Sucker Punches, Dead Goats and a Heroic Grocery Bagger: A Look Back at the 2014 College Football Season, Part 2

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Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott runs during the first half of a playoff championship game against Oregon in Arlington, Texas, on January 12. Elliott and the Ohio State offensive line could make most quarterbacks look good, but the development of a running game was every bit as important to Ohio State's national championship season. Eric Gay/AP

This is the second in a two part look at the 20 most memorable moments of the 2014 college football season. Read the first part here.

The 2015 college football season kicked off last night, but before the opening weekend attains full tailgate mode, here's the second part of our look back at the wildest season in memory, 2014. Broken record upon broken record, bizarre finishes and skirmishes, and an Ohio State team that at long last exorcized its SEC demons in a national championship game, in part by importing former SEC coach Urban Meyer.

November 8 Playing before a raucous home nighttime crowd, Utah was on the verge of taking a 14-0 in the second quarter against No. 4 Oregon. The Utes' Kaelin Clay had caught a pass and was one yard shy of finishing the 78-yard touchdown play when he put the football on the ground before crossing the goal line. Oregon's Joe Walker noticed the referee did not signal touchdown, picked the ball up and raced 100 yards in the opposite direction to tie the score. The Ducks went on to win 51-27.

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Melvin Gordon of the Wisconsin Badgers is tackled by Zaire Anderson of the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Camp Randall Stadium on November 15, 2014 in Madison, Wisconsin. Ronald Martinez/Getty

November 15 Wisconsin senior running back Melvin Gordon set the new NCAA single-game rushing record with 408 yards (on 25 carries) in a 59-24 rout of Nebraska. Gordon, who scored four touchdowns, broke by two yards a record set 15 years earlier by LaDainian Tomlinson of TCU.

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Oklahoma's Samaje Perine sprints towards the end zone on a touchdown run ahead of Kansas's Ben Heeney (31) and Kansas' Ben Goodman (93) in the second quarter of their game in Norman, Oklahoma. Sue Ogrocki/AP

November 22 Oklahoma true freshman running back Samaje Perine set the NCAA single-game rushing record with 427 yards (on 34 carries) in a 44-7 rout of Kansas. Perine, who scored five touchdowns, broke by 19 yards a record set seven days earlier by Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin.

November 27 On Thanksgiving night in College Station, Texas, LSU true freshman running back Leonard Fournette mack-trucks Texas A&M safety Howard Matthews. The head-on collision between SEC players was reminiscent of a play from 34 years earlier involving a frosh running back named Herschel Walker (who would win the Heisman the following season) and Tennessee safety Bill Bates.

December 22 The inaugural Miami Beach (Brawl) Bowl. Memphis defeated Brigham Young in double overtime, 55-48, but most viewers will only remember an ugly postgame brawl that included swinging helmets and fists, a sucker punch and a knockout punch.

December 24 Western Kentucky led Central Michigan 49-14 (49-14!) entering the fourth quarter of the Bahamas Bowl, the first bowl game played outside of North America since 1937. Did I mention that WKU led by 35 points? Yes? Did I note that the Hilltoppers were 2-point favorites? Somehow—I watched it and I still don't believe what I saw—the Chippewas scored five unanswered touchdowns, the last on this ridiculous 75-yard, three-lateral, Hail Mary pass on the game's final play in regulation in Nassau. Of course, CMU went for a two-point conversion and the victory, and that failed. The Hilltoppers were outscored 34-0 in the final frame and still won…by one point.

January 1 The Cotton Bowl Classic was exactly that, featuring the ultimate Fat Guy Touchdown, on an 18-yard pass to 6-7, 400-pound Baylor reserve offensive lineman LaQuan McGowan; a 21-point fourth-quarter comeback, but this time at the Bears' expense (see: October 11); and a decleater block by Michigan State's Chris Callahan after a blocked field goal that helped set up the Spartans' game-winning touchdown with :17 seconds on the clock. It was the wildest Cotton Bowl in 35 years—the famed Chicken Soup game in 1979 between Houston and Notre Dame—and yet it may not have been the wildest to take place in the Metroplex in this 48-hour window.

January 1 You only need to see two plays from the inaugural College Football Playoff semifinals to sum up the results. The first involves Winston, playing on the same Rose Bowl turf on which he had led Florida State to the national championship the year before, fumbling as he scrambled in the third quarter. The Seminoles trailed by 19 when Winston slipped, lost control of the ball, and watched as Tony Washington Jr. (remember him? October 2) scooped it up and returned it 58 yards for the coup de grace touchdown. The latter involves heavy underdog Ohio State scoring just before halftime against de facto home team Alabama in the Sugar Bowl off a reverse option pass that included a balletic catch by Buckeye wideout Michael Thomas. The man who threw it, Evan Spencer, had never attempted a pass in his college career.

January 2 ESPN's announcers at the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth were still marveling at Michigan State's fourth-quarter comeback the day before in nearby Arlington in the Cotton Bowl. But what else was there to discuss? After Pittsburgh's Chris Blewitt made a 29-yard field goal, the Panthers led Houston 34-13 with only 4:21 remaining. Flip the channel? I hope you didn't. The Cougars scored 22 points in the next 3:22, abetted by two recovered onside kicks, to shock Pitt, 35-34. Exactly 35 years and one day earlier, Houston had blown a three-touchdown lead to Notre Dame midway through the fourth quarter in the Cotton Bowl and lost by the score of…35-34. Thirty-five years later, the Cougars gained a measure of redemption.

January 12 Ohio State, the only school in the top eight of the Playoff Selection Committee rankings to lose to an unranked team (Virginia Tech) at home, was the most criticized choice among the four schools to advance to the inaugural four-team playoff. Plus, the Buckeyes would be starting their third-team quarterback, Cardale Jones, due to injuries. Ohio State dotted the "i" on "indomitable," however, stampeding Oregon 42-20 in the championship game behind running back Ezekiel Elliott's 246 rushing yards and four touchdowns. Historians, note: the same two schools who took part in the inaugural NCAA basketball championship game in 1939 met in the first FBS championship game nearly 76 years later.

Sucker Punches, Dead Goats and a Heroic Grocery Bagger: A Look Back at the 2014 College Football Season, Part 2 | Sports