Saturday, November 20, 2010

November 20, 1982: The Marching Band refused to yield

BERKELEY, Calif. - Stanford quarterback John Elway called time out with 8 seconds to play. It seemed a little early to be calling time out - he could have easily let the clock run down to 2 or 1 seconds - but his coach told him to take the time out with 8 seconds so there would be time left in case of a penalty. Not a big deal, though. Kicker Mark Harmon made the field goal to give Stanford a 20-19 victory. There was a wild celebration - Stanford had won one of the most thrilling versions in the history of its great rivalry with California.

But the game wasn't over yet. There were 4 seconds left on the clock. Stanford's excessive celebration led to a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, moving the kickoff back. But it didn't seem to matter. Elway's incredible final drive had ensured that Cal would need a miracle to win.

And so Stanford kicked off. Not wanting the risk of a return, Harmon squib kicked it, and it bounced along the ground before Cal's Kevin Moen picked it up. Moen didn't get very far before flipping it Richard Rodgers

Rogers didn't get much farther, advancing a yard before flipping it backwards to Dwight Garner. Garner advanced about five yards before being swallowed up by the Stanford defense. He looked like he was down - people on Stanford's sideline thought he was down - but just before his knee hit, he flipped it backwards to Rodgers.

Rodgers had a little bit more room this time, considering that about five Stanford players had brought Garner down. He gained about 10 yards of field position. This time, Stanford was ready for the next pitch, but Rodgers found Mariet Ford anyway, and found him in stride.

Ford dodged one Stanford player, then started dodging band members. They had been on the field since Garner's pitch, thinking the game had been over. Now, they were acting as interference for Stanford's players - more defenders were having trouble getting through the throng than Cal players. Still, Ford was penned in, and as three Stanford defenders smothered him, he threw a blind lateral over his head, getting rid of the ball just before going down. Moen, who had picked up the original kick, caught the lateral, and he was off.

Moen only had to dodge one defender, and outrun another. His biggest obstical was the band. He dodged a few trumpet and saxophone players, running over trombone player Gary Tyrrell as he crossed the goal line.

And now the referees huddled. The play was so chaotic - including laterals thrown amongst the band. The lead official asked if all the laterals were legal. The other officials said they were. He then asked if anybody had blown a whistle. Nobody had. Then, the line judge told him "they scored on that play." The referee was shocked - he had no idea a touchdown had been scored. But he was relieved - if anybody had gone down at all, he could have awarded a touchdown based on interference from the band and other Stanford players. Fortunately, he did not have to make that judgement call. He stepped out of the officials huddle and, with the stadium silent, raised his arms.


The play has become among the most famous in college football history, and it remains a sore spot for Stanford fans. Each year, Cal and Stanford play for the Axe, on which is recorded the score of every game of the series. Whenever Stanford wins the Axe, the score of the 1982 game is changed to read Stanford 20, Cal 19. When California wins it, they change the score back to 25-20.

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