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Top Five Orange Bowl Moments of the Decade

Since Bucknell beat Miami in 1935, the annual Orange Bowl has provided some of the best moments of every college football season. Starting in the '90s, the game also provided a few national championships. Though the game hasn't been held in the physical Orange Bowl in Miami since 1999 (it's now played at Land Shark Stadium in Miami Gardens), the past ten years have given us more than a handful of memorable moments. We've had big-name match-ups, big upsets, big scores, and individual performances that are nothing short of legendary.

We went through the history books and pieced together a list of the top five Orange Bowl moments of the past decade.

Depending on when you consider the decade beginning (2000 or 2001) and ending (five days ago or 360 days from now), the list might change a little, but there are sure to be arguments either way. Not making this list: Kansas cornerback Aqib Talib's 60-yard interception return for a touchdown in that school's only BCS appearance (a 24-21 victory over Virginia Tech); Jarrett Payton's powerful running performance in 2004, when Miami played in-state rival Florida State; or USC quarterback (and Heisman winner) Carson Palmer's dominating game against Iowa in 2003.

Now, the top five Orange Bowl moments of the last ten years:

Alabama's missed extra point in 2000
This was the first BCS game to go into overtime. A young, mostly unknown Michigan quarterback named Tom Brady led the Wolverines on a comeback of two separate 14-point deficits. At the end of regulation, the score was 28-28. On the first play of overtime, Brady hit tight end Shawn Thompson in the end zone to make the score 34-28. The extra point made it 35. Alabama, led the entire game by running back Shaun Alexander, scored two plays later. The Crimson Tide celebrated, and everyone was ready for the first double-overtime game in BCS history. But it was too early. 'Bama kicker Ryan Pflugner pushed the extra point wide right. Michigan won 35-34.

OU wins national championship in 2001
He's not even close to being the most famous Tim Duncan in sports, but he was the man that night against Florida State. Duncan, the Oklahoma placekicker, made two field goals and an extra point, which gave him five more points than the entire FSU team. In a game as ugly as the final score, the Sooners beat the Seminoles (if that sounds culturally insensitive, it's because it is) 13-2 to give second-year coach Bob Stoops a national championship. (It was his last big win.) The game also marked the end of an era of FSU dominance.

USC beats OU in 2005
It was an unusual showdown of Heisman winners, past, present, and future, that year. Oklahoma's Jason White (winner 2003) led the Sooners against Matt Leinart (2004) and Reggie Bush (2005). Oklahoma scored first, but the Trojans controlled the rest of the game. Leinart's 54-yard strike to Dwayne Jarrett to begin the second quarter made the score 21-7, and USC never looked back. The win came in the middle of one of the longest-winning streaks in NCAA history and was so overwhelming, most of the talking heads on ESPN spent the next year debating whether this was the greatest college team of all time. That talk ended when Leinart and Bush ran into a young man named Vince Young.

Bowden versus Paterno in 2006
They are the two oldest, winningest coaches in college football (Bowl Subdivision) history. At 82, Joe Paterno now has 394 victories. Bobby Bowden, two years younger, has 389 counting his final win in the Gator Bowl this year. (Bowden could lose a few of those wins eventually, not that it matters now.) These two giants faced off for what would prove to be a final time in Miami in 2006, and the game was an instant classic -- and the longest game in Orange Bowl history. Florida State tied the game at 16 with a field goal at four minutes left in the fourth quarter. It was the final score of regulation. Neither team scored during the first overtime, and both teams scored touchdowns during the second OT. A Penn State field goal in the third overtime proved to be the difference. Final score: PSU 26, FSU 23. If Bowden's life becomes a biopic and the producers want to leave out the nasty ending to his career, this is where the credits would roll.

Tim Tebow wins national championship in 2009
OK, so technically this wasn't in the Orange Bowl. It was in the same stadium, the same week, with the same staff and media, but it was the BCS National Championship game, not the Orange Bowl. But that's a matter of semantics. This list would not be complete if we didn't include the brightest moment in the career of the Gator messiah. I was there and had the chance to witness the Tebow-ness in person. After one of his shouting, awkward, inspired rants to teammates at halftime, Tebow came out like a monster, chomping to Gator fans on every first down. He outmatched Heisman winner Sam Bradford and took Florida up and down the field just enough to win his second championship in three years and secure his place as an all-time college football legend.

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Michael J. Mooney

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