Fri Jan 22 03:37pm EST
The best (and worst) of the year.
10. Mason Foster's Immaculate Interception. Trailing Arizona 33-21 with three minutes to play, Washington's Jake Locker hit Kavario Middleton on a touchdown pass to pull the Huskies within five, setting up a chance for a two-minute drill to win if the Washington defense could get 'Zona off the field for the first time in the second half. Thanks to Delashaun Dean's big toe, they did a little better than that:
The Huskies intercepted Nick Foles again on the Wildcats' final drive to secure the win and move to 2-1 in Pac-10 play, their best mark in conference play at any point since 2006.
9. Tim Brown takes it to the house. Two weeks after the disturbing murder of UConn cornerback Jasper Howard, Rutgers receiver Tim Brown -- one of Howard's best friends from their prep days in Miami -- honored his fallen friend by breaking his former team's heart on the most unlikely game-winner of the year:
UConn endured two more weeks of anguish, losing its third straight nail-biter since Howard's death at Cincinnati before finally breaking through in overtime at Notre Dame, the first of four straight wins to close the season.
8. Green goes over the top. It was ultimately overshadowed by the controversial celebration flag that followed, but A.J. Green's leaping grab over LSU's Chris Hawkins to give Georgia a late fourth-quarter lead on Oct. 3 stands as the year's most jaw-dropping display of athleticism:
Of course, the Tigers answered with the winning touchdown seconds later after being handed good field position by the penalty, but doesn't make Green any more coverable. (See a the catch with replays here, on a much lower-quality video. Thanks, XOS!)
7. Texas shovels its own grave. Down 17-7 with a true freshman quarterback unexpectedly thrown into the fire against the nation's best defense on the biggest possible stage, Texas hoped to get into the locker room against Alabama in the BCS Championship game with some shreds of hope intact. Instead, Garrett Gilbert's ill-fated shovel pass as the seconds ticked down will live on forever in Longhorn nightmares:
True freshman or not, I assume the obligatory Daniel Moore painting has already been commissioned.
6. C.J. Spiller. That is all. C.J. Spiller:
That is all.
Even the physics wonks recognized the most important variable: Decker held on for the touchdown.
4. Tyler Sash, Pinball Wizard. There's no adequate description for Tyler Sash's four-carom, 86-yard interception return to keep Iowa in a too-close-for-comfort win over Indiana on Halloween, so ... take it away, Tyler:
Assists on the play go to linebacker A.J. Edds and the poltergeists haunting Nile Kinnick Stadium.
3. Devan Cunningham lives the dream. It's well established in these parts that that rarely-seen art form of the fat guy touchdown is one of our favorite things, and the genre gained a new patron saint on the last Saturday of the regular season in Fresno State's Devan Cunningham, a 6'6", 350-pound offensive tackle who improbably found himself playing the hero on the Bulldogs' desperate, game-winning two-point attempt at Illinois:
It was just that kind of year for Ron Zook. (Actually, it's been that kind of career for Ron Zook ...)
2. Hawthorne hawks down Roundtree. With Illinois trailing 13-7, Michigan's Roy Roundtree took in a short pass from Tate Forcier, broke a tackle and was off to put the Wolverines up by two touchdowns. Roundtree was so obviously gone, in fact, clearly on his way to putting the Wolverines up by two touchdowns en route to handing the Illini their sixth straight Big Ten loss, that it hardly seemed worth it for Illinois freshman Terry Hawthorne to keep chasing him. But chase he did, until Hawthorne miraculously caught up just inside the five and dragged Roundtree down just short of the goal line to prevent the touchdown.
Four failed Michigan runs later, Illinois took over at its own one still trailing by only a touchdown; six plays after that, running back Michael LeShoure was gone for a 70-yard score that put the Illini up 14-13, the first of three straight touchdown drives by a supposedly lame-duck offense that suddenly looked like it had been hit with an adrenaline shot. The lopsided, 31-0 second half run on the way to a 38-13 upset was the first remotely positive moment of Illinois' season, and it doesn't happen if Hawthorne concedes the touchdown along with everyone else:
The win didn't turn around the Illini's season -- they limped in at 3-9 -- but Hawthorne's effort play was the demarcation point for Michigan's descent into hell: The Wolverines were a respectable 5-3 before the flop in Champaign, and subsequently dropped their last three to finish 5-7.
1. Vols can't scale Mt. Cody. Top-ranked Alabama had all but given away a certain home win on Oct. 24, when, instead of grinding out the final four minutes with a secure 12-3 lead against Tennessee, the Tide a) Lost a fumble; b) Allowed an opposing offense into the end zone for the first time in 11 quarters, cutting the lead to 12-10; c) Allowed the Vols to recover the subsequent onside kick; and d) Yielded completions of 14 and 23 yards by UT quarterback Jonathan Crompton to set up the game-winning, 44-yard field goal attempt by Daniel Lincoln with four seconds on the clock:
Cody's second critical block of the game reverberated even more loudly two-and-a-half months later, when the unbeaten Tide finished off Texas for a BCS title win that probably wouldn't have been possible without a 6'5", 360-pound elephant getting his mammoth paw in the path of Lincoln's kick. Every now and then, size matters.