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Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Young's TD run tops decade's best plays

By Mark Schlabach
ESPN.com

Editor's note: Each day this week, ESPN.com will look back at the best in college football over the past 10 years. On Tuesday, Mark Schlabach provides the top plays from the first decade of the 21st century.

They are the plays that became indelible images of college football.

Game-winning touchdown runs. Hail Mary passes. Blocked field goals. Trick plays. David beating Goliath.

College football had its share of memorable plays and finishes during the past decade, but only a few will be remembered for decades to come.

Here are the 10 greatest plays of the past 10 seasons:

Vince Young
Vince Young's TD run to beat USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl will be remembered for years to come.

1. Vince Young's run defeats Southern Cal in 2006 Rose Bowl

There wasn't a bigger individual play -- with more at stake -- than Texas quarterback Vince Young's touchdown run to beat USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl.

With Texas trailing defending national champion USC 38-33 at the Rose Bowl, the Longhorns faced fourth-and-5 at the Trojans' 8. Texas called "928 Sneak." Young took the snap and dropped back to pass. He scanned the field, going through his progressions, but couldn't find an open receiver.

When Young saw USC end Frostee Rucker hit tailback Selvin Young up the middle, he knew Rucker couldn't get back outside fast enough. So Young took off running for the end zone, sneaking inside the right pylon for an 8-yard touchdown with 19 seconds to go. Young added a two-point conversion run for good measure, giving the Longhorns a 41-38 victory and their first national championship in 35 years.

2. Boise State's "Statue of Liberty" beats Oklahoma
On a magical night in the Arizona desert on New Year's Day 2007, Cinderella came face to face with the Statue of Liberty.

After blowing a 28-10 lead against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, BCS buster Boise State trailed the Sooners 35-28 with less than one minute to play. But on fourth-and-18, the Broncos forced overtime with a stunning 50-yard touchdown on a "hook-and-ladder" play with seven seconds to go.

After the Sooners went ahead 42-35 on Adrian Peterson's 25-yard touchdown run in overtime, the Broncos went back to their bag of tricks. They pulled to within 42-41, after receiver Vinny Perretta lined up at quarterback and threw a 5-yard touchdown to tight end Derek Schouman. With the Broncos still facing a one-point deficit, coach Chris Petersen went for broke and left his kicker on the sideline.

The Broncos lined up for a two-point conversion, which would give them an improbable win. Quarterback Jared Zabransky took the snap and looked toward three receivers to his right. But then, with his best Statue of Liberty impression, Zabransky handed the ball behind his back to Ian Johnson, who ran to his left and into the end zone for a truly memorable win.

3. Michael Crabtree's touchdown catch upsets No. 1 Texas
The pass that Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell probably should have never thrown became the most famous catch of the past decade.

With Texas Tech trailing No. 1 Texas 33-32 at Jones AT&T Stadium on Nov. 1, 2008, the Red Raiders had the ball at the Longhorns' 28-yard line with eight seconds to play. Harrell took the snap and looked to his right, where All-America receiver Michael Crabtree was being double-teamed.

Nonetheless, Harrell let his pass fly, and Crabtree plucked the ball near the sideline. Crabtree shook off cornerback Curtis Brown's attempted tackle, planted his foot and pivoted, causing safety Earl Thomas to run past him. Crabtree ran into the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown with one second to play. The Red Raiders' 39-33 victory cost the Longhorns an outright Big 12 South title and a chance to play for the BCS national championship.

Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush
With a little help from Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart and USC stunned Notre Dame fans in South Bend.

4. "Bush Push" helps USC defeat Notre Dame
With Notre Dame wearing its green jerseys, and Joe Montana and "Rudy" cheering from the sideline, the Fighting Irish thought they'd returned to glory in upsetting defending national champion USC on Oct. 15, 2005. The Irish thought they'd won the highly anticipated game when Trojans quarterback Matt Leinart was stopped short of the goal line. When the ball flew out of bounds, there was no time left on the clock at Notre Dame Stadium.

But officials put seven seconds back on the clock, after they chased Notre Dame's fans from the field. Instead of spiking the ball to stop the clock on the next play, Leinart took the snap and ran to his left. He spun toward the goal line and got some unexpected help from teammate Reggie Bush, who pushed Leinart into the end zone for the winning score in a 34-31 victory.

5. LSU's "Bluegrass Miracle" stuns Kentucky
Just minutes after Kentucky kicked a 29-yard field goal with 11 seconds left to move ahead of defending SEC champion LSU 30-27 at Commonwealth Stadium on Nov. 9, 2002, the Wildcats doused coach Guy Morriss with a cooler full of ice water.

But on the game's final play, LSU quarterback Marcus Randall reached back and let the football fly. Down the field, Tigers receiver Michael Clayton reached to catch the ball, but could only tip it with his hand. Two Kentucky defenders also leaped to knock the ball down, but it somehow hit LSU's Devery Henderson in stride. He caught the Hail Mary pass at Kentucky's 15-yard line and ran into the end zone. On the other side of the field, some Wildcats fans were already tearing down the goal post in celebration.

Henderson's 75-yard touchdown catch gave LSU an improbable 33-30 victory. LSU's play -- dubbed "Dash Right 93 Berlin" by its coaches -- instantly became the "Bluegrass Miracle" to Tigers fans everywhere.

6. Appalachian State blocks field goal to stun mighty Michigan

App State celebration in win over Michigan
Appalachian State's season-opening upset of Michigan in 2007 was one of the biggest in history.

The 2007 season opener was supposed to be a warm-up for No. 5 Michigan. With quarterback Chad Henne, tailback Mike Hart and left tackle Jake Long returning to school to make another run at a Big Ten championship, the Wolverines were an overwhelming favorite over two-time defending FCS national champion Appalachian State.

But the Mountaineers stunned a crowd of more than 100,000 fans at Michigan Stadium by taking a 28-14 lead near the end of the second quarter. Michigan came back, though, surging ahead 32-31 on Hart's 54-yard touchdown with 4:36 left. But the Mountaineers drove down the field without a timeout, taking a 34-32 lead on Julian Rauch's 24-yard field goal with 26 seconds to play.

One of the biggest upsets in college football history wasn't complete until Appalachian State's Corey Lynch blocked a 37-yard field goal try on the game's final play.

7. Alabama receiver Tyrone Prothro's miraculous catch
Prothro's acrobatic catch against Southern Mississippi on Sept. 10, 2005 didn't even win the game. In fact, it didn't even happen in the second half.

But perhaps no play of the past decade was as remarkable. With the Crimson Tide trailing the Golden Eagles 21-10 near the end of the first half at Bryant-Denny Stadium, quarterback Brodie Croyle lofted a long pass to Prothro. While streaking down the field, Prothro somehow reached around Southern Miss defensive back Jasper Faulk's head and caught the ball. Even more remarkable, Prothro held possession as the players tumbled to the ground.

Officials initially ruled Prothro's catch a touchdown, but later spotted the ball at the 1-yard line. Croyle threw a touchdown to fullback Le'Ron McClain before the half, and the Tide rolled to a 30-21 victory in the second half. Three games later, Prothro's career came to a tragic end when he snapped his lower left leg against Florida.

8. Iowa's "Hail Mary" stuns LSU in 2005 Capital One Bowl
It was perhaps the most stunning ending of the decade. LSU was ready to send coach Nick Saban off to the NFL as a winner in the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day 2005, after rallying from a 24-12 deficit in the fourth quarter.

Quarterback JaMarcus Russell came off the bench to throw two touchdowns to Skyler Green, the second of which put the Tigers ahead 25-24 with 46 seconds to play. But on the final play, Iowa quarterback Drew Tate lofted a Hail Mary pass, which was pulled down at the 15-yard line by Warren Holloway. Holloway, a fifth-year senior, ran into the end zone for the first touchdown catch of his career.

After losing his final LSU game 30-25 to the Hawkeyes in Orlando, Fla., Saban left the next week for the Miami Dolphins.

Jenkins
Michael Jenkins' game winner against Purdue was a huge play in Ohio State's 2002 national championship season.

9. "Holy Buckeye" keeps Ohio State unbeaten
In the 11th game of the 2002 season, No. 3 Ohio State found itself in a surprising dogfight with 4-5 Purdue. The Buckeyes, who were trying to remain in position to play for a national championship, trailed the Boilermakers 6-3 late in the fourth quarter.

Facing fourth-and-1 at the Purdue 37 with less than two minutes to play, coach Jim Tressel abandoned his normally conservative play book and went for broke. Tressel called "King Right 64 Y Shallow Swap," which, in layman's terms, meant go for the end zone. Gambling that Purdue's defense would be anticipating a run, quarterback Craig Krenzel dropped back and threw down the field.

Receiver Michael Jenkins beat defensive back Antwaun Rogers for the ball and ran into the end zone for a 37-yard touchdown. The Buckeyes intercepted a Purdue pass in the final seconds to seal their 10-6 victory. Ohio State went on to beat Illinois and Michigan in similarly dramatic fashion, and then upset No. 1 Miami 31-24 in the Fiesta Bowl to win the 2002 BCS national championship.

10. Small-school miracle becomes YouTube sensation
Only 3,974 fans watched Trinity (Texas) University beat Millsaps College 28-24 at Harper Davis Field in Jackson, Miss., on Oct. 27, 2007. About 1 million more probably watched the game's crazy ending over and over.

With Millsaps holding a 24-22 lead with two seconds to play, Trinity quarterback Blake Barmore dumped a short pass over the middle to Shawn Thompson. Over the next 46 seconds, seven different Trinity players touched the football via 15 laterals. Remarkably, there wasn't a single penalty.

After all the madness, Trinity's Riley Curry ran 44 yards to the end zone for the winning touchdown with no time left.

Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.