College Football’s All-Time Greatest Plays This Year

NCAA_Football_2005_CoverartWhen I played NCAA Football 2005 – the one with Larry Fitzgerald on the cover, since that’s how people identify sports games – there was a cool feature where you could play the greatest moments in history. I remember playing the Doug Flutie Hail Mary over and over until one of my receivers caught it. Even in a video game, it still took multiple do-overs to get it right, all of which illuminates how crazy the real life play was.

I think it’s safe to say, if that series ever came back, this 2015 college football season would have three legitimate claims to be included in that feature. College football’s been around since the 1800s, so it seems extraordinary that three plays from any one season are for sure in the, I don’t know, top 15 plays ever but that is how fun this season has been. Of course it depends on where your rooting interests lie, but decades from now, we can look back on the huge impact the 2015 season had on the pantheon of all-time plays.

Eight Laterals And One Referee Crew Suspension

Of course we’ll start with this insane ending to the Miami-Duke game.

First of all, the ACC said this play should’ve been reversed, and the league suspended the referee crew. But Duke still took the loss, and many voices around the country have called for the conference to defy lack of precedent and award Duke the win given that the play happened with no time left. That’s another argument for another time.

As I watched this play live, I couldn’t believe what I was watching. I jumped on Twitter for some instant reaction, and it was very much the same as mine: OMG…WHAT JUST HAPPENED…MIAMI!!!!111!11!1!…WAIT THERE’S A FLAG WHAT’S GOING ON…OK THERE’S A REVIEW…THE REF JUST CAME OUT TO SAY THE PLAY IS STILL UNDER REVIEW…HOW CAN YOU REVIEW A PENALTY…HUH, MIAMI WINS.

A little context is also in store to fully understand this game.

  • Duke scored the go-ahead touchdown with six seconds left, so the Blue Devils and their fans were overjoyed with the impending victory.
  • Miami had 23 penalties for 194 yards on the night and still were in position to win.
  • Corn Elder who scored the touchdown had two defensive pass interference calls on that Duke touchdown drive.
  • His name is Corn Elder.
  • Miami fired Al Golden as head coach during this game week.

Years from now, as SportsCenter is showing previous football gaffes, they’ll show the fifth down, the band on the field and then this.

Kick Six Part Deux

Now we come to the Kick Six, Part 2 following last year’s great Auburn-Alabama finish. I feel lucky enough to have watched this live too, so I could take in all of the craziness before and after the play. What really struck me with this was that Roberto Aguayo, the kicker for Florida State and 2013 Lou Groza Award winner, is really good. In fact, before the kick, the commentator mentioned that Aguayo had never missed a fourth quarter kick in his career. He’s going to be in the NFL soon, so I assumed he’d easily hit the 56-yarder, but instead it was the classic commentator jinx.

The blocked field goal isn’t as cool as the caught missed field goal from the Iron Bowl. It also came second, so it doesn’t get originality points. But this was a great play for Georgia Tech. Its own coach, Paul Johnson, was yelling at his players to get away from the blocked ball, but it’s a good thing they didn’t listen. After the game, Johnson gifted us this face.

Are there lessons to learn from the Kick Sixes about last-second field goals? Really, there’s not. If you’re Alabama or Florida State, you’re kicking that ball if you have a sliver of hope of victory. The odds of a blocked kick or returned kick for six is so low at that moment. Sports are so unpredictable with humans, and that’s the beauty and devil of it all.

The Michigan Punt

Finally we have the greatest and flukiest return touchdown out of a punt formation that I’ve ever seen.

I bet Michigan punter Blake O’Neill never drops the ball in practice. He’s probably been playing football for a long time and never had issues dropping the ball, but one mistake will kill you. We all take parts of special teams for granted, like good long snapping, punting and place holding. It’s like being a ref; if we notice you, you’re not doing your job right.

After losing the ball, it’s human instinct to try and still get the punt off. The safest route probably would’ve been to fall on the ball, but let’s be honest, you and I would’ve tried to salvage our mistake. O’Neill picks it up, and maybe he wanted to punt at first or just throw an incomplete pass or something, but we’ll never know. Michigan State’s punt block was charging hard, and Jalen Watts-Jackson happened to be lucky that night.

Interesting, Watts-Jackson really wasn’t in that great of a position to affect the play. I’m sure he was doing his assignment and filling his lane, but he was kind of just standing there off to the side not directly in the scrum with the punter. Then the ball plops in his hand and he’s just struck gold.

I’m sure there will be other crazy endings with the final stretch of the season, and next year will bring a fresh slate of games. College football is fun to watch right now, but it’s also cool to put it in a larger context and realize we’re witnessing some all-time greatness.

ANDREW TIE | @Andrew_Tie
Andrew Tie is a senior journalism major at UNC-Chapel Hill. He is a 2015 Dat Winning fellow.

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