Unforgettable Moments 2015

From the inaugural College Football Playoff to the knockout heard around the world, here are the showdowns that kept us talking, tweeting, posting and texting in 2015.

Oregon vs. Florida State

January 5, 2015 CFP semifinals

The first edition of the College Football Playoff didn't disappoint. The Rose Bowl, arguably the biggest stage in the sport, hosted a pair of Heisman Trophy winners battling against each other for the first time in history, with Jameis Winston and defending national champion Florida State facing off against Marcus Mariota and Oregon. It had all the makings of a classic showdown.

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Except it wasn't. The Seminoles hung in for the first half, going into the third quarter down 18-13, but then everything that could go wrong did. Oregon scored on its first six possessions after the break, getting a lot of help from four Florida State turnovers, resulting in a final score no one saw coming: 59-20. Wow. The loss was the first in Winston's career as a starter, ending a 29-game winning streak.

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Klay Thompson

January 23, 2015 37-point 3rd quarter

In the zone. On. En fuego. Feeling it. Klay Thompson was all of those when he dropped 52 points in a January win against the Sacramento Kings. Despite the 126-101 final score, this was a game for a while. The Kings even retook the lead in the third quarter, going up 58-56 about one minute into the second half. Then Thompson took over, scoring at will by going 13-for-13 from the field, including 9-for-9 from the 3-point line, in the third.

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When the final buzzer sounded, Thompson had delivered a show and rewritten the records books, setting the mark for most points in a quarter (37 points in the third) and most 3-pointers in a quarter (nine in the third). Even more amazing, Thompson ended the game with 52 points despite sitting out the final 9:28. Those aren't real numbers. Those are video game numbers.

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Kearse Catch, Butler Interception

February 2, 2015 Super Bowl XLIX

Oh no, not again. History appeared to be repeating itself for the New England Patriots, in the same building, no less. In Super Bowl XLII, the Giants ended the Patriots' quest for a perfect season with a little help from David Tyree's miracle helmet catch. Now, in Super Bowl XLIX between the Patriots and Seahawks, it was Jermaine Kearse's turn. With Seattle down by four, Kearse's circus catch, in which he juggled the ball while on the ground before securing it, set the Seahawks up at the 5-yard line with one minute and six seconds on the clock, and with four downs to get Marshawn Lynch into the end zone to give them back-to-back Super Bowl titles. Game over, right?

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Everyone saw the first play coming: Lynch gets the ball and is stopped at the 1-yard line. Second down. The clock is ticking. No worries in Seattle. But the next play? Almost no one saw that coming. The Seahawks opted for a pass play, Malcolm Butler jumped the route and got the interception, and the Patriots stole back the title. The decision to take the ball out of Lynch's hands and try to seal the win with a pass was questioned by fans and foes alike. Said NBC's Cris Collinsworth after the play: "I'm sorry, but I can't believe the call."

Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe/Getty Images

Wisconsin vs. Kentucky

March 2, 2015 Final Four semifinals

Two wins. That's all the Wildcats needed to achieve basketball immortality. Two wins to go to 40-0, win the national championship and be the first unbeaten team in NCAA history since the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers. All that stood in their way to the title game was a date with the Wisconsin Badgers and their all-everything senior Frank Kaminsky.

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With the whole team wearing shirts that read "Make 'Em Believe" and Kaminsky (20 points, 11 rebounds) celebrating his 22nd birthday, the Badgers made their own history, knocking off the Wildcats 71-64. The Badgers would fall to Duke two days later in the national title game, but brackets everywhere were busted when Wisconsin shut down John Calipari's band of NBA-ready freshmen.

AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Providence vs. Boston University

April 2, 2015 Frozen Four final

The Boston University Terriers have been a hockey juggernaut for years. Winners of five national titles to go along with 22 Frozen Four appearances, they were heavy favorites to take down Providence College right in their backyard at the TD Garden in Boston. They were well on their way. The Terriers reminded everyone who they were when they scored two goals in four seconds (that's right ... four seconds) to take a 2-1 lead in the first period. But the Friars knew that sometimes it's really better to be lucky than good.

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With just over eight minutes left in the third, Providence innocently dumped the puck on BU goalie Matt O'Connor, and, in what seemed like slow motion, it trickled into the net. Tie score. Minutes later, with momentum on its side, Providence got a top-shelf goal from Brandon Tanev to take a 4-3 lead and win the title. The stunned Terriers, who had uber-prospect Jack Eichel on their squad, didn't know what hit them and were left to watch the Friars, their little brothers from an hour down the road on I-95, raise the trophy.

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Darling Sets Record

April 20, 2015 Stanley Cup playoffs

This just wasn't Corey Crawford's night. On the first 12 shots he faced in Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals on the road, Crawford, the Blackhawks' goalie, gave up three goals to the Predators, leaving coach Joel Quenneville no choice but to go to his bench and bring in backup Scott Darling. In a relief performance for the ages, Darling stopped all 42 shots he faced, giving his team enough time to not only tie the score in regulation but finish off Nashville in the second overtime on a Duncan Keith goal.

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Flip the script for Game 6. After Darling surrendered three first-period goals, it was Crawford who came in and pitched a shutout. Keith, the Game 1 hero, came through again with a goal late in the third period to win the game 4-3 and eliminate the Predators while avoiding a Game 7 on the road in Nashville. Chicago would go on to win its third Stanley Cup in six years when it defeated the Lightning in six games.

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Spurs vs. Clippers

April 21, 2015 Game 7, Western quarterfinals

The San Antonio Spurs have owned the Western Conference for almost two decades. In fact, the last time they missed the playoffs was in 1997, when Tim Duncan was a senior at Wake Forest. So, when the Clippers forced the defending world champions to a Game 7 in the first round, it almost felt like the Finals.

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In a game that featured 31 lead changes, everyone knew the game was likely to come down to the team's two leaders, Duncan and L.A.'s Chris Paul. Duncan came through on his end, sinking two clutch free throws to tie the score at 109 with 8.8 seconds left in his sixth double-double of the series. But there was too much time left. Paul, hobbled by a hamstring injury, drove to the basket, stopped short and took a jumper just out of Duncan's reach. Glass. Net. Boom. Game over. Series over.

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

American Pharoah Wins Triple Crown

June 10, 2015 Belmont Stakes

How many Saturdays have we spent watching the Belmont to see a Triple Crown winner, only to be left saying, "Wait 'til next year"? Since Affirmed captured the Triple Crown in 1978, 12 horses have won the first two legs of the series only to fall short. So, what kind of Saturday would jockey Victor Espinoza and American Pharoah, the Derby and Preakness winner, give us?

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It was the best Saturday. After 37 years of waiting, horse racing finally had a Triple Crown winner, with a wire-to-wire win by a horse that had been sold by his owner, Ahmed Zayat, only to be quickly bought back by Zayat for $300,000. That's money well spent for a Saturday almost four decades in the making.

AP Photo/Darron Cummings

Wawrinka vs. Djokovic

June 7, 2015 French Open final

When Novak Djokovic stepped on Philippe Chatrier Court to face Stan Wawrinka in the French Open final, there was a sense this was more of a coronation than a tennis match. After all, Djokovic had finally vanquished his Roland Garros nemesis, Rafael Nadal, in the semifinals. Riding a 28-match winning streak, all that was left for him to do was dispatch the No. 8 seed, Stan Wawrinka.

AP Photo/Christophe Ena

The coronation was canceled, thanks to a flawless game by Wawrinka, who only a year earlier had lost in the first round of the French Open. The moment was not lost on Djokovic, who, with teary eyes and silver plate in hand, said, "Not easy to stand there as a runner-up again. But I lost to a better player who played some courageous tennis."

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Johnson 3-putts 18; Spieth Wins

June 21, 2015 U.S. Open

Dustin Johnson's tale of redemption was just about complete. After walking away from the game for six months to get his life back on track and to witness the birth of his first child with fiancée Paulina Gretzky, Johnson walked up to the 18th green at Chambers Bay ready to seal a U.S. Open victory for his first major. Make the 12-foot eagle putt and he wins. Make a birdie? OK, then you're in a playoff on Monday with a chance to win.

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Three putts later, Johnson watched as Jordan Spieth celebrated his second major of the year, finishing his round earlier by sinking a critical birdie putt on 18. The loss was the fourth Sunday heartbreak in a major for Johnson, who didn't even stay around long enough to receive his second-place trophy, choosing instead to spend the rest of Father's Day with his 5-month-old son.

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USA vs. Japan

July 5, 2015 Women's World Cup final

The stage was set. The U.S. women's national team had not won the World Cup since 1999. Its last final appearance was in 2011, when it lost to Japan on penalty kicks. Everything pointed to this being an epic match between two of the international soccer powerhouses.

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So what happened? Carli Lloyd's hat trick happened. This final was over almost as quickly as it began, with the U.S. team scoring four times in the first 16 minutes of the game, including two goals in about 135 seconds to give the Americans a 2-0 lead by the fifth minute. The U.S. held on for a 5-2 victory, and the victory tour hasn't stopped. From Los Angeles to New York City, the crowds have come in droves to celebrate a win 16 years in the making.

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Frazier's Hometown Heroics

July 13, 2015 Home Run Derby

Yes, the Home Run Derby is just an exhibition, but don't tell that to the guys who compete in it, especially when it comes to playing in front of their hometown fans. Reds 3B Todd Frazier was locked in when he entered the finals of the Derby at the Great American Ballpark. Making the finals in 2014 before flaming out and losing 9-1 to Yoenis Cespedes will do that to you. Also, there was no way Frazier was going to lose to some rookie from L.A. (the Dodgers' Joc Pederson.)

John Grieshop/MLB Photos/Getty Images

Pressure on the big stage is nothing new to Frazier. He was a member of the heralded Toms River Little League team that defeated Japan for the title in 1998, a game in which he went 4-for-4 with a home run and was the winning pitcher. So when Frazier found himself needing 15 homers to win it, he dialed in and let it rip.

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Jason Day Wins, Breaks Tiger's Record

August 16, 2015 PGA Championship

This year was the coming-out party for Jordan Spieth, who dominated the Masters, stole a win at the U.S. Open and finished fourth at the Open Championship. Now, at the PGA Championship, Spieth entered Sunday's final round 2 shots behind leader Jason Day. Spieth more than held his own, shooting a 68 on Sunday, but he was no match for Day and his record-setting performance. Spieth took home second place, and his finish was enough to push him to the No. 1 ranking in the world, knocking Rory McIlroy down to the No. 2 spot.

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What a year for Jason Day. The drama started on the second day of the U.S. Open, when he collapsed at the ninth and 18th holes, suffering from vertigo. He continued the next day and finished the tournament tied for ninth place. At the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, Day decided to have a drama-free weekend. His birdie on the 18th hole gave him a record 20 under par for the tournament, breaking Tiger Woods' record at the 2000 British Open of 19 under. Day raised the Wanamaker Trophy, and the tears fell.

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Vinci Upsets Williams

September 11, 2015 US Open

Inevitable. That's what everyone was calling Serena Williams' pursuit of a Grand Slam in 2015. After winning the first three legs of the journey, Williams was more than on her way in Flushing Meadows after sending all of the other contenders home. in the semifinals, Williams would face unseeded Roberta Vinci, an Italian player who at 32 years old was much closer to the end of her career than the beginning.

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There was Williams, in the third set, fighting to stay alive. Not a problem. She had been there before on the road to her three previous major wins in 2015. This time, however, would be different. Vinci's unorthodox play kept Williams' tired legs on the run until Vinci found herself serving for the match. The 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 final ended an epic run for Williams. So much so that even Vinci understood she had interrupted history when she addressed the crowd after the match and said, "Today is my day. Sorry, guys!"

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South Africa vs. Japan

September 19, 2015 Rugby World Cup

South Africa knows rugby. It especially knows the World Cup, making it to the final four on four occasions and winning the tournament twice. Japan? Well, it has a strong rugby tradition, but that hasn't translated to success on the world stage. So when these two nations met in pool play in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, there didn't appear to be much of a chance for Japan to advance.

Eddie Keogh/Reuters

Ranked No. 13 in the world, Japan had won only two games in its previous eight World Cup appearances and had never played South Africa. None of that mattered. When the final whistle blew, Japan came out on top 34-32 in a match universally hailed as the greatest upset in the history of the tournament. Japan wouldn't advance to the knockout round, and South Africa would eventually take third place in the tournament, but on this bright day in September, Japan was king of the rugby world.

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Bautista's Bat Flip

October 14, 2015 ALDS, Game 5

How many MLB playoff innings feature two lead changes, one rare rules interpretation, a team officially declaring it is playing the game under protest, three errors in a row, an epic home run and bat flip, and the benches clearing? Oh, and all of this happened in an elimination game. That's the fastest way to describe what happened in the insane seventh inning of Game 5 of the ALDS between the Blue Jays and Rangers.

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In the end, the story was the same for Josh Hamilton and Texas, which ran its record in elimination games to 1-8. That 53-minute inning of chaos defined the Rangers' entire season. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, would go on to lose the ALCS in six games to eventual World Series champion Kansas City. But on the brink of disaster in the ALDS, they lived to play another day.

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Michigan State Over Michigan

October 17, 2015 Botched Punt Game

There's only one game Michigan wants to win more than the one against Ohio State, and that's the one against its other Big Ten rival, Michigan State. Jim Harbaugh's team was well on its way. The Wolverines led 23-21 with 10 seconds remaining. Facing a fourth-and-2 at the Spartans' 47-yard line, all they needed to do was punt the ball away and let the clock run out.

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The punt plan was simple enough, but punter Blake O'Neill couldn't handle the snap, and before he could do anything he was surrounded by white and green jerseys. Jalen Watts-Jackson scooped up the ball and ran it back to the end zone for the winning touchdown, stunning the crowd in Ann Arbor. In the end, Watts-Jackson got the win but paid the price: When he was tackled by Michigan's Jake Butt, he fractured and dislocated his left hip. It ended his season, but it kept Michigan State on track to do what no one thought was possible -- play in the College Football Playoff.

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Georgia Tech vs. Florida State

October 24, 2015 Blocked FG return to win

Sorry, Seminoles fans, but you're back on the list, and once again it's not good news. Late in the fourth quarter against Georgia Tech, with the score tied at 16, Florida State's drive stalled, and it settled for a 56-yard field goal attempt to win the game with six seconds on the clock. A long kick, yes, but Florida State had Roberto Aguayo, one of the best kickers in the nation. The situation wasn't exactly dire. Make it, you win. Miss it, the game goes to overtime. Wait ... there's a third possibility.

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Aguayo's kick was blocked, and, as it rolled on the ground, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson screamed for his team to leave the ball alone. He was more than willing to take his chances in overtime. Lance Austin had another idea. Austin, a sophomore defensive back, picked it up and ran 78 yards to the end zone to give the Yellow Jackets a 22-16 upset victory, snapping Florida State's 28-game winning streak in the ACC. These are the reasons we watch, or, as ESPN's Mark Jones said as Austin reached the end zone: "What a time to be alive!"

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Kenseth Wrecks Logano At Martinsville

November 1, 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Two weeks. That's how long Matt Kenseth had to stew about Joey Logano taking him out at Kansas Speedway to steal a win and eliminate Kenseth from advancing in the Chase for the Cup. When the two were on the track again at Martinsville Speedway in the Goody's 500, Kenseth decided to return the favor.

AP Photo/Don Petersen

Down 10 laps and with a damaged car, Kenseth drove race leader Logano into the wall on Lap 454 of 500. The wreck ended the day for both drivers, with Logano finishing 37th. Kenseth blamed the accident on the car, saying he couldn't get it to turn, but then hinted at his motives when he added, "It certainly ruined his day. I know what it's like to be that, too. Some days you're the bat, some days you're the ball."

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Rousey Upset By Holm

November 15, 2015 UFC 193 title match

This was just another bout on the path to immortality for the unstoppable Ronda Rousey. Another "don't waste your time or money on it" fight along the lines of Mike Tyson vs. Buster Douglas in 1990. This was more an obligation for Rousey, who added author and actor to her growing résumé in 2015. Yes, challenger Holly Holm was 9-0 coming into the match, but she was a converted boxer, no match for the tough-as-nails, judo-trained Rousey in the MMA Octagon.

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Then the fight started, and five minutes and 59 seconds later it was over. Holm had not just defeated Rousey, the bantamweight champion; she'd knocked her out cold with a devastating kick to the head, ending Rousey's reign after six straight title defenses. Although Holm-Rousey I was expected to be an afterthought, the rematch will be one of the hottest tickets in town.

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Research by Daniel McCarthy, Maura Brumley and Ken Woolums

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