Auburn’s Chris Davis, en route to history, silences Alabama dreams of a three-peat.
Just when you think you’ve seen it all, along comes an improbable play that stirs the soul. Witness what happened on November 30, when Auburn shocked top-ranked Alabama with a length-of-the-field return on the last play of the game. 50 years from now, fans will remember where they were when the play occurred.
It was the greatest finish in college football history. Take a look at the top 10 with video links.
2013, Auburn 34, Alabama 28
Alabama, gunning for its third straight national championship, attempted to snap a tie with a 57-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the game. The kick was short, but Auburn return man Chris David took the ball at the back of the end zone and ran 109 yards (officially 100) for the winning touchdown. Auburn had tied the game with 32 seconds remaining, following a 99-yard touchdown pass that gave Alabama the lead earlier in the fourth quarter. Ironically, in their previous game two weeks earlier, the War Eagles stunned Georgia on a last-minute 73-yard pass, known as The Immaculate Deflection.
1982, Cal 25, Stanford 20
Cal, trailing 20-19 with just four seconds remaining against arch-rival Stanford, used five laterals on a kick return to score the winning touchdown, racing the final yards through the Stanford band, which had come onto the field believing the game was over. John Elway, playing in his final regular season college game, led Stanford to a field goal before Cal’s hysteria on the ensuing kickoff.
With the clock winding down, Doug Flutie winds up to throw his Hail Mary pass.
1984, Boston College 47, Miami 45
On the day after Thanksgiving, Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie threw a desperation, 48-yard touchdown pass to his roommate, Gerard Phelan, on the final play of the game to lead the Eagles past Miami at the Orange Bowl. Flutie would go on to win the Heisman Trophy that season.
2007, Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42, OT
One of the wildest games in NCAA history, capped by one of the wildest endings. Playing in the Fiesta Bowl, Oklahoma scored 25 straight points but Boise State tied the game on a hook and ladder play with seconds remaining. After the Sooners scored in overtime, Boise countered with a touchdown and then won the game with a two-point conversion on another circus play — the Statue of Liberty.
2007, Trinity 28, Millsaps 24
You have to see this play to believe it. In a Division III showdown in Mississippi, Trinity used 15 laterals to score on a 61-yard kick return touchdown as time expired. The longest play in college football history took 62 seconds to complete,
2002, LSU 33, Kentucky 30
After Kentucky players gave head coach Guy Morriss a Gatorade shower, LSU scored on a 74-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Marcus Randall to wide receiver Devery Henderson on the final play of the game.
1994, Colorado 27, Michigan 26
Kordell Stewart’s 64-yard touchdown pass to Michael Westbrook as time expired stunned a huge Michigan crowd at the Big House in Ann Arbor. Stewart’s pass traveled nearly 80 yards in the air.
2005, USC 34, Notre Dame 31
Trailing 31-28 with just seven seconds left to play, USC went for the win instead of kicking a tying field goal. Trojans quarterback Matt Leinart scored the winning touchdown on a keeper, helped by a shove from behind by running back Reggie Bush.
1980, BYU 46, SMU 45
BYU overcame a 20-point deficit in the final three minutes and scored three touchdowns, sparked by Jim McMahon’s 41-yard pass to Clay Brown at the gun, to stun SMU
1968, Harvard 29, Yale 29
The Harvard Crimson headline said it all. Harvard scored 16 points in the final 42 seconds — including a touchdown and two point conversion after time expired — to tie rival Yale. The teams shared the Ivy League title at 8-0-1.
With the flag flying at half staff, Nick Pietrosante left, and Detroit teammates stand during a moment of silence before the start of a game in Minnesota the weekend JFK was killed.
The car turned the corner as the motorcade wound through the streets of Dallas. Shots rang out…..and America would never be the same.
It was, Pete Rozelle would later admit, the worst decision of his life. Allowing the NFL to play a full Sunday of games less than two days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, was the major blight on Rozelle’s otherwise glossy resume. Despite the pleas of many NFL owners, including Dallas Cowboys owner Clint Murchison Jr., Rozelle — citing JFK’s “avid love of sport” — determined that the games would go on.
Kennedy’s press secretary and Rozelle’s college classmate at the University of San Francisco, Pierre Salinger, told Rozelle the president would have wanted the games played. “It has been traditional in sports for athletes to perform in times of great personal tragedy. Football was Mr. Kennedy’s game. He thrived on competition,” Rozelle said in a statement.
And that Sunday, while the nation mourned its fallen leader, NFL games went on as scheduled in New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Milwaukee (Green Bay), Minnesota and Los Angeles. None were televised.
Rozelle was at Yankee Stadium and saw the St. Louis Cardinals beat the New York Giants, 24-17. He later told the New York Times: “I could not concentrate on the game. I brooded about my decision the entire game.”
In an interview around the time of his retirement, Rozelle was asked what his biggest mistake was as league commissioner: “Playing the game on Kennedy Sunday,” was his response
“Worst mistake Rozelle ever made.” said Sam Huff, the Giants Hall of Fame linebacker.
Players and fans pay their respects to the late President Kennedy in Cleveland.
Signs point to Dallas
That Sunday, in Cleveland, where the Browns beat the Cowboys 27-17, Cleveland fans carried signs that pointed to the city of Dallas as having “killed the president.” The Cowboys fielded boos from a crowd angry over the assassination.
“We were the team from Dallas, Texas,” Cowboys linebacker Lee Roy Jordan said. “We were connected with killing the president of the United States.”
After beating the Eagles 13-10 in Philadelphia, Washington Redskins players asked coach Bill McPeak to send the game ball to the White House. They said they were “playing…for President Kennedy and in his memory.”
Less than an hour before kickoff of the early games that day, Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald. In Pittsburgh, the Bears and the Steelers tied 17-17. “Before the game you’re usually talking about picking up blitzes,” said Pittsburgh running back Dick Hoak. “Instead, we were saying, ‘Did you hear that Oswald was shot?’ “
In his autobiography, “Dan Rooney: My 75 Years with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the NFL” Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney wrote: “[Rozelle] later told me it was the wrong decision, one of the few he regretted making during his term as commissioner.” Rooney said, “There are more important things than playing football every Sunday.”
The fledgling American Football League exercised better judgment. The AFL postponed all games and pushed the end of the season back to December 22. The First AFL game played after the assassination was on November 28, Thanksgiving Day. Rookie coach Al Davis led the Oakland Raiders to a 26-10 win over the Broncos in Denver.
Bears players bow their heads prior to game against Pittsburgh in Chicago.
Most college football games that weekend were either postponed or cancelled. Harvard, the President’s alma mater, and Yale were the first to announce they would not play. By Friday evening, all eastern schools had determined they would not take the field.
Oklahoma and Nebraska decided to play for the Big Eight title and an Orange Bowl berth. The Cornhuskers won, 29-20. In Miami, school president King Stanford was ready to tell the waiting crown of 57,773 at the Orange Bowl that the game with Florida had been cancelled but was talked out of it by the university’s board of trustees. The Gators won 27-21.
NBA, NHL, horses
Although most contests in the NBA and NHL were postponed, in New York, both the Knicks and Rangers played at Madison Square Garden the weekend that America mourned. The Knicks beat Detroit 108-99 on Saturday; and the Rangers tied the Maple Leafs 3-3 on Sunday. NHL games were staged in Montreal and Toronto over the weekend as well.
In addition to the Knicks, the St Louis Hawks and Cincinnati Royals split a home-and-home weekend series. The rest of the nine-team NBA — Celtics, Lakers, 76ers Warriors and Bullets — did not play on the weekend.
Horse racing and harness racing were cancelled across the country.
Personal: 50 years later, I vividly recall November 22, 1963. I was 12 years old, a seventh grader in Catholic elementary school in White Plains, New York, when we were informed of JFK’s death over the school PA system. The entire school was sent into church to pray for the President, then we were sent home early. Strangely, when I arrived home with my younger brother and sister, my mother was not in the house. The woman living across the street from us had gone into labor, and my mother took her to the hospital where she delivered a baby girl. That joyous occasion was the only bright light in a memorably tearful weekend, one where I saw my father cry for the first time. The previous weekend, my father took me to Yankee Stadium to see my first NFL game. The Giants beat the 49ers, 48-14.
The SportsLifer and Don Mattingly, a couple of former players and current managers.
Don Mattingly was on track for the Hall of Fame before back injuries took their toll and he was forced to retire prematurely at age 34 in 1995. Some argue he should have a plaque in Cooperstown.
For four seasons, from 1984 to 1987, Don Mattingly was the best player in baseball. He won a batting title in 1984, an MVP in 1985, and led the American League in hits, doubles, slugging, OPS and total bases in 1986 when he batted a career high .352. In 1987, he set or equalled major league records by hitting six grand slams in a season and homering in eight consecutive games. All this from an excellent fielding first baseman who won nine Gold Gloves.
As his back woes intensified, Mattingly’s numbers began to decline in 1988. In 1989 hit 23 homers and knocked in 113 runs — his last big offensive season.
Mattingly’s career numbers are eerily similar to those of Kirby Puckett, the late Twins outfielder, who is in the Hall of Fame. For example:
AT BATS 7003 7244
RUNS 1007 1071
HITS 2153 2304
HRs 222 207
RBI 1099 1085
Like Mattingly, Puckett was forced to retire after the 1995 season due to eye problems. He had a higher batting average than Mattingly (.318 to .307), primarily attributable to his speed (Puckett stole 134 bases, Mattingly 14). Puckett also won a batting title and six Gold Gloves.
Some more stats: Mattingly struck out 444 times; compared to 965 for Puckett, won an RBI title with 145 in 1985, and led the league in doubles three times. Puckett led the AL in hits four times, Mattingly twice.
Puckett gained lots of visibility in the playoffs, especially in 1987 and 1991 when Minnesota won the World Series. Mattingly’s Yankees finally made the playoffs in his last year.
Both were outstanding in post-season play. Mattingly hit .417 in his only appearance, while Puckett had a .309 average in four playoff series.
Mattingly is now managing the Los Angeles Dodgers, who won the NL West and advanced to the NLCS before losing to the Cardinals. Perhaps success in the dugout could eventually earn Mattingly a Hall of Fame plaque — a Joe Torre story.
Torre also won an MVP and batting title in his career — but he will get his Hall of Fame ticket punched on the four World Series he won for the Yankees starting in 1996. Ironically, that was the year after Mattingly retired.
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Owner James Dolan, perturbed by his team’s poor play, has shut down the Knicks City Dancers. Less dancing, more winning. Yeah right.
Four games into the NBA season, and already panic has set in at Madison Square Garden.
Coming off their best season in nearly 20 years, the Knicks have stumbled out of the gate, with inexcusable home losses to the T-Wolves and Bobcats.
As always, the problems start at the top. MSG chairman James Dolan must be the only person in world who thinks the Knicks are a championship-caliber team.
Get a clue Jimmy D. Carmelo Anthony may be a superstar, but he doesn’t make the guys around him better players. Amar’e Stoudemire may not be the worst player in the league, but he’s the most overpaid. And newly-acquired Andrea Bargnani is softer than the Pillsbury Doughboy.
Losing Tyson Chandler, their best defensive player, to a broken leg isn’t helping matters.
Dolan is so out of touch that he’s banned the Knicks City Dancers from performing some of their routines. As if that’s going to make a difference.
The Red Sox and Cardinals will be meeting for the fourth time in the World Series, all since 1946. Only Yankees-Dodgers (11), Yankees-Giants (7) and Yankees-Cardinals (5) have been more common World Series opponents. Yankees-Braves, A’s-Giants and Tigers-Cubs have also had four World Series matchups.
The Cardinals went the seven-game limit to beat the Red Sox in 1946 and 1967. And in 2004, Boston ended a legendary 86-year title drought in emphatic fashion, sweeping St. Louis in four straight.
Here are highlights from each of those previous World Series matchups:
1946 World Series
While the Red Sox easily copped the American League pennant, St. Louis and the Brooklyn Dodgers wound up tied for first place in the National League. The Cards then swept the Dodgers in a best-of-three playoff to advance to the World Series for the fourth time in five years.
The Red Sox, in the post-season for the first time in 28 years, won the opener in St. Louis on a 10th inning home run by Rudy York. The teams alternated wins over the next four games, and the Series headed west to St. Louis with Boston up 3-2, needing just one win for the championship.
They didn’t get it. Southpaw Harry “The Cat” Breechen stopped the Red Sox 4-1 in Game 6, setting up a winner-take-all finale.
Trailing 3-1 in the eighth inning of Game 7, Boston’s Dom DiMaggio doubled in a pair of runs to tie the score, but injured his leg and had to leave the game. He was replaced by Leon Culberson in center field.
St. Louis outfielder Enos Slaughter, above, led off the bottom of the eighth with a single and then scored all the way from first with two outs in what was generously ruled a double by Harry “The Hat” Walker. Red Sox shortstop Johnny Pesky was slow getting the relay home, and his delay helped give the Cardinals a 4-3 lead. The loss of DiMaggio in center (an excellent fielder as befits his name) also contributed to the play.
The first two Boston batters singled in the night but Breechen, pitching in relief on just one day’s rest, was able to get the next three outs to earn his third win of the World Series. Breechen pitched two complete games and allowed the Red Sox just one run.
It was the only post-season matchup for two all-time greats, Stan Musial of the Cardinals and Boston’s Ted Williams. Musial hit just .222 in the Series, while Williams was held to a .200 batting average.
1967 World Series
It was the year of the “Impossible Dream” in New England. The Red Sox, who finished ninth the previous year, held off the Tigers, Twins and White Sox in a taut, four-team AL pennant race that wasn’t decided until the final day of the season.
Cardinals right-hander Bob Gibson, right, was at this dominant best in this Series with three complete game victories and a World Series MVP. Gibson won Game 1, 2-1, with 10 strikeouts and followed that up with a 6-0 shutout in Game 4 that gave St. Louis a 3-1 lead.
The Red Sox rallied to win Games 5 and 6 and force a dream seventh game showdown between Gibson and Boston’s ace Jim Lonborg. And once again Gibson prevailed, hurling a three-hitter, striking out 10, and even hitting a home run in a 7-2 Cardinals win.
Lonborg, pitching on just two days rest, simply ran out of gas. He had pitched a complete game win against Minnesota on the last day of the regular season to lead Boston to the AL pennant. Then in the World Series he won Game 2, 5-0, with a one-hitter — retiring the first 22 batters he faced – and Game 5, 3-1, with a three-hitter.
Lou Brock led the Cardinals attack with seven stolen bases and a .414 batting average, while Roger Maris hit .385 with a Series-leading seven RBIs. Carl Yastrzemski, who won the AL Triple Crown, hit .400 with three home runs for Boston.
2004 World Series
The Red Sox broke the 86-year-old Curse of the Bambino, sweeping the Cardinals to win their first World Series since 1918. Boston won the AL pennant by rallying from a 3-0 deficit to beat their nemesis, the New York Yankees, in the ALCS.
The Cardinals, who won a major league high 105 games in the regular season, stopped the Houston Astros in seven games in the NLCS.
Boston was making its first World Series appearance since 1986; St. Louis since 1987.
After winning an 11-9 slugfest in the opener Red Sox pitchers allowed only three runs in the final three games — starts by Curt Schilling, Pedro Martinez and Derek Lowe in the clincher.
Boston outfielder Manny Ramirez batted .412 with a home run and four RBIs to win World Series MVP honors. Larry Walker hit .357 and hit the only two home runs the Cardinals managed.
Eli Manning knows it. So do the Giants. Something stinks in New York.
Owen five New York Giants
The Giants have been around for 88 years, just like my father. But less than two years after their thrilling Super Bowl triumph over the Patriots, the Giants are on the way to their worst season ever.
For the first time under Tom Coughlin and just the third time in their history, the Giants are 0-5. Throw out the 1987 start, when they used replacement players during a labor lockout, and the Giants last began 0-5 in 1979.
That year, they lost twice to the Eagles, and also fell to the Cardinals, Redskins and Saints under Archie Manning. Then a rookie rookie quarterback named Phil Simms took over and led them to four straight wins and a 6-10 final record.
The other 0-5 start — go back to 1976, the first year in Giants Stadium, when New York lost its’ first nine games en route to a 3-11 mark.
Today’s Giants don’t play defense. The last team to allow five straight opponents to score 30 or more points to start the season was the 1954 Chicago Cardinals. No Giants team has ever given up 182 points in five games to start the year. Check. Check.
The offense has been just as futile. The 38-0 defeat at the hands of the Panthers in week 2 was the Giants worst shutout loss in 40 years, when the Raiders, behind quarterbacks Ken Stabler and Darryl Lamonica and an ageless kicker named George Blanda, beat New York 42-0.
Wait, it gets worse. The five worst teams club history all started better than this year’s Giants:
- The 1966 team, which finished 1-12-1 — the worst won-loss record in team history — and allowed a record 501 points, tied the Steelers 34-34 in the opening game
- Bill Arnsparger’s 1974 team stunned the Cowboys in game three yet finished 2-12
- The 2-11-1 1973 squad beat the Oilers and tied the Eagles in the first two games before losing seven in a row
- The 1966 Giants managed to beat the Redskins 13-10 in week three and wound up 2-10-2
- And in 1947 the Giants tied the Boston Yanks 7-7 in the opener and finished 2-8-2
These teams may soon have company. Look on the bright side, Giants fans. Sundays are opening up. Join the Jadeveon Clowney sweepstakes, win valuable prizes.
PS — In case you’re wondering, the worst shutout loss in Giants history — 45-0 to the Eagles in 1948. And the biggest losing margin — 56 points, a 63-7 embarrassment to the Steelers in 1952.
Andy Pettitte’s retirement breaks a major link in the chain of recent Yankee greatness, especially with the Core Four — a group which won a total of five World Series and seven American League pennants starting in 1996. With Mariano Rivera also exiting this year, and Jorge Posada retiring following the 2011 season, only Derek Jeter remains — and the future of the soon-to-be 40-year-old shortstop is certainly uncertain.
Here are 10 things you should know about Andrew Eugene Pettitte.
1. Pettitte owns a 255-152 career record, good for a .627 career percentage.
2. He is one of just 26 pitchers in baseball history to post a career mark of 100+ games over .500, and the only one still active.
3. Of the previous 25 pitchers to accomplish the feat, 18 are in the Hall of Fame.
4. Pettitte is third all-time on the Yankee win list. His 218 victories trail only Hall of Famers Whitey Ford and Red Ruffing. He’s also first in strikeouts (2009), second in starts and third in innings pitched.
5. He left the Yankees following the 2003 season to sign a free agent contract with Houston and helped lead the Astros to their only World Series in 2005.
6. With a 20-11 career mark against Boston, Yankee fans will always wonder whether having Pettitte on the mound might have stemmed the tide of Boston’s record comeback from three games down in the 2004 ALCS.
7. Pettitte compiled a 90-39 record against the Yankees AL East rivals (20-11 vs. Boston, 28-6 vs. Baltimore, 17-8 vs. Tampa Bay and 25-14 vs. Toronto). That’s a .698 winning percentage.
8. His 19 post-season wins are the most in baseball history. Atlanta’s John Smoltz is next on the list with 15. Whitey Ford has the most World Series wins with 10.
9. Perhaps Pettitte’s most memorable win was a 1-0 shutout over Smoltz in the fifth game of the 1996 World Series.
10. Pettitte retired once previously, after the 2007 season. He returned in 2009, and was the winning pitcher in Game Six as the Yankees beat Philadelphia to win their 27th World Championship.