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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

A Retrospective

Ten Moments for 2010, Part II

I unveiled the first five memorable moments yesterday: Oregon’s second half comeback against Stanford, South Carolina’s win in Gainesville, Ryan Mallett’s dreadful fourth quarter against Alabama, Wisconsin’s early barrage against Ohio State and T.C.U.’s demolition of Utah. It’s time for the five most unforgettable moments of the 2010 regular season, beginning in College Station, continuing with two dabs of Boise State and ending with a second half to remember.

5. Moore to Pettis

Boise State vs. Virginia Tech, Sept. 6

Just how long a college football season truly is, though it is always gone far too soon: this game came before Virginia Tech lost to James Madison, let alone ran the table in the A.C.C. to finish the regular season 11-2. It’s been a while. Boise State’s game-winning drive against these Hokies, on the other hand, was gone in a flash. Trailing by four with 1:47 left to play, Boise State took over at its own 44-yard line thanks to a nice punt return by Mitch Burroughs. Kellen Moore completes three consecutive passes, with the last of the three — to Austin Pettis — followed by a personal foul on Virginia Tech. Two plays later, Moore finds Pettis once again: touchdown, Boise State. The final was Boise 33, Virginia Tech 30; these Broncos were pretty good.

4. The 12th Man Returns

Nebraska at Texas A&M, Nov. 20

In force, mind you. The home crowd that Saturday night in College Station, whether seated in the upper deck, on the lower level or in white folding chairs along each sideline, provided the best home environment of the season. The raucous, record-setting crowd was also treated to a vintage Texas A&M performance: welcome back the Wrecking Crew, dormant for so long, now the impetus behind Texas A&M’s 9-3 finish. While the Aggies had been hot heading into this game, the win provided the program with a national stage upon which to tout its new-look, aggressive defense. The offense wasn’t great, but was good enough to unseat the then-9-1 Cornhuskers. A&M finished the year with six straight wins, landing a berth in the Cotton Bowl and providing major momentum heading into next season, but this was the victory that defined the season.

3. The Miss, and Miss Again

Boise State at Nevada, Nov. 26

Did he miss the first kick? Well, he certainly missed the second, we can agree on that. But those goalposts… and the officials seemingly in the wrong position… maybe Kyle Brotzman did make that field goal as time expired in regulation, one that would have given Boise State a win over rival Nevada and clinched a berth in the Rose Bowl. If it goes through, the Broncos finish the regular season 12-0, 8-0 in conference play, and would have beat out T.C.U. for that B.C.S. berth. Kellen Moore’s improbable completion to Titus Young — one that set up the first missed field goal — would have provided the junior with his Heisman moment. Brotzman would have been a hero, not a goat, and Boise’s season would have continued in earnest. What could have been.

2. The 13th Man

Tennessee at L.S.U., Oct. 2

In terms of pure madness, no other moment comes close. On a personal level, it’s a series of events I’ll always remember. Let’s paint a picture: third-and-goal at the Tennessee one-yard line… time on the clock ticking away… five, four, three… the ball is snapped towards Jordan Jefferson, lined up in the shotgun, yet Jefferson is not ready… the ball bounces off Jefferson, bounding back towards the L.S.U. end zone… Jefferson falls on the ball, but it’s too late… Tennessee wins, improbably stopping L.S.U. on its own doorstep. But for that flag, that pesky flag, Derek Dooley would have landed the type of era-building win first-year coaches covet. That flag: 13 men on the field — as the joke goes, 11 men and two Volunteers. Given new life, L.S.U. went with its bread-and-butter short yardage play, a quick pitch to running back Steven Ridley. The final was L.S.U. 16, Tennessee 14, sending Dooley and his team back to the drawing board.

1. The Comeback

Auburn at Alabama, Nov. 27

Those who questioned Cam Newton’s Heisman credentials were forced to reevaluate their position following Auburn’s second half comeback in the Iron Bowl. Those off-field issues were — are — impossible to ignore; so was Newton’s play in the biggest game of his college career, a 60-minute affair that saw Auburn first trail, 24-0, before outscoring the Crimson Tide 28-3 down the stretch to remain in the national title driver’s seat. After seeing that performance, I had only one wish: please, allow this to be my lasting memory of Cam Newton at Auburn, not a potential N.C.A.A. investigation in the future. Beyond merely this season, Auburn’s comeback enters the annals of program history, Iron Bowl history, SEC history and N.C.A.A. history, with Newton’s stature in that latter category already firmly established.

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  1. Jack says:

    How can you make a list of top 10 2010 moments and not include Little Giants?

  2. DMK says:

    Top Moment of 2011?:

    Newton’s ineligibility.

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