The underdog Hurricanes prevailed with a 31-30 upset victory over the then-top-ranked 'Huskers.

No. 5 Harrell and Crabtree Go Bonkers Against Longhorns

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    No. 7 Texas Tech 39, No. 1 Texas 33- Nov. 1, 2008

    Despite only trailing by one point and in field-goal range, Texas Tech opted to go for a touchdown as Graham Harrell hit Michael Crabtree for the game-winning 28-yard touchdown with just one second remaining.

    Who knows if the pass would have been deflected or intercepted with the time running out, but the gamble paid off for the Red Raiders as they had knocked off the top team in the nation.

    This game cost the Longhorns the national championship as their much-hated rivals Oklahoma would go on to play in the BCS National Championship against Florida.

No. 4 Boise State Pulls off the Halfback Pass

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    Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42 (OT): Fiesta Bowl (Jan. 1, 2007) 

    On what could have been the final play of the season for the Boise State Broncos, they once again pulled a trick out of their sleeves.

    They had the stones to leave Ian Johnson on the sidelines as they brought in the multi-talented Vinny Perretta in the backfield with quarterback Jared Zabransky out wide as a receiver.

    Perretta threw a five-yard touchdown pass to tight end Derek Schouman to cut the deficit to one point. All the Broncos had to do was just kick the extra point and we would be headed to double-overtime.

    Of course, the Broncos had something else on their minds.

No. 3 "Right 53 Veer Pass"

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    No. 1 Texas 15, No. 2 Arkansas 14: Dec. 6, 1969

    The Longhorns were down 14-8 and were deep in their own territory. However, Darrell Royal pulled off one gutsy play that will forever remain among the top in Longhorn history.

    It was 4th-and-3 at their own 43-yard line with under five minutes to play in regulation. After a timeout, Royal drew up one fine play, "Right 53 Veer Pass."

    James Street was the quarterback and he found tight end Randy Peschel for a huge 44-yard gain on a deep bomb. Street would then scramble for the game-winning touchdown, as the extra point tacked on the 15-14 Longhorn victory. 

    The 'Horns went on to defeat Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl and they were declared national champions.

No. 2 Notre Dame Throws It out of Own End Zone To Win National Title

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    Notre Dame 24, Alabama 23: 1973 Sugar Bowl (Dec. 31, 1973) 

    This national championship had six lead changes, but no play was bigger or gutsier than the final drive of the Irish.

    Ara Parseghian allowed his quarterback Tom Clements to throw out of his own end zone, which was completed all the way out near the 35-yard line to Robin Weber.

    If the pass was not completed, it would have given the Tide great field position and more than likely the national championship.

    Instead, the pass was completed and the Golden Domers were able to run out the clock as they were on their way to yet another national championship. 

No. 1 Boise State Statue of Liberty: 2007 Fiesta Bowl

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    Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42 (OT): Fiesta Bowl (January 1, 2007) 

    This was a finish for the ages in what has been arguably the craziest and most thrilling finish in college football history.

    Although it was not a BCS National Championship, this was an all-time gutsy call on Chris Petersen's part.

    To go for two in a game where nobody would have the guts to even ponder the thought is beyond crazy. Any coach would play for a second overtime and hence live to play another down.

    Plus, remember that you are forced to go for a two-point conversion in the third overtime. So, for the Broncos to be able to pull off the miracle play and upset the Sooners on the Statue of Liberty will, at the moment, remain as the gutsiest call in college football history.