This week across the blogosphere, we'll be counting down the top 25 most iconic plays in each conference over the past decade. We'll hit five each day. Like any list, these are wildly subjective. But, as always, they are a lot of fun. Enjoy.
21: Andrew Luck's one-handed catch vs. UCLA (2011): It didn't turn out to be a Heisman moment for Luck, but it was a heck of a play. Following a reverse handoff to Tyler Gaffney, who flipped to Drew Terrell, Luck tight-roped the sideline and hauled in Terrell's pass with one hand. Coby Fleener's one-handed touchdown grab to cap the drive might have been even better. But Luck's was more iconic. (You can see it here at the 3:10 mark, No. 3 of Luck's top 15 plays at Stanford. Spoiler alert: At least one more of these is on my list.)
22: Francis Owusu's incredible catch vs. UCLA (2015): We're picking on UCLA again … but come on … how could we not with this grab? In what was college football's catch of the year in 2015, Owusu blindly caught a Kevin Hogan touchdown pass while bear hugging UCLA's Jaleel Wadood. This one also came with a little misdirection. Early in the second half, it started with a Wildcat snap to Christian McCaffrey, who handed it off to a sweeping Bryce Love, who flipped it to Hogan, who launched it 41 yards to Owusu. The Cardinal were already up 35-17, and this put them ahead 42-17 en route to a 56-35 victory. Here's the Sports Science breakdown of the grab.
23. Vernon Adams to Dwayne Stanford against Arizona State (2015): In what was one of the craziest games of the 2015 Pac-12 season, Oregon was trailing Arizona State 41-34 with 23 seconds left. Facing a fourth-and-goal from the 9-yard line, Adams escaped two sacks and backpedaled to the 24 before launching the ball blindly off his back foot. Even wackier: Dwayne Stanford, who caught the touchdown, collided with tight end Johnny Mundt and still held on to the ball. That set up three dramatic overtimes, which included Bralon Addison's controversial score and an Arrion Springs interception to clinch the game. If there was ever a single play to encapsulate Adams' one-year Oregon career, it was the touchdown to Stanford.
24: Marcus Mariota's pitch to Royce Freeman vs. Michigan State (2014): This is not some crazy catch or dramatic game-ending play. Rather, it's iconic in the sense that Mariota was so smooth and heady. With Oregon trailing Michigan State 27-18 in the third quarter, and facing a third-and-10, Mariota looked as if he had been sacked, but he scrambled away from the pocket and opted to pitch the ball to Freeman for a first down. That critical play kicked off four straight touchdowns for the Ducks, who went on to win the premier nonconference game of 2014, 46-27. MSU coach Mark Dantonio pointed to that play afterwards as the critical moment, saying, "We had him. I even said 'He's sacked.' But again, you have to credit him, that's why he's the player he is." Mariota had his share of highlights. But that one play was quietly one of his best at Oregon.
25: Myles Jack's 66-yard touchdown run vs. Arizona (2013): The UCLA staff knew what they were getting with Myles Jack as a linebacker. But the rest of the country saw first-hand what a truly gifted athlete he was when he exploded onto the scene as a moonlighting running back against the Wildcats. With the Bruins up 24-19 with 11 minutes left in the game, Jack took a handoff on third-and-2, bounced from the pile, then exploded down the sidelines for a 66-yard touchdown run, stiff-arming a pair of Wildcats along the way. He would follow that up a week later with a four-touchdown performance against Washington. But it was that touchdown against Arizona that thrust him into the national spotlight.