by Rob Joyce
The official opening Saturday of college football wasn’t overly exciting compared to most weeks. There were only two games (Maryland vs. Texas and Louisville vs. Purdue) decided by 10 points or fewer, and only a handful more brought drama into the later stages of the fourth quarter.
Then Sunday happened, with both games coming down to the wire. Virginia Tech and West Virginia renewed their rivalry after a dozen years, with the Hokies holding off a potential game-tying WVU drive that came down to the last play of the game. While that was going on, UCLA was making a comeback for the ages against Texas A&M. Down 44-10 with four minutes left in the third quarter, the Bruins stormed back to win 45-44 behind five Josh Rosen touchdown passes. Statistically speaking, UCLA’s effort was one of the greatest come-from-behind victories in college football history, along with these other stunners:
5) TCU vs Oregon, 2015:
The 2015 Alamo Bowl saw the Ducks race out to a 31-0 halftime lead on the Frogs, who were without suspended quarterback Trevone Boykin. But when Oregon quarterback Vernon Adams got injured, forcing in backup Jeff Lockie, the flip switched on the TCU sideline. Backup QB Bram Kohlhausen led the way as TCU scored 31 straight points in the second half to force overtime, then won in triple overtime on Kohlhausen’s eight-yard TD scamper followed by a defensive stand.
4) Texas Tech vs Minnesota, 2006:
The Insight Bowl should have been a romp, with the Gophers leading 38-7 with 7:47 left in the fourth quarter. For a Mike Leach “Air Raid” offense, though, 7:47 is an eternity. Dialing up the heat offensively, Graham Harrell and the rest of the Red Raiders’ hurry-up offense scored three quick touchdows, and kicker Alex Trlica nailed a 52-yard field goal as time expired to force overtime.
In the extra session, Minnesota kicked a field goal, Tech found the end zone, and they capped the greatest comeback in bowl game history, 44-41 the final.
3) UCLA vs Texas A&M, 2017:
When UCLA began their drive late in the third quarter, trailing 44-10, A&M’s win probability stood at 99.8 percent. Consider Josh Rosen that extra 0.2. The junior showed why he’s perhaps the most talented quarterback in the nation, throwing for 292 yards and four touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone, capped by a fake spike that he turned into a 10-yard game-winning toss to Jordan Lasley.
2) Maryland vs Miami (FL), 1984:
From strictly a points perspective, UCLA’s comeback was more impressive. Contextually, though, it’s hard to top what the Terps did. Trailing the defending national champions 31-0 and picking up just 57 yards of offense in the first half, Maryland turned to backup quarterback Mark Reich. He proceeded to come off the bench and throw six second half touchdowns as the Terps took a 42-34 lead. The Hurricanes would find the end zone once more, but a failed two-point conversion gave Maryland the unlikeliest of victories, 42-40.
What’s crazier, Reich would later come off the bench with the Buffalo Bills and conduct the greatest comeback in NFL history!
1) Michigan State vs Northwestern, 2006:
The only comeback more impressive than the Bruins’ effort on Sunday came just over a decade ago. The Wildcats went up on the Spartans 38-3 five minutes into the second half, at home no less. But Michigan State then dialed up the heat in all facets of the game.
By the start of the fourth it was 38-17, the defense forced a few turnovers, the Drew Stanton-led offense began marching at will, and the special teams even blocked a punt and returned it for a score. They tied the game with four minutes left, forced an interception, then kicked a game-winning field goal in the final 20 seconds to complete the greatest comeback in college football history, 41-38.