On January 8th, 2000, the Tennessee Titans defeated the Buffalo Bills in an AFC Wild Card Playoff Game that became famous for a play referred to as the "Music City Miracle." The Titans used a throw back on a kickoff with 16 seconds left in the game to score the winning touchdown. What many NFL fans did not realize at the time was that this was not the first time this play had been used to perfection. On November 13th, 1982, SMU used this same exact play to defeat Texas Tech in what became known as the "Miracle on Fourth Avenue." Bobby Leach's touchdown run earned him the name the "Miracle Man" in one of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.
SMU came into the game ranked second in the country with a 9-0 record. The Mustangs had a 13-game winning streak, the longest streak in Division I. A victory over Texas Tech would assure SMU of at least a tie for the Southwest Conference title. They were in control of the conference and looking for a repeat of their conference championship from 1981. However, Texas Tech did not plan on lying down and had hopes of playing spoiler to the Mustang's season. In their previous meetings, Tech had held both Eric Dickerson and Craig James scoreless. They had been the only team in the SWC to hold the duo scoreless in their careers.
As the game unfolded, the Pony Express was able to break their curse against Tech and put points on the board. However, every time SMU would score, the Red Raiders seemed to come up with an answer of their own. The game was a struggle that would not be decided until the very end. With four minutes to go, Tech took control of the ball down on their own 20 yard line trailing 27-24. They marched to the SMU 10 before being forced to kick a game tying field goal with 17 seconds remaining. With the score tied at 27, it appeared that SMU's bid for a perfect season had come to an abrupt halt. And then, a miracle occurred.
Tech came out and squib kicked the ball with hopes of running precious seconds off the clock. The ball ended up in the hands of Blane Smith, who initially bobbled the ball before taking control. Smith turned and fired the ball across the field to Bobby Leach who was waiting at the 9 yard line. Leach caught the ball and raced down the sideline 91 yards for a touchdown. The play earned Leach the nickname, "The Miracle Man." SMU had won 34-27, and the perfect season was still intact.
When the play was called, Leach said, "I thought it would work, because I looked up at the scoreboard, and the score was 27-27-I have this thing about seven the lucky number. There were 17 seconds left, and I had my right foot on the 7-yard line. I said something's gotta happen."
"I always believed in miracles", stated Dickerson. "It was His day. I'm going to church tomorrow. After the play, I looked all over for flags, but it was just a miracle." But Lance McIlhenny knew that it was more than SMU getting lucky. "We work on that every Thursday. It came through for us. I thought Blane was in trouble when he was bobbling the ball," he said. "But, we already had the wall set. Bobby and Blane did a super job. We definitely had some luck today. But our success is not all luck. SMU has had some rough years, and now the work's starting to pay off."
The touchdown lifted SMU to 10-0 and gave them a share of the conference title. The following week, the Mustangs tied Arkansas to clinch the championship outright which sent them to the Cotton Bowl. Coach Bobby Collins stated, "I never lost hope. The players just played a great football game." The "Miracle on Fourth Avenue" by the "Miracle Man" Bobby Leach takes its rightful place as one of the 90 Greatest Moments in SMU Football History.