SEC: Robert Neyland

Yards to Glory, SEC version

August, 1, 2011
8/01/11
3:28
PM ET
We kicked off a series Monday at ESPN.com that we're calling "Yards to Glory."

It's a look at some of the most famous touchdown plays in college football history, spanning from 100-plus yards all the way to zero yards.

We've got every yard marker covered, and not surprisingly, the SEC is well represented.

The first installment looks at touchdown plays from 100-plus yards to 81 yards, and eight of those plays involve SEC teams.

Here's a rundown:

100-plus. Tiger Return
Richie Luzzi returns missed FG 108 yards
Sept. 28, 1968: The official NCAA record books don't list any returns longer than 100 yards, but Clemson fans and historians know Richie Luzzi was eight yards deep in the end zone when he caught Georgia's 47-yard missed field goal attempt and ran it back for what still stands as the longest play in Clemson history. The three-time defending ACC champs lost the game in Athens, Ga., 31-13, but Luzzi's play in the second quarter gave the Tigers some momentum -- and history.
-- Heather Dinich

98. Opening Statement
Gene McEver takes back opening kickoff versus Alabama
Oct. 20, 1928: Gene McEver returned the game's opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown to help Tennessee beat heavily favored Alabama 15-13 at Denny Field in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The game rekindled the Alabama-Tennessee series, and the Vols and their third-year coach, Robert Neyland, launched themselves into the upper tier of Southern college football powerhouses. That win was also part of a 33-game stretch in which Tennessee didn't lose a game from 1926-30.
-- Chris Low

95. Out Of Bounds
Dickie Maegle awarded TD after illegal tackle
Jan. 1, 1954: With Rice leading 7-6, Owls star Dickie Maegle caught a kickoff at his 5-yard line and took off down the Alabama sideline. Tide fullback Tommy Lewis, watching from the sideline, would have none of it. Lewis, sans helmet, raced onto the field and flattened Maegle just past midfield. The officials, sticklers for rules, awarded Maegle the touchdown. Lewis gained celebrity that remains unwanted to this day. His explanation: "I guess I'm too full of Alabama."
-- Ivan Maisel

92. Run, Lindsay, Run
Buck Belue and Lindsay Scott keep Georgia undefeated
Nov. 8, 1980: With No. 1 Georgia trailing Florida 21-20 with 90 seconds left, UGA receiver Lindsay Scott caught a pass from quarterback Buck Belue at UGA's 25-yard line and ran for a 92-yard touchdown to defeat Florida 26-21, keeping the Bulldogs' undefeated and national championship-winning season intact. It was the greatest single play in one of college football's greatest rivalries and produced one of the greatest play-by-play calls in sports radio history.
-- Mark Schlabach

89. Halloween Havoc
Billy Cannon's punt return sparks
LSU Oct. 31, 1959: In perhaps the most famous play in SEC history, LSU's Billy Cannon broke seven tackles in taking back a punt 89 yards for a touchdown on Halloween night to lift No. 1-ranked LSU to a 7-3 victory over No. 3-ranked Ole Miss at Tiger Stadium. He fielded the punt on the bounce at his own 11 and began shedding Ole Miss defenders before finally breaking into the clear. Cannon won the Heisman Trophy that season.
-- Chris Low

86. Heath Bar
Leon Heath starts Sugar Bowl rout
Jan. 2, 1950: No. 2 Oklahoma entered the 1950 Sugar Bowl at 9-0, and former LSU player Piggy Barnes must have been worried about his Tigers, who entered at 8-1 and ranked No. 10. Barnes was caught spying on Oklahoma's practices with a telescope and camera, but it didn't work well. Leon Heath broke a scoreless tie in the second quarter with an 86-yard run and added a 34-yard run later in the quarter to send the Sooners to a 35-0 win and take home MVP honors.
-- David Ubben

85. Block Party
Floyd Miley scores off a blocked field goal
Nov. 9, 1991: With Tennessee trailing by 24 to national title contender Notre Dame, the Volunteers' Floyd Miley changed everything when he returned a blocked Craig Hentrich field goal attempt 85 yards for a touchdown just before halftime. Hentrich sprained his knee on the play and was replaced by sophomore walk-on Rob Leonard. The Vols eventually charged back to upset the fifth-ranked Irish 35-34 in South Bend, after Leonard missed a last-second 27-yard field goal.
-- Edward Aschoff

81. Propelling Punt
Ken Hatfield's punt return beats Texas
Oct. 17, 1964: The Longhorns were the defending national champions, ranked No. 1 and solidly favored to beat rival Arkansas for the fourth year in a row. But when Texas punter Ernie Koy outkicked his coverage, Ken Hatfield made the Horns pay with a well-blocked runback that propelled the Razorbacks to a 14-13 victory. Arkansas shut out its next five opponents, then beat Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl to win the national title. Hatfield went on to coach the Hogs in the 1980s, and his .760 winning percentage remains the best in school history.
-- Pat Forde

My take on the Tennessee SportsNation results

June, 5, 2009
6/05/09
2:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

Here's a look at the SportsNation results from the Tennessee stop in College Football Live's "50 States Tour" and whether or not I agree:

1. Which team is the best in state history?

SportsNation results (11,353 votes)

  • 1998 Tennessee, 13-0, national champions: 83 percent
  • 1938 Tennessee, 11-0, national champions: 9 percent
  • 1951 Tennessee, 10-1, national champions: 4 percent
  • 1982 Tennessee State, 10-1-1: 3 percent
  • 1939 Tennessee, 10-1, SEC champions: 1 percent

My take: Disagree

It's impossible to compare eras, but Gen. Robert Neyland's teams in 1938 and 1939 were beyond dominant. The 1938 Vols shut out eight of their 11 opponents and only gave up 16 points all year, ending the season with a 17-0 victory over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. The 1939 Vols remain the last team in NCAA history to go unscored upon in regular-season play. They were beaten by Southern California 14-0 in the Rose Bowl. The 1998 season was a magical ride for the Vols, and that team was filled with great players. But what Tennessee did in 1938 and 1939 is hard to trump. 

2. Which player is the best in state history?

SportsNation results (11,694 votes)

  • Peyton Manning: 71 percent
  • Reggie White: 21 percent
  • Terrell Owens: 4 percent
  • Ed "Too Tall" Jones: 3 percent
  • Isaac Bruce: 2 percent

My take: Agree

Manning will go down as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game, and he remains an icon in Tennessee. His coming to Tennessee in 1994 paved the way to the Vols' incredible run in the 1990s. The late Reggie White is one of the most dominant defensive linemen to ever play the game and is right there on Manning's coattails. He was utterly unblockable during his senior season at Tennessee in 1983. Ed "Too Tall" Jones also deserves some more love.

3. Which coach is the best in state history?

SportsNation results (11,230 votes)

  • Gen. Robert Neyland, Tennessee: 52 percent
  • Phillip Fulmer, Tennessee: 26 percent
  • John Merritt, Tennessee State: 14 percent
  • Dan McGugin, Vanderbilt: 6 percent
  • Billy Murphy, Memphis: 3 percent

My take: Agree

No contest here. Neyland served three different stints at Tennessee while also serving his country during war time. He's the father of Tennessee football, a College Hall of Fame member and the winningest coach in school history. Fulmer delivered the Vols their first national title in 47 years and is a lock to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and doesn't John Majors have to be on this list somewhere? Also, go back and look at how badly McGugin was beating teams in the early 1900's. He coached the Commodores for three decades and was inducted into the Hall of Fame after compiling a 197-55-19 record.

4. Which was the best game in state history?

SportsNation results (10,464)

  • 2001 Tennessee over Florida (34-32): 33 percent
  • 1998 Tennessee over Florida (20-17): 28 percent
  • 1991 Tennessee over Notre Dame (35-34): 20 percent
  • 1999 Tennessee over Florida State (23-16): 12 percent
  • 1982 Tennessee over Alabama (35-28): 7 percent

My take: Disagree

That 2001 win over the Gators in the Swamp was no doubt a classic, but the 20-17 overtime win over Florida in 1998, paving the way for the Vols to win the national title, would be my No. 1 choice. And where's the 16-14 win over Alabama in 1985? I can still see Dale Jones deflecting Mike Shula's pass near the line of scrimmage and cradling it for an interception just before it hit the ground.

5. Which game had the most memorable finish?

SportsNation results (10,386 votes)

  • 1998 Tennessee over Florida (20-17): 43 percent
  • 1998 Tennessee over Arkansas (28-24): 23 percent
  • 2008 Middle Tennessee over FAU (14-13): 14 percent
  • 1999 Vanderbilt over Ole Miss (37-34): 11 percent
  • 1996 Memphis over Tennessee (21-17): 9 percent

My take: Disagree

Neyland Stadium has never rocked the way it did that night when Arkansas quarterback Clint Stoerner fumbled in the final two minutes and Billy Ratliff recovered for the Vols. Left for dead, Tennessee miraculously escaped to keep its national championship dreams alive. The folks in Memphis would probably argue that the 1996 game at the Liberty Bowl featured a pretty memorable finish. It's certainly one of the biggest football upsets involving two teams from the state of Tennessee.

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