ESPN's Greatest CFB Comeback since '04

It wasn't the fact that Idaho went into the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl against Bowling Green as 15 point underdogs. And it wasn't the fact that Idaho suffered huge losses on consecutive weekends leading up to the game, carrying a 7-5 season record and the hopes of tens of thousands of Idaho fans on its back after a decade without a bowl appearance. No, it was a heart pounding 32-second stretch.

In the "Comeback Issue" published by ESPN The Magazine (July 7, 2014), which looked at individuals and teams that overcame huge odds in the last 10 years on the way to victory (or redemption), numerous comebacks are chronicled. For their analysis, ESPN looked at the odds of victory as a particular game progressed (as time winds down, and based on several factors in a game including point differential, the probability of victory for the losing team decreases).

In the NFL, the Ravens overcame 143-1 odds in the 2013 AFC Divisional Championship when they were down a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to the Denver Broncos. QB Flacco heaved a 70-yard TD to tie the game, and the odds of a Raven victory improved as the teams went into OT (a game the Ravens ultimately won).

On the diamond, it was Boston's 2008 comeback where they overcame 100-1 odds when they were down 7-0 in the bottom of the 7th during Game 5 of the ALCS. The Sox overcame those odds, and went on to post the 8-7 win.

But among the college football ranks, Idaho's victory against overwhelming odds in the waning seconds of the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl reigns supreme. Throughout the 1st and 2nd quarters, Idaho's probability of victory oscillated between 25-50%, with Bowling Green holding the upper hand for much of the half. Then, in the 3rd quarter Idaho's probability of victory ballooned up to a game-high of 90% when the Vandals took a 28-14 lead with 5:30 left in the third. But, as the lead changed hands multiple times throughout the rest of the game, Idaho's probability of victory bounced between 50-75% for most of the 4th quarter. Then, the Falcons seemingly pounded the final nail in the coffin as Bowling Green's heralded wide receiver Freddie Barnes caught a 51-yard touchdown pass to put the Falcons up 42-35 with just 32 seconds remaining.

Facing what ESPN determined to be 143-1 odds and just a 0.8% chance of victory, the Vandals found themselves in a hole and it was going to require a heart-stopping effort -- and some good fortune -- to dig out.

What transpired in those final seconds for Idaho was the thing of legend. Senior Max Komar took the ensuing kickoff and raced up the field to the Vandal 34-yard line to set Idaho up in decent position. The Drive then started when quarterback Nathan Enderle connected with wide receiver Preston Davis on a 50-yard bomb that put the Vandals on the Bowling Green 16-yard line. Two plays later, one of Idaho's top receivers going into the game, slot receiver Max Komar, caught his one and only pass of the day - and possibly the biggest catch of the season - when he made a sliding reception in the endzone for the touchdown.

With the Vandals trailing by one point, down 42-41, the odds were still under 50% that Idaho would eek out the win. Seizing the momentum of that stage of the game, Idaho head coach Robb Akey called for the 2-point conversion. On this day, the play would work, as Enderle hit a wide open Davis in the endzone under the goal post for the 2-point conversion and the 43-42 win.

The improbable comeback complete, after Bowling Green seemingly sealed the game with just seconds remaining, Idaho's 43-42 Humanitarian Bowl victory goes down as ESPN's Greatest College Football Comeback of the last 10 years.



MEMORY LANE
Click the link below for our summary in 2009 of the day's action.

LINK: Vandals down Falcons in H-Bowl thriller




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