List of Successful Hail Marys in American Football - College Football

College Football

Early use of the term "Hail Mary Pass"

  • 1922 — On October 28, 1922, the term "Hail Mary play" was used by Knute Rockne's Notre Dame Fighting Irish in a victory over Georgia Tech. Notre Dame trailed 3–0 in the second half and had been unable to move the ball effectively. Noble Kizer, the one Presbyterian player on the Notre Dame team, stopped play and said to his teammates, "Boys, let's have a Hail Mary." They all prayed, and Elmer Layden scored a touchdown. On the next possession, Kizer said, "Let's have another Hail Mary," and Layden scored another touchdown. After the game, Kizer said, "Say, that Hail Mary is the best play we've got." An account written in 1935 presented a variation on the 1922 "Hail Mary" play as follows:

    "In the huddle the boys were surprised to hear the non-Catholic say: 'C'mon fellows let's have a 'Hail Mary.' The boys said the quick prayer and on the next play Jimmy Crowley dashed 30 yards for a touchdown. Some time later Notre Dame was again stopped and again this non-Catholic called on the boys for a Hail Mary. On the next play Stuhldreher tossed a 25 yard pass to Layden for a score. In between halves this same lad was chuckling to himself. He turned to one of his teammates and said, 'Boy that Hail Mary is a ________ of a play.'"

  • 1935 — On November 2, 1935, Notre Dame faced an undefeated Ohio State team and trailed 13–0 at the start of the fourth quarter. Notre Dame scored two touchdowns to cut Ohio State's lead to 13–12. With less than a minute left in the game, Notre Dame quarterback Andy Pilney ran 30 yards to the Ohio State 19-yard line. Pilney was injured and had to be carried off the field on a stretcher. William Shakespeare (nicknamed the "Merchant of Menace") replaced Pilney. With the clock running out, the ball was snapped to the fullback who handed it to Shakespeare on what appeared to be a reverse. Shakespeare threw a pass into the endzone, which was caught by Wayne Millner on his knees for an 18–13 win. Red Barber, who broadcast the game on radio, later called it "the greatest college football game I ever called." Radio announcer Tom Manning added, "I always said Shakespeare had a pair of rosary beads and a bottle of holy water in his back pocket." The media picked up stories of the Catholic faithful praying for Notre Dame as they listened to the game on the radio. One nun told a reporter of overhearing a colleague in her convent "gamefully bargaining" and eventually "threatening" the Poor Souls and saints for another Notre Dame touchdown. Shakespeare's game-winning pass became known as the "Hail Mary pass." In 1969, the game was selected in a poll by the Associated Press as the "game of the century", the best game in the first 100 years of college football.
  • 1940 — In 1940, the Georgetown Hoyas football team and quarterback Joe McFadden used a play referred to as the "'Hail Mary' pass." An Associated Press article published in December 1940 noted: "A 'Hail Mary' pass, in the talk of the Washington eleven, is one that is thrown with a prayer because the odds against completion are big."

Contemporary use of the term "Hail Mary Pass"

  • 1980 — Holiday Bowl — Brigham Young vs. SMU: BYU quarterback Jim McMahon completed a 41-yard Hail Mary to Clay Brown on the game's final play for a 46–45 win. The game is known as the "Miracle Bowl" because the Cougars overcame SMU's 45–25 lead with four minutes left in the game, sealing the victory with a touchdown and PAT kick after time expired. Brown's catch remains one of the most spectacular Hail Mary receptions in football history. He was completely surrounded by SMU defenders in the end zone, but he out-jumped all of them and somehow managed to hold on to the ball during the subsequent pileup.
  • 1984 — Boston College vs. Miami: BC quarterback Doug Flutie threw a 48-yard Hail Mary to Gerard Phelan for the 47–45 victory. The play is known as "Hail Flutie" and is generally credited with winning Flutie the Heisman Trophy later that season.
  • 1989 — Southern Mississippi vs. Louisville: In October, with USM on its own 21 yard line and only six seconds remaining, Brett Favre heaved a pass that bounced off of the helmet of the Eagles' Michael Jackson and over to wide receiver Darryl Tillman. Tillman scored as time expired, breaking a 10–10 deadlock. At 79 yards, the throw was probably the longest Hail Mary pass ever completed and was later voted on as one of the "Top 5 Memorable Moments" in college football history during an online vote.
  • 1994 — Colorado vs. Michigan: Down by 5 points, with 6 seconds to play, #7 Colorado lined up in a formation called 'Jets' – 4-wideouts with Trips left. Colorado quarterback Kordell Stewart had good protection, dropped back to the CU 27, scrambled a bit, and heaved the ball 73 yards in the air down to the opposing 1-yard line. The play, known as 'Rocket Left', called for Michael Westbrook to tip the ball into the end zone for backup wideout Blake Anderson, but it was in fact Anderson in the middle of a cluster of players who tipped it to Westbrook for a 64-yard touchdown pass on the last play of the game. Colorado won 27–26, and the play (which Colorado had also run at the end of the first half, resulting in #4 Michigan intercepting it) became known as “The Miracle at Michigan” and took home an ESPY for College Football Play of the Year.
  • 2000 — Northwestern vs. Minnesota: Northwestern quarterback Zak Kustok completed a 45-yard Hail Mary to wide receiver Sam Simmons. The touchdown gave Northwestern a 41–35 victory as the Wildcats rallied from a 35–14 deficit. The play (a volleyball-style tip to the trailing wide receiver) was named "Victory Right."
  • 2001 — Miami (Ohio) vs. Akron: Future Super Bowl-winning quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed a 70-yard tipped pass to Eddie Tillitz to defeat Akron 30–27 on the last play. The play was dubbed "Big Ben" (an old Atlanta Falcon name for the Hail Mary pass) and helped Roethlisberger earn the nickname that he would later be known by.
  • 2002 — LSU vs. Kentucky: This game ended in a 75-yard Hail Mary pass, thrown by LSU QB Marcus Randall, deflected by Kentucky into the hands of LSU receiver Devery Henderson. Before the play, Kentucky players gave a "Gatorade bath" to the head coach thinking they would surely win. After the play, fireworks were then fired into the air over the stadium and Kentucky fans rushed onto the field and even started tearing down the goal posts in the opposite end zone, not knowing that they had lost. LSU won the game 33–30. The play is known as the “Bluegrass Miracle”.
  • 2003 — Tennessee vs. Florida: Tennessee quarterback Casey Clausen threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to James Banks on the final play of the first half. The play gave Tennessee a 7–3 lead and they went on to win 24–10.
  • 2004 — Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma State: DeQwan Mobley caught a long Hail Mary pass just before halftime.
  • 2005 — Washington vs. Arizona: During the closing seconds of the first half, Washington quarterback Isaiah Stanback heaved a pass 69 yards to Craig Chambers to tie the game at 14. Washington would eventually win 38–14.
  • 2006
    • NC State vs. Boston College: A 34-yard Hail Mary from NC State quarterback Daniel Evans to wideout John Dunlap with 8 seconds left gave NC State a 17–15 victory.
    • Arkansas State vs. Memphis: A 53-yard Hail Mary from quarterback Corey Leonard to wide receiver Patrick Higgins with 6 seconds left gave ASU a 26–23 victory.
    • Washington vs. Cal: In his third career start, quarterback Carl Bonnell threw a 40-yard Hail Mary that was tipped by three Cal defenders at the goal line and caught by Marlon Wood at the two yard line with no time left. He dove into the endzone to tie the game at 24–24. Cal would win in overtime.
  • 2007
    • Iowa vs. Indiana: On September 29, trailing 21–0 with five seconds left in the first half, Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen's took the snap and made a 33-yard desperation heave into the end zone that was deflected by a group of three Hoosier defensive backs before being caught by receiver Trey Stross. Iowa went on to lose the game.
    • Army vs. Tulane: In October, on his first Army touchdown pass, quarterback Kevin Dunn threw a 36-yard Hail Mary that was tipped by two Tulane defenders and a diving catch was made by Mike Wright to tie the game at 17–17. Army was down 17–7 with just 4 minutes left, and went on to win the game in overtime 20–17 after the Hail Mary tied the game as time expired.
  • 2008
    • Middle Tennessee vs. Florida Atlantic: MT quarterback Joe Craddock threw a touchdown pass to Malcolm Beyah as time expired to beat the Owls 14–13. The Blue Raiders had been in a similar situation earlier in the season against Kentucky, but the Wildcats' Robbie McAtee made a game-saving tackle at the 1-yard line after the Raiders gained 61 yards on the play (see more about the first Hail Mary attempt below).
    • Buffalo vs. Temple: Flanker Naaman Roosevelt hauled in a 35-yard Hail Mary pass from quarterback Drew Willy to stun Temple and turn UB Stadium on its ear with bedlam. The play capped a remarkable final three minutes that saw the lead change hands three times. The Bulls won with a final score of 30–28.
    • UC Davis vs. Northern Colorado: After an illegal procedure penalty, UC Davis was moved out of field goal range to the 38 yard line, down 30–28 with two seconds remaining on the clock. Quarterback Greg Denham completed a Hail Mary pass to wide receiver Bakari Grant as time expired to win the game 34–30.
  • 2010
    • East Carolina vs. Tulsa: ECU defeated Tulsa 51–49 with a Hail Mary pass on its final play. The pass was thrown by Dominque Davis and caught by Justin Jones.
    • UAB vs. Troy: Bryan Ellis of UAB threw a 44-yard pass to Jackie Williams as time expired to top Troy at Legion Field, 34–33.
    • SEC Championship Game, Auburn vs. South Carolina: Auburn's Cam Newton threw a Hail Mary pass downfield in the last few seconds of the first half, with Darvin Adams making the catch. Auburn crushed South Carolina 56–17 to capture the SEC title and a berth in the BCS National Championship Game, where they defeated the Oregon Ducks.
  • 2011
    • Michigan State vs. Wisconsin: On the final play of the game, Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins threw a pass into the end zone that was caught by Keith Nichol at the 1-yard line after being deflected off B. J. Cunningham's helmet. Nichol had to fight two Wisconsin defenders for the extra yard to reach the endzone. It was not ruled a touchdown on the field, however the call was overturned after video replays showed that the ball had crossed the plane, making the play a 44-yard touchdown pass, giving a 37–31 win to Michigan State. It was Nichol's only catch of the game.
    • Boise State vs. Wyoming: With 1 second to play before halftime, Boise State Quarterback Kellen Moore took the snap, rolled left as time expired, and heaved a 46-yard pass that Wyoming Cornerback Tashaun Gipson batted into the air. Wide Receiver Matt Miller, who had already fallen to the ground, caught the ball on his chest as it fell towards him, breaking a 7–7 deadlock. Boise State used the momentum going into halftime to further expand their lead in the second half and win by a significant margin.
    • 2012 Capital One Bowl – #9 South Carolina vs. #20 Nebraska: Down 13–9 at the end of the first half, South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw took the snap from South Carolina's own 49-yard line with 0:06 seconds remaining. With 0:02 remaining, Shaw heaved a Hail Mary pass, which was caught at the 4-yard line by 6'4" receiver Alshon Jeffery, who dove into the endzone for a touchdown as time expired. South Carolina went on to win 30–13, and Jeffrey was named MVP of the game.

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