Pac-10 clutch performers from the past

August, 1, 2008
8/01/08
12:46
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

What an impossible list to make.

You invariably leave out obvious choices (John Elway? Jim Plunkett? Where's the Stanford guy?). You also, invariably, favor more recent players. I covered five of these guys. 

The only reprieve I got was when my boss said to do these alphabetically instead of ranking them, thereby allowing me to avoid distinguishing between Joey Harrington, Jason Gesser and Marques Tuiasosopo and setting off another Northwest War of Words.

All these guys are clutch, though, which I define as making big plays at big moments in winning efforts.

Terry Baker, QB, Oregon State: The first Heisman Trophy winner from the West Coast, Baker's 99-yard touchdown run was the only score in the Beavers' 6-0 victory in the 1962 Liberty Bowl. That season, Baker was a one-man wrecking crew, passing for 3,476 yards and 23 TDs and rushing for 1,503 yards and 15 TDs. The Beavers wouldn't win another bowl game until the 2001 Fiesta Bowl.

Vic Bottari, HB, California: A three-year starter, team captain and consensus All-American in 1938, "Vallejo Vic" lost just one game his entire career, in which he scored a school-record 145 points. He scored both TDs in Cal's 13-0 victory over Alabama in the 1938 Rose Bowl. That dominant team -- the "Thunder Team" -- finished 9-0-1 and outscored its foes, 201-33. The Bears haven't won a Rose Bowl since.

Jason Gesser, QB, Washington State: Gesser is the program's winningest QB and the only Cougar to be elected team captain three seasons. He led the Cougars to the 2003 Rose Bowl because he engineered a fourth-quarter comeback to beat Carson Palmer and USC.

Joey Harrington, QB, Oregon: His NFL struggles can't obscure what he did in college, which was lead the Ducks to a 25-3 record in his starts, including nine fourth-quarter comebacks and a 3-0 record in bowl games. He threw 59 TD passes and led Oregon to final rankings of No. 7 and No. 2 after the 2000 and 2001 seasons, respectively.

Matt Leinart, QB, USC: He won two national championships and played brilliantly in a losing effort trying to win a third against Texas after the 2005 season. He won the 2004 Heisman Trophy, and was at the center of one of the most amazing comebacks in college football history: USC's 34-31 victory at Notre Dame that included a fourth-and-9 completion and a "Bush Push" QB sneak for the winning score with three seconds remaining.

Cade McNown, QB, UCLA: His NFL career never flourished, but UCLA fans remember him as the QB who beat USC four times, including a rally from a 17-point fourth quarter deficit for a 48-41 OT victory in 1996. Further exploits: A 41-38 overtime win over Oregon in 1998; three TD passes in a 31-24 1997 victory at USC; two TD passes and another on the ground in a 29-23 Cotton Bowl victory over Texas A&M.

Marques Tuiasosopo, QB, Washington: He engineered five fourth-quarter comebacks during the 2000 season and won the Rose Bowl MVP award. His most dramatic work? A three-play, three-completion, 80-yard TD drive with less than a minute remaining and no timeouts to beat Stanford.

Jake Plummer, QB, Arizona State: Jake "The Snake" was the swashbuckling face of the 1996 Sun Devils. He led them to a double-overtime victory over USC and accounted for three TDs in the final eight minutes in a comeback win over UCLA. He nearly led ASU to a perfect season, falling victim to a late Ohio State TD in the Rose Bowl.

Charles White, RB, USC: The 1979 Heisman Trophy winner finished his career with nearly 6,000 yards rushing, but it was his MVP performance in the 1980 Rose Bowl that cemented his name in clutch lore. White rushed for a bowl-record 247 yards in the Trojans' 17-16 comeback victory. On the game-winning drive, he carried six times for 71 yards.

Max Zendejas, K, Arizona: As a freshman in 1982, his 48-yard field goal with no time remaining gave Arizona a 16-13 win over then-No. 9 Notre Dame. He went on to kick critical field goals in two victories over Arizona State and rewrite the school's record book.

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