Memories of plays that didn't count

The Georgia record book shows former quarterback Eric Zeier completed 36 of 65 passes for 386 yards with two touchdowns in the Bulldogs' 33-26 loss to Florida in 1993.

But it's the pass that didn't count in that game that haunts Zeier to this day.

With Georgia trailing Florida by a touchdown on a cold, wet and wild day in Jacksonville, Fla., Zeier directed the Bulldogs down the field to the Gators' 12-yard line with five seconds left.

Just before Zeier took the snap for one more play (or after the snap, if you believe UGA fans), Gators cornerback Anthone Lott realized his defense had only 10 players on the field and called timeout.

As the near official blew his whistle, Zeier took the snap and fired a touchdown to Jerry Jerman, which would have pulled UGA within an extra point of tying the Gators.

Instead, Florida was awarded the timeout. UGA had two more shots at the end zone because the Gators were penalized for pass interference on the ensuing play. On the game's final play, Zeier's pass flew off the left hand of receiver Jeff Thomas.

"It obviously stays at the forefront of every conversation I have about Georgia football," said Zeier, now a mortgage banker with Bank of America in Atlanta. "It's the question that always gets asked: 'Did you think it was a timeout?'"

Seventeen years later, Zeier has finally accepted the fact that Lott called timeout before the snap.

"I think it was," Zeier said. "If you go back and watch the film, he called timeout a split second before the ball was snapped. On the field, the whistle was blown and it sounded like it came after the snap. But it was a timeout. Of course, when I'm talking to a Bulldog fan, the timeout came after the snap."

For many college football fans, the plays that didn't count are even harder to forget than the plays that counted. Over the years, officiating mistakes, penalties and instant replay have nullified some of the greatest plays in college football history.

Here are some of the great plays you won't find in the box scores:

• In the 1993 Sugar Bowl, Miami's Lamar Thomas shot down the sideline for what seemed to be an 89-yard touchdown. But Alabama's George Teague came out of nowhere to catch Thomas from behind inside the Tide's 10-yard line, swiping the football from him and running the other way.

Even though an offside penalty against the Crimson Tide nullified Teague's heroics, it is still remembered as one of the greatest hustle plays in college football history. If nothing else, his effort prevented a Miami touchdown. Alabama routed the Hurricanes 34-13 to win its 12th national championship.

• With No. 1 Colorado holding a 10-9 lead over No. 5 Notre Dame in the 1991 Orange Bowl, Buffaloes punter Tom Rouen boomed a punt right at Irish star Raghib "Rocket" Ismail with less than a minute left.

Ismail broke several tackles and ran 91 yards for what seemed to be a winning touchdown. But officials ruled that Colorado's Tim James was blocked from behind by Notre Dame's Greg Davis, even though the play occurred on the other side of the field. The clipping penalty wiped out Ismail's touchdown, which would have been one of the most dramatic plays in the sport's history, and the Buffaloes went on to win the game and their first national championship (Colorado was ranked No. 1 by The Associated Press; Georgia Tech was No. 1 in the UPI poll).

"The return by Rocket Ismail was one of the greatest individual efforts I've ever seen," then-Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz said at the time. "I don't know if the clip had anything to do with the return, but I certainly hope it did."

Two decades later, Notre Dame fans still contend that it didn't.

• With No. 1 Miami trailing No. 5 Notre Dame 31-24 in the famous "Catholics vs. Convicts" game at Notre Dame Stadium in 1988, the Hurricanes faced fourth-and-7 at the Irish 11 midway through the fourth quarter.

Hurricanes quarterback Steve Walsh fired a pass over the middle for fullback Cleveland Gary, who fell down at the Notre Dame 1 while trying to hold the ball over the goal line and lost the ball. Irish linebacker Michael Stonebreaker recovered the ball at the Irish 3.

Even though TV replays showed Gary's knee was down, officials awarded the ball to Notre Dame. The Irish held on for a 31-30 victory, ending Miami's 36-game regular-season winning streak. Notre Dame would go on to win a national championship.

"It wasn't a fumble," Miami coach Jimmy Johnson said afterward.

Said Holtz: "It was a fumble. It was a fumble. It was a fumble. It was a fumble."

• Florida State trailed rival Florida 22-19 late in their regular-season battle in 1966 after Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Steve Spurrier threw a 41-yard touchdown to Larry Smith.

With 26 seconds left, Seminoles quarterback Gary Pajcic fired a 45-yard pass toward Lane Fenner into the front corner of the end zone. Fenner made the catch, and FSU seemed to have pulled off a miraculous comeback.

But field judge Doug Moseley waved off the catch, ruling that Fenner juggled the pass while falling out of bounds. The Tallahassee Democrat published a series of photos the next day that contradicted Moseley's ruling.

More than four decades later, the Seminoles are still steaming.

Former FSU president T.K. Wetherell, a receiver on the 1966 team, told The Miami Herald in 1991: "There's no damned doubt. He scored. I don't mind them stealing it. I just wish they'd admit it."

Wetherell had a photo of the play hanging in his office at FSU until his retirement.

• With Penn State trailing Kansas 14-7 in the final minute of the 1969 Orange Bowl, officials didn't notice that the Jayhawks' defense had 12 men on the field on three straight plays.

Despite running against an overloaded defense, Nittany Lions quarterback Chuck Burkhart scored on a bootleg run around the left side with 15 seconds to play, cutting Kansas' lead to 14-13.

Instead of attempting to tie the score, Penn State coach Joe Paterno decided to go for a two-point conversion and a victory. Kansas broke up Burkhart's pass to halfback Bob Campbell.

Both bands swarmed the field to begin postgame ceremonies, but umpire Foster Grose threw a penalty flag. The Jayhawks were penalized for having 12 men on the field -- for the fourth straight play. Campbell scored on a sweep on the second try, giving Penn State a 15-14 victory and an undefeated season.

• Florida State's Bobby Bowden and Nebraska's Tom Osborne squared off in the 1994 Orange Bowl in what was then a matchup of the two greatest coaches without a national championship.

Late in the first quarter, Nebraska's Corey Dixon returned a punt 71 yards for a touchdown, but an illegal block penalty wiped out the TD. Television replays were inconclusive, although Cornhuskers cornerback Tyrone Williams might have pushed FSU's Ken Alexander early in the action.

FSU won the game 18-16 after Nebraska kicker Byron Bennett missed a 45-yard field goal wide left on the game's final play.

• Only a freshman, Miami cornerback Glenn Sharpe was thrust into the final minutes of a thrilling game against Ohio State in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, in which the No. 1 Hurricanes were trying to extend their 34-game winning streak and win a second straight national championship.

Miami led 24-17 in the first overtime, and the Buckeyes faced fourth-and-3 at the Hurricanes 5. Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel threw into the right corner of the end zone for Chris Gamble, but Sharpe broke up the pass as the receiver reached back for the football. Miami's players and coaches ran on the field to celebrate what they thought was the school's sixth national championship.

But then field judge Terry Porter threw a flag well after Krenzel's incomplete pass hit the turf, and Sharpe was penalized for pass interference. It took officials several minutes to restore order and get the Hurricanes off the field. Three plays later, Krenzel dove into the end zone to send the game into a second overtime, in which the Buckeyes won 31-24.

• In Auburn's third game of the 2004 season, the Tigers tied LSU 9-9 on quarterback Jason Campbell's 16-yard touchdown to Courtney Taylor with 1:14 to go.

With a chance to win the game, Auburn kicker John Vaughn's extra point sailed wide left, which would have been the Tigers' first missed PAT since 1999. But LSU's Ronnie Prude was penalized for leaping to block the kick and landing on Auburn snapper Pete Compton.

Vaughn made the second kick, giving Auburn a 10-9 victory, its third of 13 consecutive wins in 2004.

• In one of the most bizarre endings in college football history, LSU defeated Tennessee 16-14 last season after the Volunteers were penalized for having 13 defenders on the field on what would have been the game's final play.

With Tennessee holding a 14-10 lead, LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson couldn't handle a snap and fumbled the ball as time expired. But the Vols were penalized for having too many men on the field, giving LSU one more play. Tigers tailback Stevan Ridley scored to hand UT a gut-wrenching defeat.

Mark Schlabach covers college sports for ESPN.com. You can contact him at schlabachma@yahoo.com.