NCF Nation: Kordell Stewart
Colorado running back Rashaan Salaam says the game meant more to him than winning the Heisman. Michigan assistant Greg Mattison says it still feels as if it all happened 10 minutes ago.
Twenty years ago today, the No. 7 Colorado Buffaloes shocked the nation -- and the Big House -- when they rallied from a 12-point deficit with less than three minutes left to beat the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines on a last-second, 64-yard Hail Mary. The college football world will forever remember the play as the Miracle at Michigan.
Wolverines players were beside themselves. Linebacker Jarrett Irons says he never thought they would lose the game. Defensive back Chuck Winters says one Michigan assistant just “went off” on players in the locker room and had to be pulled away.
No one thought the play was possible. Buffaloes quarterback Kordell Stewart evaded a three-man rush and then hurled the ball nearly 70 yards, before one wideout tipped it and wideout Michael Westbrook pulled it in.
Those interviewed say they’ve never experienced anything else quite like that in their lives. Said ABC sports commentator Keith Jackson: “It’s part of your soul the rest of your life.”
Click here to read the oral history of the Miracle at Michigan, from the time before the catch to the actual catch, immediate aftermath and long-term impact.
2. Speaking of selling tickets, anyone for a Florida State-Georgia Tech ACC Championship Game in Charlotte? If Miami (5-5) wins its sixth game, there is talk that the university may self-impose a postseason ban in the Nevin Shapiro case. That means the winner of Duke (6-4, 3-3) and Georgia Tech (5-5, 4-3) could play for the ACC title, while No. 11 Clemson (9-1, 6-1) would not. Maybe the conferences with championship games should consider a rule that an unranked division champion with three conference losses must step aside for a top-15 runner-up in the other division.
3. In 1994 at Michigan, Colorado wide receiver Blake Anderson tipped a 64-yard Hail Mary pass that quarterback Kordell Stewart threw as time expired. Michael Westbrook caught the deflection, and Colorado won, 27-26. Anderson didn’t return to Michigan until last week, when he saw his godson, Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter, play in the Big House. Michigan completed a 53-yard Hail Mary to set up a game-tying field goal with :02 left. The Wolverines won in overtime, 38-31. “I guess it was karma,” Anderson said. You think?
At least one reader pleaded for some consideration of Salaam, and not without justification. In 1994 he was just the fourth player to rush for more than 2,000 yards (2,055) in a season. This was before bowl games counted, which has served to inflate recent numbers.
Salaam, who won the Heisman over Penn State great Ki-Jana Carter and an impressive list of other players, led the nation in rushing, scoring (24 touchdowns) and all-purpose yards (213.8). He played for a team that finished 11-1 and ranked No. 3 in the final polls. But it wasn't just about his numbers or his team's success. It was about quality opposition.
Colorado played six ranked teams -- three top-10 teams -- during the first eight weeks of the season. Through eight games, Salaam had rushed for 1,390 yards; 1,041 against ranked teams. That's 173.5 yards per game against ranked foes.
That crew of Buffs, by the way, was a heck of a collection of players, particularly on offense. Early in the season, it wasn't easy to figure who the team's top Heisman candidate was: Salaam, quarterback Kordell Stewart or receiver Michael Westbrook. Westbrook made "The Catch" at Michigan that season, one of the all-time great college football stunners. By the way, Salaam had 141 yards in the Big House, more than any visiting back since Ohio State's Archie Griffin in 1973.
The next weekend at Texas, Salaam rushed for 317 yards, with a school record 362 all-purpose yards.
The only time he was held to fewer than 100 yards was against Wisconsin. Of course, he did score four touchdowns against the Badgers.
Salaam hit 2,000 yards in game 11. How? With 1,988 yards entering the fourth quarter, he took a pitch against Iowa State and raced 67 yards for a touchdown.
Here's the game-by-game for Salaam's 1994 season, with his carries, yards and touchdowns.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Happy Friday afternoon. Here are some of the better questions and e-mails that I received this week.
Brian Kimble of Beltsville, Md., writes: After seeing the preseason All-Big 12 list and looking back at several articles from you and other sources, it seems every time Oklahoma and Texas are compared position by position, player by player, it favors OU. Yet, most prognosticators (yourself included) pick Texas as the better team. What is your justification?
Tim Griffin: Brian, I give Texas a slight edge for a couple of reasons. First, I think Oklahoma's loss of four starters along the offensive line is huge. With only one starter returning, the Sooners will have their work cut out to fix that by Oct. 17 at the Cotton Bowl. And I, along with several other people I've talked to, believe that Texas is entering the season with a kind of a collective chip on its shoulder from how the 2008 season played out. The Longhorns' coaching staff is helping to feed that by at one time awarding the team an asterisk-influenced share of the Big 12 title in their team meeting room before taking it down. And I also think that Colt McCoy is driven to win a championship.
I think the difference between the two teams is very, very slight. But I favor the Longhorns by a hair for those reasons.
I do reserve the right to change my mind before game day. But if they were playing today, I would make the Longhorns a slight favorite, say by about a field goal.
Drew Kappel of Orange County, Calif., writes: Hey Tim, I was shocked to see that "The Catch", the Kordell Stewart-to-Michael Westbrook pass in the famous "Miracle in Michigan" was not on your Big 12 greatest moments. Did I miss something? I was waiting for that every week and I just assumed it would be number 1, and then I was shocked when it wasn't. That is one of the most famous moments in Big 12 history as far as many Buff fans are concerned.
Tim Griffin: Drew, I limited my choices to moments during the history of the Big 12. The "Michigan Miracle," which I agree was one of the greatest plays in college football history, took place on Sept. 24, 1994 -- a little more than two years before the first Big 12 game was played in 1996.
But it was a great play and definitely would have merited some kind of inclusion if I had allowed all plays in the history of each Big 12 school to be included.
But it was tough enough narrowing my choice to 25 with those in Big 12 history. I couldn't have imagined how difficult it would have been if I had to cull through every school's football history looking for memories.
Maybe I'll do that next summer.
Spencer from Oklahoma writes: Tim, I'm a fan of yours and enjoy reading your blog, including the latest entry regarding 100-yard receivers and rushers and 300-yard passers. I noticed something from that study, and I wondered what you thought of this.
I saw that Sam Bradford had 13 games of 300 yards. However, there were only two instances of receivers at Oklahoma having 100-yard games. One belonged to Ryan Broyles, the other to Jermaine Gresham. I found this astonishing.
The other QB to have 13 300-yard games was Kansas' Todd Reesing. However, notice the instances of 100-yard receivers for the Jayhawks. They have 15!! Dezmon Briscoe had seven, Kerry Meier had five and three others had one 100-yard game apiece.
Is this surprising that Oklahoma has only had two receivers with a single 100-yard game among its receivers, despite the passing numbers put up by Bradford? And does this speak to the versatility of Bradford using all his outlets? What are your thoughts?
Tim Griffin: My list includes only players who are returning for the 2009 season. What it might speak to even more than anything were the losses that the Sooners endured with the departure of Juaquin Iglesias and Manny Johnson. Iglesias had seven career 100-yard receiving games, including three last season. Johnson had three career 100-yard receiving games, including two last season.
But I've noticed that Bradford has matured, he seems to be less likely to focus on one receiver. I think that results in a wider inclusion of many receivers into his offense rather than one or two. And that results in the fewer number of 100-yard receivers around the Oklahoma program.
That being said, I look for Broyles to really emerge as a deep threat this season if he can stay healthy. And Adron "Pooh" Tennell looked ready to produce after a strong season. And I think both can develop into consistent big-yardage receivers if they grab enough passes.
Tim from New York City writes: I have a question that has Big 12 (actually Big 8) ties regarding a coach outside of the conference. Given Turner Gill's recent success at and brief turnaround of one of Division I's ultimate projects at Buffalo, is it a long shot to believe that he may make a return to his former conference? If so, what teams would make a good fit for him?
Tim Griffin: Turner Gill has done a masterful job in rebuilding Buffalo after leading the Bulls to the Mid-American Conference championship and the International Bowl last season.
That strong job obviously has to have caught the attention of his old coach, Tom Osborne, which would make some think that Nebraska would be a place he might end up as a head coach. For that to happen, Bo Pelini would have to go on to another job. I think Gill might need a tad more more seasoning at Buffalo. And I don't see any interest in Pelini pursuing any other jobs at this time.
Another job that will come open probably pretty soon will be Kansas State, where there's no indication that Bill Snyder is in the head coaching position for the long term. Maybe Snyder, who turns 70 on Oct. 7, will stay at his old school for two or three years. It would be interesting if Gill would be attracted to Kansas State and if the Wildcats would be attracted to him.
I think the job that would make sense to him would be at TCU in his hometown of Fort Worth, Texas. Obviously, Gary Patterson would have to being going somewhere and I don't know how much interest Patterson has in pursuing other jobs at this time.
But I personally think that TCU might be the best non-BCS job in the country. And it might be better than some jobs in the Big 12. The reason I consider this job so highly include its proximity to the fertile Texas recruiting area, the developing facilities at the school, the school's winning tradition and its conference affiliation.
Patterson currently has an easier road to the BCS in his own conference than he would if the Horned Frogs were playing in the Big 12. And I think he knows it.
But I would also think the chance to return home for Gill would be attractive if the opportunity to accept the TCU job if it ever materialized for him.
Rick Yarbrough from Tripoli, Libya, writes: Football over here is with a round ball and guys in shorts. I'm gonna miss the fall afternoons watching the Longhorns running up and down the field. With a Sunday - Thursday work week and 7 hours time difference, I'm looking to you to keep us up to speed on the Longhorns. Keep up the great work. I'll be catching your blog.
Tim Griffin: Rick, thanks for your work. Please check the blog often during the upcoming season for some updates of home on a pretty regular basis. It should be an interesting season.
And boy, do I envy your days off. You should be able to catch almost every college football game from everywhere, depending on the satellites.
Larry Soper writes: Tim: Nice article on Taylor Potts on ESPN.com earlier this week. Could you please tell me what the Texas Tech receivers look like for Potts with Michael Crabtree gone?
Tim Griffin: Obviously, the loss of two-time Biletnikoff winner will be a big one for Texas Tech. But I think the Red Raiders actually will be more balanced this season without one player commanding most of the catches like Crabtree has done for the last two seasons. I look for Detron Lewis to step up in the featured role with a chance to catch 90-100 balls if he can stay healthy. But I've always liked Edward Britton, who I think could really blossom if he matures in his role in the offense. I think the same could be true for Tremain Swindall as well. And I know that Mike Leach has always raved about Lyle Leong and Adam James as they have played in his system.
I wouldn't look for one player to catch most of the passes for Tech this season. But it will be interesting to see who Potts gravitates to as his receiver. We'll see that as the season plays out for the Red Raiders.
Tom Bates from Oklahoma City writes: Hey, Tim, I know media day is coming up for you. I wonder if you would list your favorite three players and three coaches in the Big 12 to talk with. And maybe give a reason why you find those guys to be the best interviews.
Tim Griffin: As far as players go, this would be my list. 1. Sean Weatherspoon, Missouri - Always has something interesting to say. 2. Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma - I can see why Sooner players have gravitated to him since his arrival. He's a leader and his words command respect. 3. Kerry Meier, Kansas - Polished and well spoken. He could have a career behind the microphone after his playing days are over.
As far as coaches, this is how I would rank them: 1. Texas Tech coach Mike Leach - You never know what know what he's going to say. And that's the beauty of him. 2. Baylor coach Art Briles - Still has enough small-town Texas high-school football coach in him to always have some interesting comments. 3. Colorado coach Dan Hawkins - I never had heard the word "conflama" before I met the Hawk. But it's grown in my vocabulary since being around him to describe the combination of conflict and drama.
I also loved his comment on taking his wife to an Abba concert during the 2007 season. "You stay married for 25 years by making sacrifices."
We could all learn from that attitude, I guess.
Have a good weekend. I'll catch up with you on Monday from the Big 12 media days in Irving, Texas. Thanks again for all of the good questions and please keep them coming.