|The List: Greatest bowl games|
Page 2 staff
This week, Page 2 posts its list of the top 10 greatest bowl games ever played.
The 2002 college football regular season has long been put to bed, but with the New Year approaching, millions of fans still have bowl on the brain. Everything from bragging rights, to national titles, to sponsorship spectaculars are on the table. In the spirit of the season, check out our list of favorite bowl games, then be sure to vote in the poll on the right to crown the best bowl battle of them all.
1. 1979 Sugar Bowl (Penn State vs. Alabama)
Jackson's call: "Fourth down and a foot separating top-ranked Penn State from a possible national championship. Fusina hands to Guman. He didn't make it! He didn't make it! What an unbelievable goal line stand by Alabama!" There are still four minutes remaining, and Penn State gets another chance, but Alabama holds on for the 14-7 victory.
2. 1984 Orange Bowl (Miami vs. Nebraska)
Nebraska comes back in a stunning fashion. Jeff Smith scores two TDs, including a 24-yarder on fourth-and-eight, to make it 31-30 with 48 seconds remaining. Huskers coach Tom Osbourne calls for a two-point conversion attempt. "We wanted an undefeated season and a clear-cut championship. I don't think we should go for the tie in that case. It never entered my head," he says.
The attempt fails when a Turner Gill pass is knocked down by Ken Calhoun. The Hurricanes, 11 1/2-point underdogs, win the game and the national title.
If Nebraska had played it safe and kicked the PAT, a tie would have likely kept them atop both polls. But they end up ranked No. 2. Says Osbourne, "I guess I'm not very smart."
3. 1979 Cotton Bowl (Notre Dame vs. U. of Houston)
Houston adds another 14, as Montana stays in the locker room, struggling to stay warm. With the score 34-12, there seems no reason for him to go back outside. "We knew for a fact people were clicking off their TVs all over the country," Notre Dame center Dave Huffman recalled. "You could hear the ratings drop every time Houston went up another point."
But Montana did go back outside, and here the Montana legend began. Not much happens until Notre Dame's Steve Cichy grabs a Cougar punt blocked by Tom Belden and scampers 33 yards for a TD. Montana connects with Vagas Ferguson on a two-point conversion to bring the Irish within two TDs with 7:25 left. On their next possession, Notre Dame drives 61 yards with Montana running the last three into the end zone, then throws for another successful two-point conversion with 4:15 remaining. 34-28. There it remains, until the Irish get the ball for a final chance. With the clock reading :00, Montana connects with Kris Haines on an eight-yard TD pass, and walk-on kicker Joe Unis nails the PAT. Notre Dame 35, Houston 34.
What revived the sick and cold Notre Dame QB? Chicken soup. It was a magical combo, wrote Steve Wulf in Time, "an Italian leading the Irish to triumph thanks to a traditional Jewish remedy."
4. 1980 Holiday Bowl (SMU vs. BYU)
But BYU has the ball, and with 2:35 left, Jim McMahon tosses a 15-yard TD pass to wide receiver Matt Braga, making the score 45-31 after a failed two-point attempt. BYU then recovers an onsides kick at midfield, and McMahon throws two quick completions to move the Cougars to the one, and tailback Scott Phillips runs in from there. 45-37.
Two-point conversion, McMahon to Phillips. 45-39. 1:58 remaining.
Another onsides kick by BYU is recovered by SMU, but the Cougar defense holds, and the Mustangs are forced to punt. The kick is blocked. With 41 seconds left, BYU has the ball 41 yards from paydirt.
McMahon has three plays left. He throws two incomplete passes. On the last play of the game, he drops back 13 yards, all the way to his own 46, then hurls it. Hail Mary. Clay Brown comes up with it amid a harrass of Mustangs.
Tie game, 45-45, no time remaining. Kurt Gunther kicks the PAT, and BYU wins, 46-45, scoring 21 points in the final three minutes. McMahon completes 32 of 49 for 446 yards and four TDs.
5. 1973 Sugar Bowl (Notre Dame vs. Alabama)
The teams battle into the fourth quarter with Notre Dame leading 21-17. On a trick play, Alabama halfback Mike Stock tosses a 25-yard TD pass to backup QB Richard Todd, putting the Tide ahead 23-21. Kicker Bill Davis misses the PAT. Notre Dame kicks a field goal with 4:26 remaining to pull ahead for good, 24-23. The AP's final poll rewards the Irish by vaulting them ahead of Alabama to the No. 1 ranking.
6. 1963 Rose Bowl (USC vs. Wisconsin)
That takes a while. Badger QB Ron VanderKelen throws for two touchdowns as Wisconsin scores 23 points in the last 12 minutes, bringing the score to 42-37. Unfortunately, the clock runs out, but VanderKelen's performance (33 of 48 for 401 yards) is unforgettable, as is the comeback that almost was.
McKay is a bit of a sore winner. "We're still No. 1 and they're still No. 2," he says. "They're a good team, but they'd finish about sixth in our league."
7. 1994 Orange Bowl (Florida State vs. Nebraska)
8. 1980 Rose Bowl (USC vs. Ohio State)
9. 1965 Orange Bowl (Alabama vs. Texas)
10. 1997 Rose Bowl (Ohio State vs. Arizona State)
Ohio State 20, Arizona State 17.