Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Miracle at Michigan, a Hail Mary from Colorado quarterback Cordell Stewart to receiver Michael Westbrook that gave the Buffaloes an unfathomable victory in the Big House.
In honor of that play, the Hotline presents the most unforgettable, seen-and-still-not-believed play for every team in the Pac-12.
These aren’t necessarily the most meaningful or impactful plays — not all of them changed the outcome of a game or the pursuit of a championship.
But they all have a miraculous component that, years and decades later, causes astonishment that’s as fresh as it was at the time.
And we have video for each of them.
Here we go …
ArizonaThe play: Chuck Cecil’s interceptionThe Arizona safety produced a Pick 106 in the 1986 Territorial Cup, one of the most significant in the rivalry’s long history. Cecil intercepted ASU quarterback Jeff Van Raaphorst’s pass six yards deep in the end zone and — as Arizona Stadium roared — sprinted the length of the field for a touchdown that secured 12th-ranked Arizona’s 34-17 victory over the No. 8 Sun Devils.* Visual: video clip (the 0:41 mark)
Arizona StateThe play: John Jefferson’s catchThe ASU receiver, who went on to star in the NFL, made a diving catch in the back of end zone that has since been known around Tempe as The Catch. It unfolded at the end of the first half and helped ASU to a 24-21 victory in the 1975 Territorial Cup. That Arizona fans claim the reception should have been called incomplete only adds to the lore.* Visual: best video I could find (it was 55 years ago, after all)
CalThe play: The PlayYou know the story: The 1982 Big Game, the Stanford kickoff, the five laterals, the band on the field, the trombone, John Elway’s final game, the iconic photo of Kevin Moen holding the ball in the end zone.* Visual: In case you want to see it again.
ColoradoThe Play: The Miracle at MichiganThe Buffaloes trailed 26-21 with six seconds remaining and 64 yards to cover when Stewart heaved the ball downfield. Receiver Blake Anderson deflected the ball, on purpose, and Westbrook made a diving catch in the end zone. The play was called ‘Rocket left’ and traced its roots to none other than Bill Belichick.* Visual: video clip
OregonThe play: Kenny Wheaton’s interceptionWashington was driving for the winning touchdown and had first down inside the 10 yard-line when quarterback Damon Huard threw a sideline pass (from the far hashmark) to receiver Dave Janoski. Wheaton stepped in front and raced 94 yards for the touchdown that secured a key victory in Oregon’s charge to the Rose Bowl — and marked the start of a new dynamic in the Pacific Northwest. The 25th anniversary is next month.* Visual: video clip
Oregon StateThe play: Terry Baker’s run.Many readers of this column might be unfamiliar with Baker, so know this: OSU’s quarterback won the 1962 Heisman Trophy, was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year, was the first pick in the NFL Draft and played for the Beavers in the 1963 Final Four. His signature play — the greatest in OSU history — came in the 1962 Liberty Bowl against Villanova. Baker took the snap at the one yard-line, rolled left, broke two tackles, reached the edge and raced down the left sideline for a 99-yard touchdown that was the only score of the game.* Visual: A grainy video clip (the 3:20 mark)
StanfordThe play: John Hopkin’s field goalStanford trailed by one point with 12 seconds remaining in the 1990 Big Game (after missing a two-point conversion). A successful on-side kick by the Cardinal and a late-hit penalty on Cal gave Stanford possession at the 22 yard-line. Hopkins trotted on and drilled the 39-yarder to give Stanford a 27-25 win. Because of the improbable sequence that set the stage, it’s known as The Revenge of The Play.* Visual: video highlights (final sequence starts at 11:20)
UCLAThe play: Eric McNeal’s interceptionUSC was driving for the go-ahead touchdown with five minutes remaining when McNeal tipped a pass by John David Booty near the line of scrimmage — and then snared the ball in midair with a spinning, twisting, jaw-dropping interception. The pick preserved UCLA’s 13-9 win over the undefeated Trojans and kept USC from advancing to the BCS championship. UCLA fans later produced T shirts declaring, simply,“13-9.”Visual: video in this article (start video at 2:25)
USCThe play: O.J.’s runSimpson’s 64-yard run is a breathtaking mix of power and speed that gave the fourth-ranked Trojans a 21-20 victory over top-ranked UCLA in what stands as the greatest game in Pac-12 history — and one of the greatest in the sport’s lifetime. At stake: the 1967 conference title, the Rose Bowl and the national championship (because the AP poll was published at the end of the regular season). We considered the Bush Push, except there’s nothing miraculous about a shove in the back.*Visual: video clip
UtahThe play: Chris Yergensen’s field goalBack when BYU dominated the Holy War — yes, BYU actually dominated the Holy War — the Utes ended a four-game losing streak to the Cougars and won in Provo for the first time in decades, all thanks to Yergensen’s 55-yard field goal in the final minute. From Utah’s perspective, the kick marked the start of the rivalry’s modern era. “This has been a burden on our backs for a lot of years,” Utah coach Ron McBride said. BYU’s response was to call Utah “low-class losers.” Love it.* Visual: video clip
WashingtonThe play: Warren Moon to Spider Gaines.We considered Brock Huard’s fourth-down pass to Reggie Davis to beat ASU in 1998, but Moon to Gaines had a greater miracle factor: With less than two minutes remaining, Moon fired a pass deep down the left side — a Hail Mary that was not close to the end zone — that dropped into a mass of bodies. Somehow, the under-thrown ball deflected off one WSU defender, past another … and into Gaines’ arms. He raced 40 yards for the winning touchdown.* Visual: decent video clip (play starts at 0:44)
Washington StateThe play: Drew Bledsoe to Philip BoboThe 1992 Apple Cup became known as the Snow Bowl, and its signature play seemed to materialize out of the shrouded field. Third quarter, Bledsoe in the pocket … waiting … waiting … and unleashing a pass into the end zone as two Cougar receivers arrived together. Bobo made a diving catch in the back middle and slid into the snow at bottom of goalpost. The touchdown helped propel the Cougars to a 42-23 win.* Visual: video clip
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