Skip to main content

Notre Dame-Michigan: College Football's Craziest Finish?


Much of the discussion on great finishes in college football history tends to focus on a single play. You know them well – Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary at Miami in 1984, the Cal kick return against Stanford in 1982, the Kordell Stewart Hail Mary to beat Michigan in 1994, the 93-yard touchdown catch by Georgia’s Lindsay Scott to beat Florida in 1980, and any of Florida State’s “Wide Right” games against Miami, etc. But what we saw Saturday night in the fourth quarter of the Notre Dame-Michigan game was an entire series of events that led to one of the best finishes in recent memory. The Wolverines’ winning pass with two seconds to go was great, but the entire quarter – especially three touchdowns in the final 1:12 – was amazing to watch.

Notre Dame-Michigan: Wildest college football finish you've seen?

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
It certainly has to rank near the top. As each game and year passes, it’s difficult to keep up with all of the crazy endings that college football gives us. Michigan and Notre Dame had it all, but I would probably rank the Boise State-Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl on January 1, 2007, just ahead of this one. The Broncos led most of the way, but the Sooners had a furious rally at the end. However, Boise State pulled off a couple of trick plays late, including the infamous Statue of Liberty to Ian Johnson for the winning two-point conversion. Also, the David versus Goliath storyline also helps Boise State-Oklahoma take the top spot on my list. The good thing about this question is that there are honestly no wrong answers, and I’m sure college football will give us plenty more options to talk about the rest of the year.

Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)
The Michigan-Notre Dame ending was wild to watch, but I’m still shocked at how bad both defenses were down the stretch. It’s hard not to select the Boise State-Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl, but I wanted to mention the game where I have never been more stunned watching the fourth quarter. It was the 1994 Auburn-LSU battle on the Plains, and the Bengal Tigers had a 23-9 lead early in the final frame. LSU quarterback Jamie Howard would throw pick-sixes on consecutive drives to see Auburn tie it up. Howard then led the visiting Tigers on a field-goal drive that put LSU back up 26-23. After an Auburn three-and-out, Howard had a third-down pass batted and the result was his third interception return touchdown of the quarter. The crazy game would end with Howard’s fifth INT of the quarter in the Auburn end zone. That’s right, LSU had five fourth-quarter interceptions – including three returned for touchdowns – in an improbable 30-26 loss at Auburn. Curley Hallman would not be back at LSU in 1995, while the Auburn victory was the 14th win in the streak of 20 that began Terry Bowden’s head coaching career.

Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden)
From a logistical standpoint, Michigan-Notre Dame might be the wildest finish I have ever seen in college football. Missouri-Nebraska's toe-wedge in the end zone, the four big Hail Mary's of my generation (Iowa, LSU, Colorado, Boston College) and Boise State-Oklahoma are all remarkable. And from a national attention standpoint, Saturday's game did not include a marriage proposal or a Statue of Liberty two-point conversion between David and Goliath fighting it out in a BCS bowl game. But what the fans witnessed in the first night game at the Big House was second to none from a gridiron standpoint. This game included a 17-point fourth-quarter comeback, three lead-changing touchdowns in the final 1:12 and arguably the single most remarkable drive I have ever seen: Three plays, 80 yards in 28 seconds. To cap it all off, Brady Hoke might have cost himself a chance at the win by going for the end zone with eight seconds left. Hail to the Victors.