I am not a college football fan. I rarely watch the sport and I don’t have a good reason as to why this is. But the sporting gods commanded me to lift my remote and put on CBS to watch the remainder of the 2013 Iron Bowl – an annual contest between rivals Auburn University and University of Alabama. I caught two plays: the one where Alabama ran out of bounds and the refs reviewed the play to put one more second on the clock – one more chance to score in the 28-28 draw, and the one that turned the Jordan-Hare Stadium into a zoo. As soon as senior Chris Davis returned that 109-yard missed field goal, it immediately drummed up thoughts of other games with wild finishes. And not just games that were won in the final play, games that made the win so much more special.
Here’s the background to this game: Auburn had an abysmal year last year that ended up bringing the demise of head coach Gene Chizik. Then offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn would be his successor. Malzahn was also the offensive coordinator when Auburn won the title in 2010. Alabama is a perennial powerhouse not only in the SEC but also in all of college football. Nick Saban might as well be a god. He has won three of the past four NCAA BCS titles and the one he didn’t win, the Tigers won, who say “War Eagle.”
So, in no particular order, here are some (highlight on the word “some” because by no means is this an exhaustive list) games of recent memory that follow a similar pattern to that of the battle in Auburn.
Manchester City vs. Queens Park Rangers, May 13, 2012
You may not like soccer, but considering it is the most popular sport in the world and the English Premier League is arguably the best league in the world, this game was one of the best to ever happen. Manchester hadn’t won the title in over 40 years and they sat at the top of the table with 86 points going into the final day, tied with Manchester United who always seems to win the title.
Everything about this was perfect. They are crosstown rivals battling for first place. The only way it could have been better is if they had played each other. City had the goal differential in its favor so all they had to do was win and they claimed the title. Long story short, it took two stoppage time goals in the 90+ minutes of the game for it to happen, but it did. They won 3-2. United ended up winning their game 1-0 to Sunderland on a goal by Wayne Rooney in the 20th minute.
St Louis Cardinals vs. Texas Rangers, Game 6, Oct. 28, 2011
This is a definitive underdog story. The Cardinals made the playoffs on the last day of the regular season, earning the National League wild-card spot. They took down the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS and the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS to advance to the World Series against the Texas Rangers. Texas was in the 2010 World Series the year before but lost to the San Francisco Giants.
In Game 6 against St. Louis, the Rangers had two separate times to put the game away. Third baseman David Freese, the homegrown Cardinal, and first baseman Lance Berkman were able to come through in clutch situations, the bottom of the ninth and tenth, respectively. Then, in the 11th, Freese walks up to the plate, and with a full count, blasts a home run to dead center for the walk-off win.
The Cardinals, who entered Game 6 down 3-2 in the series, went on to win Game 7. Heading into Game 162 of the regular season, they weren’t in the playoffs and a few weeks later, they’re World Series champions. Amazing.
Michigan Wolverines vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Sept. 10, 2011
When you think college football, these two teams come to mind. They both have 11 national titles and are top five in all-time total wins. These teams are good. These teams are huge rivals to begin with but to make the game more special, they played it at night. No big deal, right? Well, it was the first game in Michigan Stadium history to be played under the lights (the stadium opened in 1927).
The game was good the whole time, but it became great toward the end of the fourth quarter.
All I will say is there were three – THREE – touchdowns in about 80 seconds. It was incredible.
Miami Heat vs. San Antonio Spurs, Game 6, June 18, 2013
Heading into Game 6, the Heat was down 3-2. It definitely looked bleak for Miami. Despite the age of Tony Parker, 31, and Tim Duncan, 37, it seemed as if they would run away with the title.
In the offseason, Ray Allen decided that he wanted to take his talents to South Beach and try to earn himself another ring, much to the dismay of the Boston fanbase.
This game really put salt-in-the-wound for the Celtic faithful. Down 92-95 in the final minute, Chris Bosh dishes his offensive rebound, off LeBron James’s missed 3-pointer, to Allen in the corner. With Tony Parker in his face, Allen – the all-time 3-pointer leader in NBA history – puts up the ball and sinks it to tie the game, 95-95.
The shot forced overtime where the Heat won to force Game 7. As you probably know, Allen and the gang were dancing after Game 7, celebrating the second consecutive title. And it is all thanks to this shot.
Duke Blue Devils vs. Butler Bulldogs, April 5, 2010
This only gets honorable mention because the team that won was supposed to win. Duke walked away from the game as the NCAA champions but not easily. They only won by two.
Butler, a small college outside Indianapolis, played in the Horizon League – a conference not known for basketball dominance. The team earned fifth seed after winning its conference championship. They stormed into the tournament with the rest of the world pretty much wondering when they would stop winning.
It took every possible game the bracket has to offer for the Bulldogs to meet their demise.
Gordon Hayward took a shot at the buzzer that was inches from going in. If that shot had gone in, this would be the greatest Cinderella story and – dare I say it – on par with the 2013 Iron Bowl.
The shot comes at the end, but I encourage you to watch the entire enthralling final minute.