The Play

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The Play is one of the most famous and highly discussed plays in the history of American college football, in which California used five laterals on the last play to beat Stanford 25-20 in the 1982 Big Game, regularly played in the San Francisco Bay Area. The following are useful and/or memorable quotes from people who were involved with The Play.


  • All right, here we go with the kickoff. Harmon will probably try to squib it and he does. Ball comes loose and the Bears have to get out of bounds. Rodgers, along the sideline, another one... they're still in deep trouble at midfield, they tried to do a couple of – the ball is still loose, as they get it to Rodgers! They get it back now to the 30, they're down to the 20... Oh, the band is out on the field! He's gonna go into the end zone! He got into the end zone!

    Will it count? The Bears have scored, but the bands are out on the field! There were flags all over the place. Wait and see what happens; we don't know who won the game. There are flags on the field. We have to see whether or not the flags are against Stanford or Cal. The Bears may have made some illegal laterals. It could be that it won't count. The Bears, believe it or not, took it all the way into the end zone. If the penalty is against Stanford, California would win the game. If it is not, the game is over and Stanford has won.

    We've heard no decision yet. Everybody is milling around on the [the conferencing officials now finally signal a touchdown] FIELD! AND THE BEARS! THE BEARS HAVE WON! The Bears have won! Oh, my God! The most amazing, sensational, dramatic, heart-rending... exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football! California has won the Big Game over Stanford! Oh, excuse me for my voice, but I have never, never seen anything like it in the history of I have ever seen any game in my life! The Bears have won it! There will be no extra point!

  • I called all the officials together and there were some pale faces. The penalty flags were against Stanford for coming onto the field. I say, 'did anybody blow a whistle?' They say 'no'. I say, 'were all the laterals legal'? 'Yes'. Then the line judge, Gordon Riese, says to me, 'Charlie, the guy scored on that.' And I said, 'What?' I had no idea the guy had scored. Actually when I heard that I was kind of relieved. I thought we really would have had a problem if they hadn't scored, because, by the rules, we could have awarded a touchdown [to Cal] for [Stanford] players coming onto the field. I didn't want to have to make that call.

    I wasn't nervous at all when I stepped out to make the call; maybe I was too dumb. Gee, it seems like it was yesterday. Anyway, when I stepped out of the crowd, there was dead silence in the place. Then when I raised my arms, I thought I had started World War III. It was like an atomic bomb had gone off.

  • As the chaos of The Play unfolded, concluding at our end of the field on the opposite side of the end zone, we tried to figure out what had happened. We remained confident. Surely that slapstick finish wouldn't be ruled a touchdown. The officials hustled to gather at midfield, and as they talked, the cheering of the Cal fans died down. The stadium became so quiet you could hear a heart drop. You just didn't know whether the heart would be blue and gold, or cardinal and white.

    The officials kept talking, and the longer they talked, the sense of foreboding in my stomach swelled like a pan of Jiffy-Pop. If they had this much to discuss, that meant there might be a touchdown. I turned to my friend and said, "This isn't good."

    What happened next is as vivid in my memory as the birth of my children. The referee, Charles Moffett, signaled touchdown, and you could see the news travel. The Cal fans reacted as if they were performing the wave. Not the normal wave, which races around the field. The cheering began at field level and spread to the top of the stadium, then rebounded and gathered speed as it went back down. The momentum seemed to carry the fans over the wall and onto the field, and in a matter of moments, the stands emptied.

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