Big Lead Sports Bar


Steelers vs. Colts...vs. Boise State vs. Oklahoma...vs. Texas vs. USC

OK, it's time to get to that argument I teased in Monday's weekend wrapup...
So I'm watching the Colts/Chiefs playoff game with my Dad and a huge debate breaks out. He keeps telling me that Boise State/Oklahoma was the most exciting game of all time. I agree that it was up there, but I tell him he has a short memory. I argued that the Steelers/Colts playoff game in January, 2006 was equally if not more exciting, based on the roller coaster ride that was the fourth quarter, and that it at least belongs in the discussion. And I also made the case that the USC/Texas Rose Bowl in 2006 was a more exciting game than BSU/OU given the stakes at hand.
These games were all exciting for different reasons. In the case of Boise State, their program had never experienced a win in a game so big, on such a large stage. The Steelers, on the other hand, were playing this game as part of an unprecedented run through the NFL playoffs. No six-seed had ever won a Super Bowl or won three road playoff games in a row. USC-Texas was the culmination of a collision course involving two mega-powers, and the game exceeded the lofty expectations.
Before I get slammed, I know there were big, exciting games played before 2006. I enjoy the history of sports. But today, I'm not trying to debate the entire history of instant classics. This was a unique case of three memorable games played in the past year, and I'd like to hear other opinions as to which one you think was the most exciting.
Let's examine the three thrillers, present some facts and other relevant information, and see where that gets us.
Pregame expectations
BSU/OU: Boise State was ranked #9 with a 12-0 record, winning the WAC championship. They did not play any ranked opponents. Oklahoma was #7 at 11-2. They had a controversial one-point loss at #18 Oregon and lost by 18 against Texas. They had three wins over top-25 opponents. At gametime, OU was a seven-point favorite. So let's not get carried away here. BSU wasn't some 40-point underdog.
Steelers/Colts: Of the "national media", only Merril Hoge predicted the Steelers to win (as I remember), and he picked them every week. In fact, I remember Dan Patrick asking Michael Irvin what chance the Steelers had to win, to which Michael responded, "Not a chance, Dan!". I always enjoy the opportunity to make Michael Irvin look more foolish than he usually does on his own.
USC/Texas: This was arguably the most-anticipated NCAA football championship of all time. USC entered with a 34-game winning streak and were the defending champs. Texas was riding a 19-game winning streak. The combined 53 games were an NCAA record. There were two Heisman winners on the USC side (Bush & Leinart) as well as a Heisman runner-up (Vince Young) on the Texas side. Even before the game was played, ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit and Mark May declared USC as the second-best college team of all time, trailing only the '95 Nebraska Cornhuskers in their minds.
Blown Leads and comebacks
BSU/OU: Boise State's largest lead was 28-10 in the 3rd quarter. The game went into OT tied at 35.
Steelers/Colts: The Steelers nursed a 21-3 lead going into the fourth quarter. The Colts brought it back to 21-18 and attempted a Mike Vanderjagt field goal to tie.
USC/Texas: USC led 38-26 with 6:42 remaining in the game. Texas would rally for a 41-38 win.
Big Plays/Momentum-Changing Plays
BSU: Marty Tadman's 49-yard INT return at 8:05 of the 3rd---puts BSU up 28-10
OU: Quentin Chaney's 5-yard TD at 1:26 of the 4th ties the game at 28.
OU: Marcus Walker takes back a Jared Zabransky pass 33 yards to the house. 35-28 OU with 1:02 to go
BSU: Jerard Rabb scores on a 4th-and-18 hook-and-lateral from Zabransky with seven seconds left. 35-35 going into OT
OU: Adrian Peterson rumbles 25 yards on the first play of OT. OU is up 42-35
BSU: Derek Schouman catches a 5-yard TD pass on 4th-and-goal in OT. 42-41, OU.
BSU: Zabransky executes the Statue of Liberty play, and Ian Johnson takes it in for the two-point conversion. 43-42 BSU
BSU: Johnson then drops to one knee and proposes to his girlfriend. This could be the tiebreaker in an excitement argument. Although if Big Ben were still dating Natalie Gulbis, that proposal would top Ian Johnson-Chrissy Popadics.
Steelers: Roethlisberger to Randle El for a six-yard TD at the 10:11 mark of the first quarter. An exclamation point on the first drive.
Steelers: Roethlisberger to Heath Miller for a seven-yard TD with 3:56 left in the first. Further digging Peyton Manning a hole.
Steelers: Jerome Bettis goes in from a yard out at 2:09 of the 3rd. 21-3 Steelers going into quarter four.
Steelers: Troy Polamalu interception gets overturned by ref Pete Morelli with 5:26 to go in the game
Colts: Edgerrin James takes it three yards to the house with 4:35 left. 21-18 Steelers, but the Colts are surging after the overturned INT.
Steelers: Joey Porter sacks Peyton Manning twice in a critical, "last gasp" drive for the Colts. Pittsburgh takes posession at the Indy 2 with 1:20 left.
Steelers: The Bus fumbles, it's recovered by stab victim Nick Harper, and Big Ben makes a TD-saving tackle. Colts take back the ball at their own 42, 1:09 left in the game
Steelers: Manning throws to the end zone for Reggie Wayne, but rookie Bryant McFadden defends. Brings up a 4th and 2 at the Steeler 28. 21 seconds to go.
Steelers: The NFL's all-time most accurate field goal kicker, Mike Vanderjagt, lines up for a 46-yarder and misses badly. Game, set, match. 21-18, Steelers
USC: The Trojans take the opening drive 46 yards in 1:10. Lendale White scores from four yards out, and USC sets the pace from the opening gun. 7-0, USC.
Texas: Vince Young runs for 12 yards and laterals to Selvin Young, who takes it the rest of the way. Texas takes their first lead at 4:47 of the 2nd Q, 9-7.
Texas: Ramonce Taylor rumbles 30 yards to the house. Texas builds a 16-7 lead at 2:34 of the 2nd.
USC: Lendale White takes it in once again, this time from three yards. USC regains the lead at 17-16 with 10:36 in the 3rd.
Texas: Vince Young runs for 38 yards and throws for 21 more on a seven-play drive. Texas reclaims the lead, 23-17...8:34 left in the 3rd.
USC: Lendale White scores a third time, adding a 12-yarder to his resume. Leinart throws for 72 on the drive. USC is up 24-23 and takes the lead into the 4th.
USC: Dwayne Jarrett reels in a 22-yarder from Matt Leinart for six. USC takes a 38-26 lead on a 4 play, 80 yard drive with just 6:42 left in regulation
Texas: Vince Young moves the Longhorns 69 yards in 2:39, capping the drive with a 17-yard TD run. 38-33, USC, with 4:03 remaining.
Texas: VY runs it in from 8 on a 4th-and-5. Texas takes over, 41-38. 19 seconds to go.
USC: Leinart-to-Bush for 26, the ball is on the Texas 43 with time for one more play
USC: Leinart's pass to Jarrett falls incomplete. Ladies and gentlemen, your NCAA Champion Texas Longhorns.
Superb Individual Performances
Ian Johnson, BSU: 101 yards rushing, 1 TD, and that game-clinching conversion. Plus a successful marriage proposal
Jared Zabransky, BSU: 19/29, 263 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT. And the greatest Statue of Liberty play in history
Marty Tadman, BSU: 2 INTs, one for a touchdown
Adrian Peterson, OU: 77 yards rushing, 2 TDs (1 in OT)
Juaquin Iglesias, OU: 6 catches, 120 yards
Marcus Walker, OU: 33 yard INT return for a TD in the final minute
Big Ben, Steelers: 197 yards, 2 TD (both in the 1st half), 1 INT
Hines Ward, Steelers: 3 catches for 68 yards, including a 45-yarder
James Farrior, Steelers: 2.5 sacks, 8 tackles, 2 assists
Joey Porter, Steelers: 1.5 sacks, but both were at crucial times
Steelers D: 5 sacks of Manning in all
Nick Harper, Colts: 9 tackles, and recovered & returned the Bettis fumble
Peyton Manning, Colts: 290 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, but invisible in the 1st half
Reggie Wayne, Colts: 7 catches, 97 yards
Matt Leinart, USC: 365 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Lendale White, USC: 124 yards rushing, 3 TD
Reggie Bush, USC: 82 yards rushing, 95 receiving, 102 kick return yards, 1 TD
Dwayne Jarrett, USC: 10 catches, 121 yards, 1 TD
Vince Young, Texas: 267 yards passing, 200 yards rushing, 3 rushing TDs, including the game-winner
David Thomas, Texas: 10 catches, 88 yards
I think fans are so whipped up about BSU/OU because of the staggering number of trick plays called at absolutely crucial points in the game. Throw in the underdog factor and that could be your winner.... However, the Steelers win was as improbable as they come in the NFL. When you consider how they got thumped in their previous trip to Indy earlier in the season, plus the fact that the Colts were near-perfect in the regular season and rarely lose at home, the Steelers' win turned more than a few heads. So you could call that game the winner...But then again, how often do big games exceed the expectations? Just look at last night's Florida/OSU game. Would you call that a good game? By comparison, USC/Texas, featuring hoards of blue-chip NFL talent duking it out at the Rose Bowl, makes a strong case itself.
So I'm leaving this one up to you. Of the three games presented here, which game would you say was the most exciting, and why?


Anonymous said...

I preface my statements by saying that I watched all three games live.

In terms of sheer excitement, this year's Fiesta Bowl was unreal. It was even better than last year's Rose Bowl, in my opinion.

However, given the state of affairs in NCAA football, I cannot compare a mere exhibition game (Boise St-OK) with the drama that was Steelers-Colts.

There was soooooo much on the line that day, including the legacy of Jerome Bettis, that the Steelers-Colts game will live forever as the best game among the three you mentioned.

(However, for my money, I'll take Super Bowl XXXIV. The Rams win the Super Bowl with a stop at the 1-yd line. It gets no better than that.)

HotDog_Zanzabar said...

I tried to remain neutral in this, but if Boise State beating Oklahoma is the catalyst for the creation of a college playoff, then it would be hard to argue against it.

One commone theme in all of these games is blown leads.

Unknown said...

Mondesi as usual you have inundated me with statistics. Regardless of what you say, I still feel that Boise Stae upsetting Oklahoma is on another universe compared to the Steelers (then owners of four Superbowl Trophies) upsetting the Indianapolis Colts.

But it's always fun arguing with you!