Rose Bowl: Power Ranking Top 10 Plays of the BCS Era

Sebastian Lena@SP7988Analyst IDecember 26, 2013

Rose Bowl: Power Ranking Top 10 Plays of the BCS Era

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    Young (center) won the hearts of many college football fans with this run.
    Young (center) won the hearts of many college football fans with this run.Harry How/Getty Images

    With the 2014 Rose Bowl just days away, it’s time to take a look at the history books.

    Since 1999, the Rose Bowl has been a part of the BCS. It’s even hosted two BCS title games (2002, 2006).

    Not surprisingly, the bowl has hosted several of the best college games in that time. That includes seven games decided by a touchdown or less.

    And what do great games have in common? Great plays.

    From a handful of Vince Young scrambles, several trick plays and even an impressive defensive effort, the Rose Bowl has had its fair share of great plays to choose from.

    Join B/R as we take a closer look at all 15 games and compile a list of the 10 greatest plays in the BCS era.

10. TCU-Wisconsin (2011): Badgers Complete Fake Punt

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    Game Result: TCU 21, Wisconsin 19; Jan. 1, 2011

    Why It’s Here

    Completing a fake punt is tough enough. Doing so on 4th-and-long and inside your own 40 takes gut.

    But that’s exactly what Badgers head coach Bret Bielema did in the 2011 edition of the Rose Bowl.

    Down 14-10, with the ball at their own 33, Wisconsin looked set to punt on 4th-and-9. Instead, after taking two steps forward, punter Brad Nortman scrambled to the left and rumbled for an 11-yard gain.

    The play helped the Badgers continue an impressive 15-yard drive that ran out the final seven minutes and four seconds of the first half.

    Although Wisconsin would only settle for a field goal, it was a great play call by Bielema to try and swing the game’s momentum in his favor.

9. Ohio State-Oregon (2010): Kick Return Lateral Reverse Gives Ducks Hope

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    Game Result: Ohio State 26, Oregon 17; Jan. 1, 2010

    Why It’s Here

    In a surprising show of inconsistency, the Ducks struggled on offense in this one. The team finished with just 260 total yards of offense and finished 2-of-11 on third-down conversions.

    Following a momentum-changing Buckeyes touchdown with a little over seven minutes remaining, Oregon’s special teams tried to help the cause.

    Kenjon Barner fielded the ensuing kickoff at the 24-yard line, then rushed left before he lateraled the ball to teammate Cliff Harris, who took the ball up the right with plenty of space ahead of him. He wound up gaining 42 yards to the Ohio State 36. 

    It was the type of play that gave the Ducks an opportunity to answer back quickly and get momentum back on their side.

    Unfortunately, as was the case all game long, Oregon couldn’t find any offense and missed a 45-yard field goal four plays later, sealing the team’s fate.

8. USC-Illinois (2008): Backup QB Tosses First-Career TD Pass Lined Up as WR

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    Game Result: USC 49, Illinois 17; Jan. 1, 2008

    Why It’s Here

    Nobody thought the Trojans had even the slightest chance of losing this one.

    Head coach Pete Carroll was among that bunch, as he showed off his relaxed composure by dialing up an unorthodox trick play early in the first quarter.

    Following a turnover in Illini territory, Carroll looked to catch the Illinois secondary napping by inserting backup quarterback, Garrett Green into the lineup at wide receiver. Starting quarterback John David Booty then threw the ball backwards towards Green, who quickly tossed the ball to a wide-open Desmond Reed for a 34-yard touchdown to put USC up 14-0.

    As expected, the Trojans rolled, dropping 49 points in total and setting a Rose Bowl record by gaining 633 total yards of offense.

    Furthermore, that pass went down as Green’s lone pass attempt in his entire USC career.

7. USC-Michigan (2004): Matt Leinart Shows off Versatility, Catches TD

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    Game Result: USC 28, Michigan 14; Jan. 1, 2004

    Why It’s Here

    With an AP national title on the line, the Trojans quickly proved they meant business, racing out to a 21-0 lead.

    But the team also had a little fun at the expense of the Wolverines.

    On the ensuing drive, after Michigan put its first points on the board, USC had the ball inside the red zone. That’s when quarterback Matt Leinart handed the ball off to the running back, Hershel Dennis, who then tossed it back to wide receiver Mike Williams on the reverse.

    Nobody seemed to cover Leinart as he streaked towards the end zone, opening him up for an easy 15-yard touchdown pass from Williams.

    It was a well-drawn out and executed play that put the nail in the coffin for the Trojans and handed them the 2003 AP national title.

6. UCLA-Wisconsin (1999): Bruins Live Up to Rep, Score 61-Yd, Trick-Play TD

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    Game Result: Wisconsin 38, UCLA 31; Jan. 1, 1999

    Why It’s Here

    Throughout the 1998 season, the Bruins were known for running several trick plays. So much so that the ESPN broadcast showcased a short interview clip with UCLA head coach Bob Toledo on why he runs those type of plays.

    Toledo went on to call those plays momentum changers.

    Ironically, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect as the Bruins’ next play was exactly that: a momentum changer.

    After receiving the snap, quarterback Cade McNown tossed the ball back to wide receiver Freddie Mitchell. With the defense caught off guard, running back Durell Price was able to sneak out of the backfield uncovered and was left wide open to bring home a 61-yard pass for six.

    The trick play tied the game up at 14 and successfully moved the momentum in UCLA’s favor, as the team took the lead on its next drive.

    However, the Badgers had the last laugh, scoring 24 of the next 31 points on their way to victory.

5. Oregon-Wisconsin (2012): Heads Up Forced Fumble Secures Ducks' Win

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    Game Result: Oregon 45, Wisconsin 38; Jan. 2, 2012

    Why It’s Here

    The 2012 Rose Bowl was all about offense. The two teams combined for 83 points and 1,129 yards of total offense.

    But at the end of the day, it was defense that won the game for the Ducks in this one.

    With under five minutes remaining, the Badgers were moving the ball down the field while down 45-38. Quarterback Russell Wilson connected with Jared Abbrederis for 29 yards, taking the ball inside the Oregon 30.

    However, as Abbrederis fought for extra yards, the Ducks’ Terrance Mitchell jarred the ball free and teammate Michael Clay pounced on the loose ball before it could roll out of bounds.

    It was a key play that prevented Wisconsin from tying the game and allowed Oregon to run down the clock, preventing a Badgers comeback.

4. Texas-Michigan (2005): Young Runs Wild for 60-Yard Score

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    Game Result: Texas 38, Michigan 37; Jan. 1, 2005

    Why It’s Here

    Longhorns quarterback Vince Young was known for his dangerous mobility. It was an asset the young signal-caller showcased against the Wolverines, rushing for 192 yards and four touchdowns.

    But none was more impressive than Young’s scamper during Texas’ first drive of the second half.

    With the score knotted up at 14, Young dropped back to pass. But before he checked his receivers, he noticed the space in front of him and took off.

    Young broke tackles and weaved his way through Michigan’s defense for an electrifying 60-yard run.

    It was one of the highlights of a impressive showing for Young in the 2005 edition of the Rose Bowl.

3. Oregon-Wisconsin (2012): DAT Explodes for 91 Yards Untouched

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    Game Result: Oregon 45, Wisconsin 38; Jan. 2, 2012

    Why It’s Here

    Throughout the 2011 season, running back De’Anthony Thomas impressed with limited carries. 

    But in the 2012 Rose Bowl, the then-freshman gave Ducks fans a reason for optimism in the future.

    The youngster punished the Badgers defense for 155 yards and two scores on just two carries. The plays went for 91 and 64 yards, respectively.

    But none was more impressive than the former.

    Thomas took the ball and capitalized on good blocking to burst through the line and into open space. Once there, he turned on his second gear and outran the Wisconsin secondary to take it almost the length of the field for the touchdown.

    The run still stands as the longest run in Rose Bowl history.

2. Texas-USC (2006): Vince Young Reverses Field for TD Run

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    Game Result: Texas 41, USC 38; Jan. 4, 2006 (BCS title game)

    Why It’s Here

    This one was for more than just bragging rights. The 2006 Rose Bowl was also for the right to be crowned BCS national champion.

    Furthermore, it also showcased one of the most memorable performances by a single player in college football history.

    With the Trojans up 38-33 with about six minutes remaining, the Longhorns’ chances of victory seemed all but gone. 

    But don’t tell that to quarterback Vince Young, who quickly marched Texas up the field within striking distance. Then on 2nd-and-4, Young rolled to the left before reversing the field—almost juking a USC defender out of his shoes—pump-faking a pass and leading a horde of defenders into the end zone for the touchdown.

    It was a remarkable effort to cap off an impressive drive to give Texas a realistic shot at the comeback.

    The play would have easily been number one had it not been for…

1. Texas-USC (2006): Vince Young Scores on 4th-and-5 with BCS Title on the Line

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    Game Result: Texas 41, USC 38; Jan. 4, 2006 (BCS title game)

    Why It’s Here

    Following Longhorns quarterback Vince Young’s heroics on the previous drive, the Trojans offense went for the jugular on the ensuing drive with a little over two minutes remaining.

    Unfortunately, running back LenDale White came up short on 4th-and-2 at the Texas 45, handing Young the ball back with 2:13 remaining.

    That sat up the play that has been replayed over and over again on countless highlight reels to this day.

    With 26 seconds remaining, the Longhorns had the ball at the USC 8-yard line on 4th-and-5. After avoiding the initial rush, Young found space and scampered up the right side for the touchdown, just barely avoiding a last-ditch tackle by a Trojans defender.

    The score gave Texas the lead for good and secured the third national title in school history.

    Young finished with 267 yards through the air on 30-of-40 passing while rushing for another 200 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries.

    His play in this game—along with his performance in the previous year’s Rose Bowl—gave Young the reputation as one of the top postseason performers in college football history.

    It also marked the beginning of the end for USC’s dynasty.