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'Flea Kicker'
FK1.jpg
1 2 3 4 OT Total
Nebraska 14 7 7 10 7 45
Missouri 7 17 7 7 0 38
Date November 8, 1997
Stadium Faurot Field
Location Columbia, Missouri

In college football, the Flea Kicker was a legendary play executed by the Nebraska Cornhuskers against the Missouri Tigers on November 8, 1997 that sent the game into overtime and resulted in a win for the Cornhuskers who went on to share the NCAA Division I-A National Championship with the Michigan Wolverines. The final minutes of the whole game were seen by many people on ABC, after other regional games ended.

Contents

Background

The Cornhuskers, who had won national championships for the 1994 and 1995 seasons, went into the game with a 8-0 record and a No. 1 ranking in the AP Poll[1]. They had only given up seven points in their last three games and had beaten the Tigers eighteen straight times[2]. The Tigers were unranked with a 6-3 record, and in the school’s history, had never beaten a No. 1 ranked team.[2]

The play

In the fourth quarter, Tigers quarterback Corby Jones completed a pass to Eddie Brooks to give Missouri a 38-31 lead, giving Mizzou fans hope that they would beat Nebraska for the first time since the 1978 season and moving then-coach Larry Smith to tears. The Huskers took possession from a punt after Mizzou failed to convert a first down on their own 33-yard line with 1:02 remaining. In less than a minute, the Huskers moved the ball 55 yards. The Huskers were on the Missouri 12-yard line with only seven seconds remaining when Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost threw a pass intended for wingback Shevin Wiggins. The ball hit Wiggins directly in the chest near the goal line. The ball immediately shot down and hit a Missouri safety in the foot and popped back in the air. Then Missouri safety Julian Jones tackled Wiggins as time expired. As Wiggins was pulled to the ground, his leg popped up, kicking the ball into the air for a second time. Cornhuskers receiver Matt Davison leaped for the ball, his hands scraping the turf as he managed to make the catch in the endzone for a touchdown. Missouri fans stormed the field in celebration, thinking they had won and the game was over.

The play could have resulted in a 15-yard penalty (illegal kick) if officials had considered the kick intentional. Instead, they ruled the catch a touchdown. Once fans were cleared from the field, Kris Brown kicked the extra point for Nebraska sending the game into overtime. In overtime Frost ran for a touchdown and Jones was sacked on 4th and seven by Grant Wistrom to give Nebraska a 45-38 win.[3][4]

Aftermath

Missouri finished the season 7-5 with a loss to Colorado State in the Holiday Bowl. The Tigers did not defeat the Cornhuskers until 2003, ending a 24-game losing streak in the series.

After the game, Wiggins admitted to kicking the ball intentionally to keep the play alive. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the outcome of the game could not be changed after the fact, despite the fact that the illegal kick led to Nebraska's win.[5]

Nebraska dropped to No. 3 in the AP Poll the following week, but they were still undefeated, and national title hopes were still alive. The Cornhuskers defeated Iowa State and Colorado in the last two games of the regular season and beat Texas A&M 54-15 in the Big 12 Championship Game. Nebraska went on to defeat Peyton Manning and No. 3 Tennessee 42-17 in the Orange Bowl to finish the season 13-0. The Cornhuskers had a No. 1 ranking in the Coaches Poll, giving them a third national championship in four seasons[6]. However, they had to split the championship with the 12-0 Michigan Wolverines who defeated No. 8 Washington State 21-16 in the Rose Bowl Game and ended the season topping the AP Poll.

Significance

The Flea Kicker was ranked No. 11 on The Best Damn Sports Show Period's list of Top 50 Amazing Catches.

The Flea Kicker was also being recreated for the Fox Sports Net program Sport Science in an episode called Bet You Can't Do It Again.

See also

References

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