Adams' punt return highlights top plays

November, 15, 2011
11/15/11
1:00
PM ET
We’ve heard all sorts of descriptions for Joe Adams’ 60-yard punt return for a touchdown last week against Tennessee.

Electrifying. Jaw-dropping. Brilliant. Spectacular. Sick.

Choose the one you like best. But we all may be watching football for a long time before we see a better punt return.

Of course, there’s also the flip side to that play, which was Tennessee’s shoddy tackling.

In tribute to Adams’ gem, we’ve ranked the 10 best plays of the year so far in the SEC.

Guess which one tops list:

1. Arkansas’ Joe Adams returning a punt 60 yards for a touchdown, Nov. 12 vs. Tennessee: There were at least six and maybe seven defenders who had a chance at Adams. At one point, he was running backward, but managed to get turned back around. He then bounced off a cluster of defenders, found a crease and turned on the jets down the right sideline for his third punt return for a touchdown this season.

2. LSU’s Eric Reid intercepting a pass at the 1-yard line, Nov. 5 vs. Alabama: Reid almost got there too late. The pass, thrown by Alabama receiver Marquis Maze, sort of hung up there, and Alabama tight end Michael Williams initially had it in his hands. But while they were both in the air, Reid wrestled the ball away from Williams and came down with it at the 1 in a fourth-quarter play they will remember for a long time on the Bayou.

3. Alabama’s Trent Richardson running 76 yards for a touchdown, Oct. 15 vs. Ole Miss: If you want to see power, speed and eye-popping moves on one play, go back and check out Richardson’s run against the Rebels. And what everybody remembers is Richardson freezing Ole Miss’ Senquez Golson just inside the 15 and then scooting into the end zone.

4. South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram running 68 yards for a touchdown on a fake punt, Sept. 10 vs. Georgia: How many times do you see a 276-pound defensive lineman showcasing that kind of speed and athleticism? Ingram, one of the better all-around athletes in the league, finished the run by shaking Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin on the sideline to get into the end zone.

5. Arkansas’ Jarius Wright pulling in a 40-yard catch, Nov. 12 vs. Tennessee: Wright tied the Arkansas career record for catches with what had to be the most improbable one of his career. It looked like he was bumped by Tennessee defender Justin Coleman before the ball got there, but Wright was able to reach back and tip the ball three different times, one of those bouncing off his face mask, and he then stretched out and cradled the ball before it hit the turf. Talk about not giving up on a play.

6. LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu scoring on a 23-yard fumble return, Oct. 1 vs. Kentucky: The legend of the Honey Badger was just taking off when he sacked Kentucky quarterback Maxwell Smith and caused Smith to fumble. Mathieu scooped up the fumble and returned it 23 yards for a touchdown. So on one play, Mathieu got credit for a sack, forced fumble, recovered fumble and touchdown.

7. Alabama’s Marquis Maze returning a punt 83 yards for a touchdown, Sept. 24 vs. Arkansas: Maze weaved his way through a sea of Arkansas defenders, showing his vision, his speed, his cutback ability and his patience along the way. It was about as textbook as a punt return can be executed on all fronts.

8. LSU’s Morris Claiborne returning a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, Sept. 24 vs. West Virginia: The Mountaineers had just pulled within 27-21 late in the third quarter and their fans were rocking. Claiborne quickly quieted things with a back-breaking kickoff return for a touchdown that saw him somehow escape on the left sideline and then leave a vapor trail on his way to the end zone.

9. Vanderbilt’s Ryan Fowler throwing a 35-yard pass on a fake punt, Oct. 15 vs. Georgia: The Commodores, trailing 10-0 in the second quarter and backed up on their own 22, dialed up a fake punt that had sandlot written all over it. Everybody for Vanderbilt shifted to the left side, and Fowler took the snap, rolled right and lofted a pass over the Georgia defenders’ heads to his long snapper, Andrew East. The play set up Vanderbilt’s first touchdown.

10. Georgia’s Tavarres King pulling in a 14-yard touchdown pass on fourth down, Oct. 29. vs. Florida: With it fourth-and-6 from the Florida 14 midway through the third quarter, Georgia coach Mark Richt decided to go for it. King went skyward and pulled in Aaron Murray’s jump-ball pass in the corner of the end zone to tie the game at 17-17. It was the Bulldogs’ second touchdown pass of the game on fourth down.

Chris Low | email

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