There's third-and-long and then there's third-and-REALLY-long
Louisiana Tech’s botched snap and comedy of errors caused the Bulldogs to face third down and 93 yards on Saturday. The bleak distance made national news outside of your typical sports outlets because this long of a down and distance is a rarity.
Many teams do face long down and distances over the course of a college football season especially in blowouts. Most are forgettable, except for a handful. Here are the five that stand out for me.
5. 3rd and 57 — Georgia at Tennessee
Oct. 8, 2011
Leading 20-6 in the fourth quarter, Georgia was in the midst of an eight-minute drive and had made it all the way to the Vounteers' 23-yard line. One more score and the Bulldogs would have secured Mark Richt’s 100th win and sparked a mass exodus from Neyland Stadium. Instead, Georgia quickly found itself facing third-and-57 on its own 30-yard line. How did the Bulldogs do it? Simple; three holding penalties, one personal foul and a one-yard loss on a running play. Georgia was forced to punt, but held on to beat Tennessee 20-12.
4. 3rd and 93 — Louisiana Tech vs. Mississippi State
Sept. 9, 2017
Louisiana Tech was down 57-14 in the fourth quarter, but faced second and goal on Mississippi State’s six-yard line. The ensuing snap flew over J’Mar Smith’s head and a gaggle of Bulldogs from both teams chased the ball all the way back to Louisiana Tech’s seven-yard line where receiver Cee Jay Powell got it. Louisiana Tech was forced to punt and ultimately lost 57-21.
3. 3rd and 36 — California vs. Washington State
Oct. 3, 2015
Cal held the ball and a 34-28 fourth quarter lead in what had been a very sloppy game. Then, a false start penalty and sack of quarterback Jared Goff that forced a fumble that Cal recovered put them at third-and-36 on their own four-yard line. But unlike the previous two on this list, the Bears converted with a simple play. Goff took the snap and handed it to Vic Enwere for a draw play. As you can see, Enwere slashed across a wide-open field for 42 yards and a first down and Washington State fans everywhere were probably channeling William Hurt’s profane rant from A History of Violence. Cal won 34-28 thanks in part to this clutch play.
2. 3rd and 57 — Florida at Mississippi State
Sept. 30, 2000
The third-ranked Gators were unable to stop Mississippi State’s rushing attack, but still had a shot at making it out of Starkville undefeated. Trailing 31-23 with 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Florida had the ball at midfield when two successive snaps over Rex Grossman’s head drove the Gators all the way back to their own three-yard line. Facing third-and-57, head coach Steve Spurrier decided to cut his losses and had Grossman take the snap and run out of the back of the end zone for a safety. The Bulldogs scored two more touchdowns to extend their lead and won 47-35.
1. 3rd and 43 — Miami vs. Notre Dame
Nov. 25, 1989
The Hurricanes led the top-ranked Irish 17-10 in the third quarter but a personal foul penalty and fumble put Miami at third-and-43 on its own seven-yard line. No problem. In typical 80s U fashion, quarterback Craig Erickson took the snap and fired a 44-yard pass to Randall Hill for the first down. It was the most dramatic moment of an almost 11-minute touchdown drive that put the nail in the coffin for Notre Dame’s chances to repeat for the national title.
— 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.