There’s absolutely nothing like college football. The atmosphere, the crazy students and passionate parents rock every big time stadium across the nation. Nothing compares to playing against your rival in a marquee matchup and getting a win. But crazy things happen every week in college football. It’s happened to just about every team. You think you have the win in the bag and then a crazy touch of magic happens and the next thing you know, you’re rival is running onto your field and your fans are in disbelief. Just ask the Miami Hurricanes in 1984, when Doug Flutie and Boston College stunned them with a last second Hail Mary to win the game 47-45 in an instant classic. Ask the Kentucky Wildcats, who were on the verge of an upset of LSU Tigers until a 82 yard Hail Mary after the ball deflected off the hands of a Wildcats defender. Or ask the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2013, when in game seven against the Boston Bruins, they held a 4-1 lead with under 10 minutes left. The Bruins would score two goals in the final two minutes and one in overtime to pull off an unbelievable comeback.
But two of the most unbelievable plays ever have happened in the last three years to two of the most storied college football programs of all time. Michigan and Alabama both thought they were in position to win against their arch rivals until lady luck turned the tables on their seasons.
The first play happened to Alabama in the “Iron Bowl” against Auburn. This game was tight throughout, as Auburn and Alabama went back and forth in a seesaw battle. The Alabama Crimson Tide were ranked number one and Auburn was ranked number four. The last nine minutes of this game were about as gut wrenching and heart pounding as it gets. With Alabama pinned on its one yard line, A.J. McCarron found Amari Cooper down the sideline and behind the Auburn defense for a 99 yard touchdown. At that point the momentum was in Alabama’s favor with just under nine minutes left. However, Alabama couldn’t put it away. Kicker Adam Griffith missed four field goals and both sides couldn’t convert on fourth down. Auburn got the ball back with less than one minute left and needed a miracle. Auburn’s prayers were answered as Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall found Sammie Coates down the sideline for a 39 yard catch and run with under 40 seconds left to tie the game at 28. Alabama tried to go down the field but ran out the clock, or so they thought. Running back TJ Yeldon stepped out of bounds with one second left, which led to the miracle. Auburn fans prayed that the kick would miss, but they got more than what they wished for. The 109 return as time expired immediately became one of the defining moments not just in Auburn Alabama history, but in all of college football. The loss ruined Alabama’s hope for a national championship.
The next play is arguably more insane than that one. The Michigan Wolverines and the Michigan State Spartans were in a tight battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe. Michigan had a three straight shut out streak going into the game and were ranked 12th in the nation. Michigan State was undefeated, but also underperforming and had slipped slightly in the rankings, as they were ranked seventh. Michigan had the lead throughout the game. Holding leads of seven (twice), nine, and finally, two. Michigan State had the ball and were driving down the field with under two minutes left, until Connor Cook’s fourth down pass was broken up and the game seemed over. The Wolverines weren’t quite able to run down the clock and had to punt it away with 10 seconds left. Unfortunately for Michigan and their fans the punt never occurred. After that final muffed punt, Blake O’Neill became a scapegoat for Michigan fans and Jalen Watts-Jackson became a Michigan State football hero.
These types of plays are both plays that will likely never happen again, which makes them so much more special. Also, the fact that they happened against rivals adds to the many classic moments each rivalry has had. Players from each side became famous, for better or for worse. These plays truly show that there’s absolutely NOTHING like college football.