There were plenty of memorable moments this past season, but some always find a way of sticking with us longer than others. There were plays, moments, games and people who helped define the season. Some were good, some we’ll remember for all of the wrong reasons. Feel free to share yours in the mailbag and I’ll highlight them later this afternoon.
Here’s a look at the top moments from the 2010 season:
1. The linebackers' return: NC State linebacker Nate Irving and BC linebacker Mark Herzlich both made miraculous recoveries in 2010. After missing the entire 2009 season while receiving treatment for Ewing’s Sarcoma cancer, Herzlich returned to the team last offseason only to miss part of camp while recovering from a stress fracture in his right foot. Unsure of whether he would be available for the season opener against Weber State, it was one of the biggest comebacks in college football when Herzlich ran out of the tunnel and later made two tackles in the first quarter.
2. The NCAA investigation. Unfortunately for UNC, this season will forever be linked to an NCAA investigation into agent-related benefits and academic misconduct that eventually sidelined 14 players for at least one game, including seven players who missed the entire season. Assistant coach John Blake resigned, star defensive tackle Marvin Austin was dismissed, and while a bowl win over an SEC team was something to be proud of, this season will always be remembered for what could have been had the entire roster remained intact.
3. Virginia Tech’s loss to James Madison. Face it: it’s one we’ll never forget. A positive spin? It changed the Hokies’ season. This loss was the catalyst for an unprecedented turnaround in the FBS. No other program has ever started out 0-2 and finished the regular season undefeated. Virginia Tech rallied to become the first ACC team since 2000 to breeze through the ACC schedule undefeated, but the poor start quickly knocked Virginia Tech out of the national title conversation.
4. Florida State’s state championship: FSU’s combined wins over Miami and Florida marked the first season sweep of state rivals since 1999 -- by the widest combined point margin in school history. Jimbo Fisher became the only FSU coach to pull off that sweep as a first-year coach. The Seminoles’ 31-7 win over Florida snapped a six-game losing streak to their in-state rivals, beating the Gators for the first time since 2003 -- also the last time FSU was able to score that many points against Florida. With the win, Jimbo Fisher clinched the most wins by a first-year FSU coach in 50 years. Not even Bobby Bowden won his debut against Florida.
5. John Kevin Dolce’s hit on Miami quarterback Jacory Harris: This hit changed Miami’s season. Not only did it knock the Canes' starting quarterback out for a few weeks, it also dashed Miami’s hopes at winning the Coastal Division and gave Virginia its first win over a ranked team since defeating No. 21 Georgia Tech in 2008. Said Dolce: "When you chop the head off a giant, the rest of the body goes with it.”
6. Military Bowl crowd chanting Ralph Friedgen’s name. The ACC coach of the year had been fired, but in his final game at Maryland -- a 51-20 drubbing of East Carolina -- Friedgen lived up to the title he had earned with the second-best turnaround in the FBS in 2010. After winning just two games in 2009, Friedgen led his team to a nine-win season, and his players and fans thanked him for it on a cold day in RFK Stadium.
7. David Wilson’s kickoff return against Georgia Tech: With 2:23 remaining, Virginia Tech running back David Wilson scored on a 90-yard kickoff return to give the Hokies a 28-21 win over the then-defending ACC champs. It was a dramatic play that answered Georgia Tech’s 80-yard, game-tying drive, and one that separated Virginia Tech from the rest of the Coastal Division. Also in this game, Georgia Tech star quarterback Joshua Nesbitt broke his right forearm late in the first half, leaving the Jackets without the heart of their offense for the rest of the season, and ending Nesbitt's record-setting career too early.
8. Tyrod Taylor’s ACC title-game performance: There were trademark scrambles, big plays and no interceptions from the ACC’s player of the year, who finished with four touchdowns and 267 total yards in a 44-33 championship game win over Florida State.
9. North Carolina’s double-overtime win against Tennessee in the Music City Bowl: The Tar Heels have a flair for the dramatic when it comes to bowl games, but this one was one of the most bizarre. After declaring the game over, officials reviewed the clock and determined there was still one second remaining. It gave kicker Casey Barth just enough time to tie the game at 20 and send it into overtime.
10. Dustin Hopkins’ 55-yard game-winner: A week after missing the game-winning field goal against North Carolina, FSU's kicker made a career-best 55-yard field goal to beat Clemson, 16-13, as time expired. Hopkins had missed two fourth-quarter field goals in a loss to the Tar Heels the previous week. It was the third-longest field goal in Florida State history.