Nebraska’s Hail Mary Could Have Been Worse

WNUR’s Michael Stern (michaeljstern23) examines Nebraska’s Hail Mary to defeat Northwestern and tells why it could have been worse with historical examples included.

Photo via Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Photo via Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

It was a rough weekend, Northwestern fans. A Hail Mary is easily the most devastating play in college football, and this particular Hail Mary is especially devastating because it severely damaged the ‘Cats’ bowl chances. But just remember, it could always be worse. And here are 5 reasons why.

1. It wasn’t at home.

Imagine the disappointment felt after watching a Hail Mary on TV. Now imagine that same disappointment IN THE STADIUM.

Exhibit A: Colorado’s Kordell Stewart fires a 64-yard Hail Mary to Michael Westbrook in a 1994 game that has since been dubbed “Miracle at Michigan”. This would be a fun one to talk about next weekend with some Wolverine fans when Michigan visits Ryan Field.

2. It wasn’t a home upset bid.

Imagine the disappointment felt after a watching a Hail Mary in the stadium from number one. Now imagine that same disappointment, except the opponent is a top-ranked team.

Exhibit A: Kentucky had already poured the Gatorade on their head coach, Guy Morriss, and just needed to keep 14th-ranked LSU from throwing a 74-yard touchdown on the game’s final play in order to win in November of 2002. They couldn’t. Tiger quarterback Marcus Randall’s pass was deflected into the waiting arms of Devery Henderson, and Henderson raced into the end zone to complete “The Bluegrass Miracle”.

3. It wasn’t in a bowl game.

Imagine the disappointment felt watching that Hail Mary on TV. Now imagine not being able to watch another game for a WHOLE 9 MONTHS. No excuses such as, “well, at least we have a game next week (or in two weeks) apply.

Exhibit A: Pony Express SMU, featuring Craig James, Eric Dickerson, and lots of rich boosters, held a 45-39 lead over BYU in the 1980 Holiday Bowl. Enter Jim McMahon. The quarterback famous around these parts for leading the ’85 Bears to the Super Bowl threw a 41-yard Hail Mary to Clay Brown, and the extra point gave the Cougars a 46-45 “Miracle Bowl” win.

4. It wasn’t the most famous Hail Mary in college football history.

Seriously, who wants their school to be remembered for giving up a Hail Mary to a Heisman-winning quarterback that is still shown 30 years later at every Heisman trophy presentation and after every new Hail Mary? Miami doesn’t.

Exhibit A: In November of 1984, Doug Flutie and Boston College trailed Miami 45-41, but had the ball on the Hurricane 48. Flutie dropped back, hurled the ball into the end zone where Flutie’s roommate, Gerard Phelan, snagged it. The rest is history.

5. The band wasn’t on the field.

Enough said. It’s not a Hail Mary, but giving up a play like this has to be the worst feeling ever.

Exhibit A: John Elway led Stanford down the field and into position for the go-ahead field goal in the Cardinal’s November 1982 rivalry game against Cal. Kicker Mark Harmon (not actor Mark Harmon) nailed the field goal, giving Stanford a 20-19 lead with 4 seconds to play. The madness of “The Play” ensued, with Kevin Moen lateraling to Richard Rodgers lateraling to Dwight Garner and on and on and on until Moen ran into the end zone, smashed a trombone and gave the Bears a 25-20 victory over their archrivals.

Sidenote: The Wildcats were definitely cursed to have a Hail Mary play like this happen against them this year. Northwestern opened the season at the very Memorial Stadium where The Play happened in 1982, and faced a Cal team that includes safety David Garner (son of Dwight) and receiver Richard Rodgers, Jr. (son of Richard, Sr.). The ‘Cats were cursed, a Hail Mary loss was inevitable, it wasn’t that terrible, and now we can get on with the season.

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