Grant Haley’s 60-yard return of a blocked Ohio State field goal for a touchdown last Saturday reminded us just how quickly a game can change when the kicking game is disrupted. All college football fans can think of a time where their team’s fate turned on a kick that failed to launch, and sometimes it can mean the difference in their national championship hopes.
While fans have a special place in their hearts for their team’s blocked kicks, long-term impact is ultimately what determines their greatness. Here are the five biggest of all time.
5. Michigan State 27, Michigan 23
Oct. 17, 2015 – Ann Arbor, Mich.
This was technically not a blocked kick only because Wolverine punter Blake O’Neill was already surrounded by Spartan defenders. However, the principle still applies. Michigan led 23-21 and O’Neill lined up to punt with 10 seconds left in the game. The snap was low and he bobbled it. O’Neill then tried to kick it amidst a sea of Spartans and the ball came loose. Michigan State’s Jalen Watts-Jackson caught the ball and ran into the end zone as time expired. Spartan players piled onto Watts-Jackson and he actually dislocated his hip in the celebration. Michigan State’s only loss during the regular season was a 39-38 loss to Nebraska so this dramatic win helped the team get to the Big Ten Championship Game and eventually into the College Football Playoff.
4. Penn State 24, Ohio State 21
Oct. 22, 2016 – State College, Pa.
If Tyler Durbin hits the 45-yard attempt, then Ohio State leads 24-17 with about four and a half minutes to go. Instead, Marcus Allen blocked it and Grant Haley picked it up and ran it into the end zone. This makes the list because the Buckeyes were ranked second and Penn State was unranked. Ohio State still has a shot at making the playoff, but this surprising loss will make it dependent on other teams losing.
3. Florida 17, South Carolina 16
Nov. 11, 2006 - Gainesville, Fla.
The Gators clung to a one-point lead as 4-5 South Carolina lined up to kick a 48-yard field goal as time expired. Ryan Succop’s kick made it to the line of scrimmage, but Jarvis Moss leapt into the air and used every bit of his length (6-6) to bat it down, preserving the win and Florida’s national championship hopes. Two months later, the Gators beat Ohio State in the title game.
2. Alabama 12, Tennessee 10
Oct. 24, 2009 – Tuscaloosa, Ala.
The Volunteers capitalized on a late Mark Ingram fumble with a touchdown and then recovered an onside kick. Vol kicker Daniel Lincoln attempted a 44-yard fielg goal, which was blocked by nose guard Terrence Cody, his second of the game. Cody’s block saved Alabama’s season and Nick Saban’s first championship at Alabama.
1. Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32
Sept. 1, 2007 – Ann Arbor, Mich.
The Mountaineers – then in the FCS – kicked a 24-yard field goal with 26 seconds left to take a 34-32 lead over the fifth-ranked Wolverines. Michigan got the ball back and was in position to kick a game-winning field goal thanks to 46-yard pass from Chad Henne to Mario Manningham. Wolverine kicker Jason Gingell lined up to kick a 37-yarder, but Appalachian State’s Corey Lynch blocked it and the Mountaineers scored the greatest upset in college football history.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports’ Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.
(Photos courtesy of www.gopsusports.com)