Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Games of the Century

You know that this weekend's Ohio State v. Michigan game is a sporting event of galactic proportions when even a Texas paper publishes an article calling it "The Game of the Century." I believe that this is the first time in the 21st century that this tag has been hung on a college football game, but there were several 20th century games that were given the GOTC moniker. I thought it might be interesting to take a look at them.

1916 - Georgia Tech 222, Cumberland 0. Talk about a bad day at the office. How the worst mismatch in sporting history got a GOTC tag is beyond me. Why Cumberland College commemorates it is even more mystifying.

1935 -- Notre Dame 18, Ohio State 13. This is the game that a panel of experts voted the greatest game played during the first century of college football. Ohio State held a 13-0 lead in the fourth quarter, but the Irish scored three touchdowns to pull out the win. Bill Shakespeare threw a game-winning 19-yard pass to Wayne Millner with 32 seconds left. Check out the highlight video.

1946 -- Army 0, Notre Dame 0. The scoreless tie between Notre Dame and Army is one of the most famous games in college football history, but there's a dirty little secret about this game: it was boring as hell. Notre Dame had only one scoring opportunity,
reaching the Army 4-yard line before Frank Leahy decided not to try a field goal but to instead run a sweep on fourth and goal (huh?). Johnny Lujack made a touchdown-saving open field tackle of Doc Blanchard to stifle the Cadets' only scoring threat.

1966 -- Notre Dame 10, Michigan State 10. This was the much anticipated and still highly controversial matchup between the #1 Irish and the #2 Spartans. The game lived up to its billing, and is still regarded as a classic. The controversy involves Ara Parseghian's decision to run out the clock during Notre Dame's last drive. Was this the wrong thing to do? Decide for yourself. Here's the last series of the game.

1969 -- Texas 15, Arkansas 14. The #1 Longhorns spotted the #2 Razorbacks a 14 point lead and then, led by QB James Street, scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to win the game. Texas went on to win the National Championship, defeating Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl 27-17.

1971-- Nebraska 35, Oklahoma 31. I think that aside from the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, this was the greatest college football game that I ever saw. Johnny Rodgers and Greg Pruitt squared off in a see-saw battle that saw the Sooners twice overcome double-digit leads, only to have the Cornhuskers win the game with a long drive that culminated in FB Jeff Kinney's two yard scoring plunge.

1987 -- Penn State 14, Miami 10. The 1987 Fiesta Bowl was Joe Pa's masterpiece. His outmanned Nittany Lions outfought the more talented Hurricanes while he and his defensive staff coached rings around Jimmy Johnson. Vinny Testaverde was intercepted five times, the last one coming with 18 seconds left to play and the ball on the Penn State six yard line.

1993 -- Notre Dame 31, Florida State 24. This one had one of the more dramatic endings of the various GOTC contenders, as Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward's last second pass was knocked down by Shawn Wooden of the Fighting Irish. Check out the video of that play here. Of course, none of us Notre Dame fans like to recall what happened the following week, when the Irish lost to Boston College on a last second field goal and ended up handing the national championship back to Florida State.

As the latest GOTC designee, the Buckeyes and Wolverines have a lot to live up to this weekend. I've got every expectation that they won't let us down.

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