Incredible individual performances during a game can come from anyone on the field, be it a defensive powerhouse, a Heisman Trophy candidate or a team's star quarterback. But no matter the player or position, one thing remains the same: the singular effort can be game-changing—and sometimes even history-making. In honor of the 150th anniversary of college football, here are the top 10 greatest individual game performances in the history of the sport.
10. Robert Griffin III, Baylor vs. Oklahoma
Nov. 19, 2011
Before this matchup, Baylor had lost each of its 20 previous games to Oklahoma. RGIII set out to make sure another disappointment wasn’t in store. Luck was on his side in the third quarter when a pass bounced off the hands and helmet of a receiver and ended up in the hands of Kendall Wright, leading to an 87-yard score. Later, he cemented his Heisman Trophy candidacy with a last-second 34-yard strike to Terrence Williams to seal the upset win of the fifth-ranked Sooners. RGII finished with 479 yards passing and four touchdowns, while adding 72 on the ground.
9. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech vs. Oklahoma
Oct. 22, 2016
Before he was lighting up NFL defenses on a weekly basis, Mahomes was doing the same to the best the Big 12 had to offer. In an epic showdown with Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Mahomes completed 52 passes for a record-tying 734 yards along with five touchdowns (and two touchdowns on the ground), but it wasn’t enough as Mayfield and Oklahoma prevailed, 66-59. Per ESPN Stats and Information research, at least seven FBS records were tied or broken during the game, including the record for most combined yards (1,708 yards).
8. Deshaun Watson, Clemson vs. Alabama
2017 CFP National Championship
Down 14-0 early in this title game rematch, Watson remained cool under pressure and gave the formidable ‘Bama fits. Watson threw for a championship game record 420 yards with three touchdowns and added 43 yards and another score on the ground. Watson cemented his status among the sport’s greats with a memorable final drive, ending it with a sprint out and a last-second touchdown pass for Clemson’s first national title since 1981.
7. Marques Tuiasosopo, Washington vs. Stanford
Oct. 30, 1999
On Washington’s second play of the game, Tuiasosopo rolled out left to pass and was drilled, injuring his hip. But he didn’t miss a snap. Despite the hit, Washington continued to put the ball in his hands, using the option to perfection and catching Stanford repeatedly out of position. The Huskies trailed by 11 on two different occasions, but Tuiasosopo went to work, leading them to 24 unanswered points to put the game away. With 302 passing yards and 207 rushing, Tuiasosopo became the first player ever to pass for 300 and rush for 200 yards in the same game.
6. Jim McMahon, BYU vs. SMU
1980 Holiday Bowl
Behind the high-powered “Pony Express”, SMU jumped out to a commanding 45-25 lead. McMahon, who would finish with 446 yards and four touchdowns, led BYU on a furious rally with 21 points in the last 2:33 minutes, including an unbelievable Hail Mary pass as time expired for one of the wildest comebacks in college football history.
5. Doug Flutie, Boston College vs. Miami
Nov. 23, 1984
With 28 seconds remaining, Boston College trailed the reigning champions 45-41. Doubting that Flutie had the arm strength to reach the end zone, the Hurricane defense left Boston College wideout Gerard Phelan uncovered as he ran down the field. When Flutie’s pass landed in Phelan’s arms for the touchdown moments later, it set off a wild celebration at the Orange Bowl.
4. Reggie Bush, USC vs. Fresno State
Nov. 19, 2005
Bush put all of his video game-like skills on display on a night in which the Trojans needed every yard. His final stats in the team’s 50-42 win: 294 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs; 3 catches, 68 receiving yards; 7 kick returns, 135 returns yards, 1 TD—all for a Pac-10 record 503 all-purpose yards. The highlight of the night was a 50-yard run where he started left, stopped on a dime, cut back and raced untouched for the score.
3. Tommie Frazier, Nebraska vs. Florida
1996 Fiesta Bowl
Tommie Frazier didn’t win the Heisman Trophy in 1995, but he was happy to settle for a second-straight national title. The Nebraska quarterback ran for 199 yards and two touchdowns, including a remarkable 75-yard touchdown at the end of the third quarter where he shrugged off multiple Florida defenders, as the Cornhuskers trounced the Gators 62-24.
2. Barry Sanders, Oklahoma State vs. Texas Tech
Coca Cola Classic, Dec. 3, 1988
What does one do hours after winning the Heisman Trophy? Play a game, of course … in Tokyo. Sanders and his Cowboy teammates were joined by the Miami Dolphins cheerleaders and the Grambling State marching band in the Coca Cola Classic against Texas Tech, but it was Sanders who stole the show. Sanders ran 44 times for 332 yards, breaking the single-season rushing record in the process.
1. Vince Young, Texas vs. USC
2006 Rose Bowl
Returning to the Rose Bowl a year after an outstanding performance against Michigan, Young had his sights on bigger goals: a national title. USC had a 12-point lead with less than seven minutes to go, but “Invincible” would not be stopped, taking just 2:39 to get the Horns within one score and then later marching the team down the field and scoring untouched on a 4th-and-5 with 19 seconds left to give Texas its first national title since 1970.