tampabay.com

A 2007 highlight reel

By BRANT JAMES
Published December 26, 2007


One play featured 15 laterals. Another ended the greatest baseball game in, perhaps, years. And, of course, a player who isn't even listed in the Bucs media guide raced 90 yards into franchise history. They are just three of the most memorable moments in sports over the past year. Here's a look back at the best plays of 2007.

 

Oct. 27: The Mississippi Miracle

THE SETUP: Trinity (Texas) College trailed at Millsaps (Miss.) 24-22 with two seconds left and had the ball at their 40-yard line in an NCAA Division III game.

THE PRINCIPALS: Quarterback Blake Barmore completed a 16-yard short pass to Shawn Thompson, who made the first of 15 lateral pitches, this one to Riley Curry. The ball advanced, it retreated. It looked like preschoolers playing soccer or drunken college kids attempting rugby. Curry handled the ball four times, the last when he scooped it up around the Millsaps 34, and sprinted into the end zone for the victory - 62 seconds after the play began.

THE CONSEQUENCES: With the victory, Trinity prevented Millsaps from winning the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference title. Trinity earned the conference playoff berth and advanced to the national quarterfinals.

 

Sept. 1: Appalachian State blocks Michigan's last hope

THE SETUP: Two-time defending Division I-AA champion Appalachian State had proved all day it was more than an appetizer for No. 5 Michigan in the season opener. The Mountaineers had ruled much of the afternoon and answered a 54-yard Mike Hart touchdown run to retake the lead late, but Wolverines quarterback Chad Henne had driven to the Appalachian State 20-yard line with six seconds left. 34-32, Appalachian State, and arguably the biggest upset in college football history, in the Big House, within reach.

THE PRINCIPALS: Corey Lynch had to block that kick. He did. The senior defensive back from Cape Coral smothered Jason Gingell's attempt and returned the ball to the far end of the field before going down, loosing the first shock wave of a bizarre 2007 season.

THE CONSEQUENCES: Appalachian State went 13-2 and became the first to win three straight titles in what is now called the Football Championship Subdivision. Michigan slogged to a disappointing 8-4 and coach Lloyd Carr resigned.

 

Jan. 1: Boise State shucks and jives Oklahoma

THE SETUP: Ninth-ranked Boise State entered the Fiesta Bowl undefeated, but arguably untested and somewhat unrespected against No. 7 Oklahoma. Coach Chris Petersen's offensive circus had been an amazing show, but his team had never faced a defense like the Sooners', and certainly not a running back like Adrian Peterson. Oklahoma erased an 18-point second-half deficit, but the Broncos completed a spectacular 50-yard hook-and-ladder play for a touchdown to force overtime. Then the Sooners scored the first touchdown in OT. Certainly, Boise State couldn't answer. It did. And then it went for the kill.

THE PRINCIPALS: On a two-point conversion attempt that would settle the game, quarterback Jared Zabransky eyed three wide receivers, then handed the ball behind him on a Statue of Liberty play. Tailback Ian Johnson blazed untouched into the end zone. Boise State 43, Oklahoma 42.

Then he took off his helmet and proposed to his girlfriend, Broncos cheerleader Chrissy Popadics. Nice.

THE CONSEQUENCES: Boise State became iconic heroes of the non-BCS hopeful.

 

Feb. 19: Kevin Harvick noses out Mark Martin's Daytona dreams

THE SETUP:Kevin Harvick had never won a Daytona 500. Mark Martin hadn't, either, finishing in the top five four times in a 25-year career.

THE PRINCIPALS: As the late-race politics of restrictor plate racing began resolving themselves after a restart, Harvick and Martin dueled fender to fender to the finish as the field began to wreck behind them on the final turn. NASCAR did not freeze the field as had been its policy - which would presumably have given Martin the win as the leader when the melee began - and the drivers raced to the finish. Harvick won by one of the closest margins on record, .02 seconds.

THE CONSEQUENCES: Harvick got his victory tour and Martin accepted a runner-up finish gracefully, if somewhat dumbfoundedly. His team, Ginn Racing, would have benefited greatly financially and in public perception with a win, but awash in sponsor problems, it was bought out by Dale Earnhardt Inc. that summer.

 

Feb. 4: Devin Hester starts the Super Bowl ... super-ly

THE SETUP: Former Miami Hurricanes star Devin Hester was back in town for Super Bowl XLI after setting an NFL record with six kick returns for touchdowns.

THE PRINCIPALS: Hester took the ball near the left sideline, sliced to the middle, slinked through a white clot of helpless Colts and blazed 92 yards down the right sideline. No player had ever returned the opening kickoff of a Super Bowl for a touchdown.

THE CONSEQUENCES: Same effect as Ted Ginn Jr.'s opening shot in the national championship game against Florida a month earlier. The other team won.

 

Sept. 1: Dustin Pedroia preserves a no-hitter

THE SETUP: Rookie Clay Buchholz was making his second big-league start for the Red Sox. The hapless Orioles were visiting Fenway Park. History, anyone?

THE PRINCIPALS: In the top of the seventh inning, leadoff hitter Miguel Tejada laced a sharp chopper toward Buchholz, who slowed and redirected the ball slightly, allowing rookie second baseman Dustin Pedroia to race to his right, smother it and throw out Tejada on a close play.

THE CONSEQUENCES: In striking out nine and walking three, Buchholz became the third pitcher since 1900 to throw a no-hitter in his first or second major-league start.

 

Jan. 7: Sidney Crosby gets a belly full

THE SETUP: He's not 20 years old yet. But he's in line to be next great one, as in Great One.

THE PRINCIPALS: Crosby on the left wing, Mark Recchi on the right with the puck after a hard Nolan Pratt shot caromed off the boards and started a counterattack, the Lightning's Brad Richards and Cory Sarich flittering like leaves as a sports car zooms past. Good luck, Mr. Holm-qvist. Crosby slipped to one knee as he reached for the pass, then opted to go belly-down to "find a better look at the puck." Somehow he lifted it over the goaltender for a 2-1 second-period lead.

THE CONSEQUENCES: Damn, that boy's good.

 

Oct. 1: How the wild card was won

THE SETUP: The Colorado Rockies went from 41/2 games out of a wild-card spot in mid September to a contender and forced a one-game playoff with the faltering San Diego Padres after beating NL West champion Arizona 4-3 a day earlier.

THE PRINCIPALS: Quoth USA Today: After a Scott Hairston two-run homer in the top of the 13th inning put the Padres ahead, the Rockies had to rally against all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman. Leadoff hitter Kazuo Matsui and Troy Tulowitzki (started) the rally with doubles, and (Matt) Holliday drove in the tying run with a triple. After (Todd) Helton was intentionally walked, (Jamey) Carroll hit a low line drive to rightfielder Brian Giles and Holliday took off before third-base coach Mike Gallego could send him. "There wasn't time for Gags to say anything. I didn't have time to think what I was doing. I was just going to go for it," Holliday said. "It's the greatest part of the game."

Giles' throw home bounced in front of catcher Michael Barrett, who couldn't hold on as Holliday swiped the plate, then lay face-down after cutting his chin with his headfirst slide. Umpire Tim McClelland made a delayed safe call, and replays were inconclusive on whether Holliday touched the plate with his left hand or was blocked by Barrett's left foot.

Holliday said he wasn't sure if he touched the plate.

"The ump said I was safe," Holliday said. "I don't remember. But I hit my chin pretty good."

THE CONSEQUENCES: The Rockies closed the regular season on a 14-1 tear, then swept the Phillies in the division series and the Diamondbacks in the NCLS but were dealt the same fate by the Red Sox in the World Series.

 

Dec. 16: Kick of time

THE SETUP: The Bucs had returned 1,864 kickoffs - that would be all of them in franchise history - without returning one for a touchdown. The Falcons had just seen coach Bobby Petrino steal out of town like a carny with the family silver and were looking a little vulnerable.

THE PRINCIPALS: Micheal Spurlock, yes 'ea,' a former practice squad receiver, took the kick up the right sideline 90 yards in a 37-3 rout.

THE CONSEQUENCES: Need a new streak/record to fret over.

 

Oct. 18: No fair fakin', Mr. Schiano

THE SETUP: USF and its burgeoning and bawdy fan base was feeling pretty good about its collective self. An upset home win of then-No. 5 West Virginia and several top 10 teams that had withered and fallen had made the Bulls an unlikely No. 2 in the Associated Press poll. BCS dreams bloomed in October. Then Rutgers got tricky.

THE PRINCIPALS: With his team leading 20-17, Ray Rice (181 yards on 39 carries) drove the Knights to the USF 15. But the drive fizzled. Kicker Jeremy Ito sized up a 32-yard field-goal attempt, but Rutgers coach Greg Schiano had holder/third-string quarterback Andrew DePaola take the snap and roll right - where he dodged a sack attempt - then touch-pass the ball to tight end Kevin Brock. Touchdown. Unranked Rutgers led 27-7 with 4:09 left in the third.

THE CONSEQUENCES: In losing 30-27, USF became the third No. 2 team to lose in as many weeks, then wound up dropping three in a row to dull what had been a brilliant season as the darling of college football.