Let’s take a look at the greatest plays of the past decade, starting with #5. Plays were chosen not only for how great the individual play was, but also for the impact it had at the time on the overall game.
#5 – SHARK ATTACK (Purdue 2005)
Purdue was Notre Dame’s last hurdle before the showdown with Southern Cal in Charlie Weis’ first year at the helm. A lot of people forget but the Irish were actually underdogs that game, a night contest on ESPN at Ross-Ade Stadium. There were a lot of questions as to Notre Dame was the real deal that year and quickly those questions were answered.
When Brady let go of this ball I initially had thought it was a duck because he kind of got hit as he let it go. I was wrong…
#4 – “HOLY RUDY!” (Michigan St 2002)
This was right about the time where I began to think Ty Willingham could walk on water during his first season. Charles Rogers had just made the most amazing touchdown catch I’ve ever seen not made by someone named Tyrone Prothro and Irish backup quarterback Pat Dillingham trotted out on to the field since starter Carlyle Holiday was knocked out of the game.
What happened next was a tiny bit of payback for the Herb Haygood incident from 2000 and an opportunity for Brent Musberger to whip out one of the corniest calls ever…
#3 – “HE MAY GO!” (Nebraska 2000)
Nebraska fans embarrassed the Notre Dame faithful by totally invading Notre Dame Stadium, making it seem more like a neutral site game than a home game for the Irish. When Nebraska scored to take the lead 21-7 in the third quarter it seemed like the #1 ranked Cornhuskers were on their way to a convincing victory.
Julius Jones responded with a 100-yard return on the ensuing kickoff to cut the deficit to a touchdown. Then after Notre Dame forced a three and out 5'7" sparkplug Joey Getherall went back to field a punt…
#2 – ZIBBY DELIVERS A ROUNDHOUSE PUNCH (USC 2005)
Things were all knotted up in the second quarter when the Irish forced a punt. As Tom Zbikowski trotted back to field the kick my buddy Jon Don turned and said knowingly to us that “Zibby is a tough runner but he’s just not a threat to take it to the house, he’s just not fast enough.” Jon Don confirms to this day that crow never tasted so good…
#1 – “HE’S GOING IN!” (UCLA 2006)
This was the biggest rage I ever experienced in the student section. I had gotten to the game right at kickoff (thanks to some flight delays from fall break) and sat with my buddy Gabe in the senior section. When Samardzija crossed the goal line literally people just turned and tackled the person next to them. It was just a huge dogpile on the benches, absolute carnage.
I think the reason it was so wild (you know, other than the fact that we’d saved our season and come back against all odds to win with under 30 seconds left) was because the students had an entire game’s worth of emotion pent up. Prior to that play it was an incredibly boring, bland, uneventful game. Sitting through 59:30 of crappy football is worth it when in an instant all is saved…
FIVE HONORABLE MENTIONS:
* Nick Setta’s game-winning field goal against Purdue as time expired in 2000
* Julius Jones’ ridiculous touchdown run to take the lead against Washington State in 2003
* Brady Quinn stretches over the goal line to take the lead against Southern Cal in 2005
* Lambert takes the lead against Michigan State in 2006
* Golden Tate’s entire career
* Robert Hughes’ pile-pushing 2-pt conversion against Washington this year