by Rob Joyce
The first three quarters of Saturday’s Florida vs. Tennessee matchup in Gainesville wasn’t most people’s idea of “good football”. It was 3-0 after one quarter, and 6-3 through both halftime and the third. The fourth quarter, however, made up for all of it. The Gators went up by 10 with five minutes to go, only to see the Vols tie it up with 50 seconds left, setting up the finish of the year so far in college football.
The 63-yard connection between Feleipe Franks and Tyrie Cleveland gave Florida a 12th win in the last 13 years against their SEC East rival, and will go down as one of the most memorable plays in school history. But does it rank among the greatest Hail Mary finishes in football history (college or pro)?
6) Minnesota Vikings, 1980:
In a span of two plays the Vikings pulled off two miracle plays to stun the Browns in the “Miracle at the Met”. Cutting a 14-point deficit down to one, they took the ball with 14 seconds left starting from their own 20-yard line, with no timeouts. A hook-and-lateral gained 39 yards, setting up Ahmad Rashad’s heroics, as he caught Tommy Kramer’s tipped pass one-handed and walked in for the winning score.
5) BYU, 1980:
It’s fitting that one of the greatest comebacks in college history is capped by a Hail Mary. With 3:57 left in the Holiday Bowl the Cougars trailed SMU 45-25. A touchdown, onside kick, then touchdown cut the deficit to six when BYU blocked a punt with 13 seconds left. That set up Jim McMahon for one final play from the 41-yard line.
4) Seattle Seahawks, 2012:
It shouldn’t have counted, but in a ranking by popularity, the “Fail Mary” has few competitors. In what turned out to be the final week with replacement referees – the usual ones were in a labor dispute, causing a lockout – Seattle needed a touchdown on the final play against Green Bay. Russell Wilson heaved it to the back left corner. Despite an appearance that the Packers intercepted the ball before Golden Tate wrestled it away (not to mention a clear shove by Tate to get into position), the refs ruled that it was a Seahawks touchdown and, consequently, win.
3) Colorado, 1994:
“The Miracle at Michigan” was a September battle of top-10 teams in the Buffaloes (7th) and Wolverines (4th). Down 26-14 entering the fourth quarter, CU quarterback Kordell Stewart and company scored two touchdowns in the final 2:16, including a 64-yard Hail Mary as time expired for one of the greatest finishes in college football history.
2) Dallas Cowboys, 1975:
There’s something to be said for the original Hail Mary. Down 14-10 in the Divisional Round to the Vikings, the Cowboys had one final shot to save their season in the game’s closing seconds. As Roger Staubach put it, he heaved the ball from 50 yards out to Drew Pearson and “closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary.” When Pearson caught it for the win, a term was born forever.
1) Boston College, 1984:
It’s the standard-bearer by which all other Hail Mary passes will be compared. On Nov. 23, Eagles’ quarterback Doug Flutie put a stamp on his Heisman-winning season with a 48-yard Hail Mary connection with Gerard Phelan. It capped a wild 47-45 victory over defending national champion Miami at the Orange Bowl.