5 Greatest Comebacks in College Football History

Where does UCLA's stunning come-from-behind win over Washington State on Saturday rank?

UCLA's 32-point comeback over Washington State this past Saturday was one for the ages. With this comeback, the Bruins have now orchestrated two of the greatest comebacks in college football history.

 

All comebacks of more than two touchdowns are a testament to a team's perseverance, but in determining the best rally, one must consider the point deficit, the amount of time they had, and the opponent in question. With those parameters in mind, here are the five greatest comebacks in college football history.

 

5. Texas Tech 44, Minnesota 41

Dec. 29, 2006 – Tempe, Ariz. (Insight Bowl)

Comeback: 31 points

The power of the Air Raid offense was on full display in the second half of the 2006 Insight Bowl. After falling behind 38-7 with 7:47 left in the third quarter, Texas Tech went to work. Quarterback Graham Harrell engineered five scoring drives, with the fifth ending in a 52-yard field goal by Alex Trlica as time expired to tie the game 38-38 and send it in to overtime. There, Minnesota kicked a field goal on its first possession and Tech responded with a five-play drive that culminated in a three-yard touchdown run by Shannon Woods to seal the game.

 

4. UCLA 67, Washington State 63

Sept. 21, 2019 - Pullman, Wash.

Comeback: 32 points

The highest-scoring game in Pac-12 history started out competitive until Washington State went on a 28-0 run and led 49-17 with about seven minutes left in the third quarter. Then UCLA found life and scored 29 straight points in less than five minutes. The two teams then engaged in a good old-fashioned shootout for the rest of the fourth quarter, with UCLA winning at around 2:30 AM eastern time. Don't forget that Cougars quarterback Anthony Gordon threw a school- and Pac-12-record nine touchdown passes... in a losing effort.

 

3. Michigan State 41, Northwestern 38

Oct. 21, 2006 – Evanston, Ill.

Comeback: 35 points

This game is third on this list in part because both teams finished 4-8, but their meeting was one for the ages. Northwestern took a 38-3 lead with 9:54 in the third quarter. The Spartans worked their way back with four touchdown drives and a blocked punt returned for a touchdown to tie the game at 38-38. Then with 18 seconds left, Michigan State kicker Brett Swenson kicked a 28-yard field goal to put his team up 41-38. The Spartans stopped a last-ditch attempt by Northwestern to cap the largest comeback in college football history.

 

2. UCLA 45, Texas A&M 44

Sept. 3, 2017 – Pasadena, Calif.

Comeback: 34 points

Texas A&M led 44-10 with a 2:06 to go in the third quarter before UCLA came to life and scored 35 straight points. UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen threw for 292 yards and four touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone and put the Bruins up 45-44 with 43 seconds left in the game.

 

1. Maryland 42, Miami 40

Nov. 10, 1984 – Miami

Comeback: 31 points

The defending national champion and sixth-ranked Hurricanes outgained the Terrapins 328 yards to 57 in the first half to take a 31-0 halftime lead. For the second half, Maryland head coach Bobby Ross replaced starting quarterback Stan Gelbaugh with Frank Reich, who led the team on five scoring drives to take a 35-34 lead with a little over nine minutes left in the game. Miami fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Maryland capitalized to take a 42-34 lead. However, the Terps later botched a punt and gave Miami the ball deep in Maryland territory. Quarterback Bernie Kosar then hit receiver Eddie Brown with a five-yard touchdown pass to close the gap to 42-40. The Hurricanes went for two and Kosar tossed a pass to Melvin Bratton but Keeta Covington stopped him short of the end zone to preserve the win. Reich, of course, orchestrated the largest comeback in NFL history as well.

 

— 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.

 

(Top photo courtesy of @UCLAFootball)

Event Date: 
Tuesday, September 5, 2017 - 18:22
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