Houston Chronicle, Eric Christian Smith, Associated Press
Montana State's Elvis Akpla (1) makes a leaping reception over Sam Houston State's Daxton Swanson during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec 10, 2011 at Bowers Stadium in Huntsville, Texas.

HELENA, Mont. — Montana State wide receiver Elvis Akpla says he fantasizes about making really unbelievable catches.

On Saturday, he made one seen by people across the country in MSU's Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinal game at Sam Houston State aired on ESPN.

Akpla grabbed a 40-yard pass from DeNarius McGhee out of the air from behind defender Dax Swanson's head, pulled it back toward him with one hand and steadied it against his helmet. He used his left arm to brace himself as he rolled over on his shoulders and came to a stop sitting on the turf with the ball behind his back.

All of that happened in about two seconds.

While his teammates celebrated on the sidelines, Akpla calmly flipped the ball to the referee.

"At the time I knew it was a good catch and everything, but I didn't think it would get the national recognition that it did," he said during a telephone interview Monday. "I'm just kind of amazed by it."

He said it didn't hurt that most of the Football Bowl Subdivision teams had the weekend off.

The second-quarter catch was replayed several times during the ESPN broadcast of the game Saturday and was the No. 3 play of the day on SportsCenter. The grab was crowned the catch of the college football season by the sports website Deadspin and was dubbed a masterpiece in the Huffington Post. Another sports website, SB Nation, called it transcendent.

People are posting it on Facebook, tweeting about it and watching it on YouTube.

"At the time, I didn't even realize what I did," said Akpla. "I was really determined. I wasn't going to be denied the catch."

"I caught it and I was having trouble bringing it in with my other hand. The entire time I tried to get my left hand on the ball," he said. "When I realized I was heading to the ground, I did everything I could to keep it up and make sure it was a catch."

Akpla had six catches for 100 yards, but the Bobcats fell 49-13 to the top-seeded Bearkats.

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Akpla, a senior from Portland, Ore., is finishing up his studies this week. He is majoring in cell biology and neuroscience with a minor in French. He has a couple research papers to write and tests in classes like Genes and Cancer.

"I'm just trying to finish strong because I graduate this Friday," he said.

Akpla led Montana State with 1,045 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns this season. He wants to give the NFL a shot and has had scouts at practice. He thinks his acrobatic catch might help with his goal of playing on Sundays.

"It helps a lot," he said. "Not just the catch, but the game. I think a whole lot of people watched that game."