We’re officially less than two weeks from the start of college football season, the magical 3 1/2 months of the calendar year when you sneak down into the basement, hide from your family and spend the rest of your day watching football, in tiny 15-hour doses. Can you feel the excitement! But before we can turn our attention to the coming season, let’s first look back to last year, which produced -- quite literally -- some of the most spectacular plays the sport has ever seen. Just to get you ready for the season ahead, let’s look back on 21 of the most incredible plays that you probably forgot happened last season.
Getty ImagesLayne Murdoch
Week 1: BYU Hail Mary to beat Nebraska
It was a cool, crisp fall day in Lincoln -- the kind of afternoon that was supposed to be unforgettable for Cornhuskers fans everywhere. Bo Pelini was gone after seven long seasons, and in was Mike Riley, set to bring the program back to its perch atop the college football world. Then, Tanner Mangum happened. Down one, the BYU quarterback marched the Cougars to mid-field before a timeout set up one final play. Mangum rolled right, and as the clock expired threw the ball toward the end zone… right between a group of Nebraska defenders and into the hands of wide receiver Mitch Matthews. It gave BYU a stunning opening-weekend win, and Mike Riley the first loss during his time at Nebraska. You can watch the play here.
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY SportsBruce Thorson
Week 1: Braxton Miller spins right past Virginia Tech
Ohio State entered the season as the first unanimous No. 1 team in the preseason polls, but was struggling in its opener against Virginia Tech. Up 21-17, Cardale Jones handed the ball off to Braxton Miller, who cut to the left and sprinted up-field. At the first-down marker a Virginia Tech defender went to tackle Miller, but right as he went in, Miller gave a quick spin move and sprinted into the open field. He scored on a 54-yard touchdown run, giving the Buckeyes a 28-17 lead that they would never relinquish. You can watch the play here.
Week 2: BYU does it again
A week after the miracle at Memorial Stadium, Mangum and BYU did it again, this time at home. Trailing 24-21 to Boise State with just 54 seconds to play, the Cougars faced a make-or-break 4th and 7. Mangum again got the ball in the pocket, rolled right and threw downfield, where he found Mitchell Jurgens for a 35-yard touchdown pass with 45 seconds to play. BYU went on to win 35-24. You can watch the play here.
Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY SportsChris Nicoll
Week 2: Kizer leads comeback for Notre Dame
A season that began with so much optimism for Notre Dame quickly hit the skids in Week 2, when starting quarterback Malik Zaire suffered an ankle injury against Virginia. The Irish were ahead when Zaire went down, but trailed 27-26 with under a minute to go. Backup quarterback DeShone Kizer came to the rescue, launching a 45-yard touchdown pass to Will Fuller with just 12 seconds to go. It gave the Irish a wild win and led to one of the most iconic pictures of the entire season. You can watch the play here.
Week 3: Leonard Fournette trucks an Auburn defender
This, my friends, is the game where Leonard Fournette became a college football star and a national household name. The first of his two incredibly memorable runs came when Fournette took a handoff from Brandon Harris, quickly hit the hole and made an Auburn defender miss. But then, out of nowhere, appeared cornerback Blake Countess, who attempted to tackle Fournette. Fournette ran right over him and dragged him a few yards downfield before shaking him off and rumbling into the end zone for his second score of the day. You can watch the play here.
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY SportsDerick E. Hingle
Week 3: Leonard Fournette brushes another Auburn defender off his back
After Countess had little success going low on Fournette, safety Tray Matthews tried to go high on him when Fournette was given another carry later in the third quarter. Fournette simply kept running (with Matthews on his back), before eventually brushing him off his shoulder and rumbling in for another touchdown. It was his third touchdown of the day, and as they say, "that’s the day a legend was born." You can watch the play here.
Getty ImagesLayne Murdoch
Week 3: Crazy tip pass propels Ole Miss to another upset of Alabama
After Ole Miss beat Alabama in 2014, the Crimson Tide were looking for revenge at home against Hugh Freeze’s club last season. Ole Miss jumped out to a 17-3 lead before the Tide cut the lead to 17-10 at half. With the momentum turning, the Rebels faced a big 3rd and 1, but as soon as Chad Kelly dropped back in the pocket, Alabama’s defense was in his face. He heaved a ball that hit off Laquon Treadwell’s helmet and into the hands of fellow Rebels’ wide receiver Quincy Adeboyejo. Adeboyejo sprinted 66 yards for a touchdown, and Ole Miss went on to stun Alabama for a second straight year. You can watch the play here.
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY SportsMarvin Gentry
Week 3: Texas loses in the most painful way possible to Cal
It was a tough Year 2 for Charlie Strong in Austin, but how different things might have been had the Longhorns completed a comeback against Cal in Week 3. The Longhorns trailed 45-24 in the fourth quarter, yet somehow managed to cut the lead to 45-44 after quarterback Jerrod Heard busted out a massive 45-yard touchdown run with just over a minute to go. But right as the Longhorns seemed ready to turn a corner, they missed the extra point, allowing Cal to escape with a one-point win. You can watch the play here.
Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY SportsBrendan Maloney
Week 4: Texas loses in the most painful way (Part II)
If the loss to Cal wasn’t bad enough, it got even worse a week later. The Longhorns took a 27-24 lead late into the fourth quarter before Oklahoma State tied things up on a field goal. On the next possession, the Cowboys forced the Longhorns to punt, but the snap was bobbled by Texas punter Michael Dickson. Dickson recovered the muff, but his punt went just a few yards and put Oklahoma State in position to kick a game-winning field goal. The Cowboys nailed it, and the Longhorns lost in devastating fashion for the second straight week. You can watch the play here.
Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY SportsBrendan Maloney
Week 4: Florida stuns Tennessee ... again
Entering last season, the Gators had beaten the Volunteers an incredible 10 straight times -- a streak which dated back to the year before Urban Meyer got to Florida. Yikes! But last year seemed like it’d be the year for the Vols, who had a 13-point lead with under five minutes to play, and a 27-21 lead with under two minutes to go. Tennessee forced the Gators into a 4th and 14, when Will Grier hit Antonio Callaway over the middle. Not only did Callaway convert the first down, he raced 63 yards, for a game-winning score to give the Gators another stunning win over Tennessee. You can watch the play here.
Getty ImagesMike Ehrmann
Week 4: A late miracle conversion gives TCU a win over Texas Tech
About the same time Tennessee-Florida was finishing in Gainesville, an equally exciting game came right down to the wire in Lubbock. Texas Tech held a 52-48 lead over TCU with 30 seconds remaining when the Horned Frogs pulled off a miracle. Trevone Boykin dropped back in the pocket and threw a pass to Josh Doctson, but Doctson tipped it into the air. Out of nowhere, running back Aaron Green grabbed it and tapped his toes in bounds for the game-winning score. The Horned Frogs won 55-52 to survive a wild game. You can watch the play here.
Getty ImagesJohn Weast
Week 5: Clemson needs a fourth down stop to survive a monsoon, and Notre Dame
In arguably the best game of the year that virtually no one remembers, the Tigers and Irish played a classic in Death Valley. After trailing 21-3 in the first half, Notre Dame cut the lead to 24-16 and was driving with under three minutes left when Chris Brown fumbled on the goal line. Incredibly, the Irish then got a stop and with under 30 seconds to go, DeShone Kizer led them on a touchdown drive to cut the lead to 24-22. The Irish needed to go for two, but as Kizer tried to run the ball in, he was stuffed on the goal line by Carlos Watkins. Clemson's win provided maybe the greatest quote of the season from Dabo Swinney. “Tonight, it was BYOG,” Swinney said. “Bring your own guts.” You can watch Dabo’s speech here. You can watch the play here.
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY SportsJoshua S. Kelly
Week 7: Francis Owusu makes an acrobatic TD catch
Early in the third quarter with the Cardinal comfortably ahead against UCLA, Christian McCaffrey took a direct snap on a reverse, with the ball ultimately ending up in QB Kevin Hogan's hands. Hogan's pass came up a little bit short, but Francis Owusu made arguably the best catch of the season, pinning it against a UCLA defender’s back and holding on for the touchdown. Stanford cruised to a win over the Bruins before eventually cruising to a Pac-12 title. You can watch the play here.
Getty ImagesThearon W. Henderson
Week 7: Michigan State vs. Michigan madness
This game needs no further context. Michigan had the ball with a 23-21 lead with 10 seconds left, and all it needed to do was get off a clean punt, make a tackle and the game was over. Instead, the ball slipped through punter Blake O’Neill’s hands and was picked up by Michigan State’s Jalen Watts-Jackson. He rumbled down the sideline and by the time he hit the end zone, the clock ran out to give Sparty a wild 27-21 win. You can watch the play here.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY SportsRick Osentoski
Week 8: Georgia Tech hands Florida State its first ACC loss in two years
It wasn’t just that Florida State lost, but how it happened. With just six seconds left and the game tied, the Seminoles lined up for a deep -- but makeable -- field goal for the game’s best kicker, Roberto Aguayo. But just as the ball left Aguayo’s foot a Tech defender blocked it, and it landed in the hands of Lance Austin. He returned it 78 yards to give Georgia Tech the stunning 22-16 upset of the Seminoles. You can watch the play here.
Brett Davis-USA TODAY SportsBrett Davis
Week 9: Miami, Duke and eight laterals
Just a week after Al Golden was fired at Miami, the Hurricanes pulled off an inspirational win for interim coach Larry Scott in one of the wildest endings in college football history. Down 27-24 going into the final kickoff, the Hurricanes used eight -- yes, eight -- laterals for the game-winning score. More crazy than the play itself was what happened next: A ref came on the field and called a penalty against Miami, before coming back out and overturning it. Finally, mercifully, the Hurricanes got their win. You can watch the play here.
Getty ImagesGrant Halverson
Week 10: Michigan State is on the wrong side of a wild ending
Just a few short weeks after stunning Michigan on the last play of the game, Michigan State got a little bit of its own medicine. Nebraska, which trailed by 12 points with under two minutes left, rallied -- capped by Tommy Armstrong's 30-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Reilly with just 17 seconds left to give the Cornhuskers a wild win. Two things made the moment even worse for the Spartans: 1) A potential game-ending interception fell through a defensive back’s hands just a few plays before; 2) Reilly actually stepped out of bounds before making the catch. However, due to replay rules, the referees were not allowed to overturn the call. Yikes. You can watch the play here.
Eric Francis/Getty Images
Week 10: Arkansas pulls off a miracle at Ole Miss
This is another classic that rarely gets talked about in the pantheon of “great games of the 2015 season.” Arkansas trailed 52-45 in overtime to the Rebels and were down to their final play, facing a 4th and 25 to keep the game alive. After Brandon Allen completed a pass to tight end Hunter Henry for a short gain, Henry flipped the ball over his head, right into the arms of star running back Alex Collins. Collins did just enough for a first down, and Arkansas scored later on the drive. However, rather than kicking a PAT to send the game to a second overtime, Bielema instead decided to go for two. Arkansas converted and won the game, leading to one of the greatest postgame press conference moments ever, when Bielema said he was ready to “hop on my wife … I mean hop on the plane” after the victory. You can watch Bielema’s speech here. You can watch the play here.
Matt Bush-USA TODAY SportsMatt Bush
Week 12: Even with no Connor Cook, Michigan State pulls off the upset in Columbus
In case you haven’t noticed, it was a bit of a wild season for the Spartans (with more coming). On the road, without Connor Cook, against a team that hadn’t lost a regular season Big Ten game in Urban Meyer’s run in Columbus, it appeared as though the Spartans were going to suffer their second loss in three games. But after trailing 14-7 entering the fourth, they tied the game with 12 minutes to go. And then Michael Geiger booted a field goal as time expired. It propelled the Spartans to a Big Ten East championship, and a title game appearance against Iowa. You can watch the play here.
Getty ImagesJamie Sabau
Big Ten Championship: A key interception fuels a Michigan State title
So this play didn’t technically ‘win’ the Big Ten title for Michigan State against Iowa, but it did help. It came late in the second quarter, with Iowa holding a 6-3 lead (yeah, it was that kind of game) and in the red zone, ready to punch the ball in for a score. However, when C.J. Beathard dropped back and threw toward the end zone, Spartans’ linebacker Riley Bullough knocked the ball out of the receiver’s hands. The ball landed on Bullough’s back, and Demetrius Cox grabbed it before it hit the ground for the interception. Michigan State was able to prevent the touchdown and would win the game with a last-minute scoring drive. You can watch the play here.
National Championship Game: An onside kick fuels Alabama’s title
It only seems fitting that we end on arguably the most significant play of the entire season. It came with the game tied at 24. Fresh off a field goal, Alabama lined up for the kickoff and pulled a fast one on Clemson, converting a stunning onside kick. O.J. Howard scored later in the drive, and after a back-and-forth fourth quarter, the Tide would hold on to win Nick Saban’s fourth title at the school. You can watch the play here.