Cal beats Stanford as band blocks field - HISTORY
Year
1982

Cal beats Stanford as band blocks field

On November 20, 1982, the Cal football team wins an improbable last-second victory over Stanford when they complete five lateral passes around members of the Cardinals’ marching band, who had wandered onto the field a bit early to celebrate the upset they were sure their team had won, and score a touchdown. After catching the last pass of the series, Cal’s Kevin Moen careened through the confused horn section and made it safely to the end zone. Then he slammed into trombone player Gary Tyrell. (A photograph from the Oakland Tribune of the jubilant Moen and the terrified Tyrell in the moment just before the collision is still displayed triumphantly all over Berkeley.)

Late in the game’s fourth quarter, with Cal leading 19-17, Stanford quarterback John Elway managed to nudge his team down the field and into field goal range with just eight seconds–a crucial few seconds too many, it turned out–left to play. Mark Harmon kicked a 35-yard field goal, and Stanford took a 20-19 lead. The Cardinals flooded the field to celebrate, and the ref ushered them back to the bench and slapped them with a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. As a result, Harmon had to kick off from the 25 with four seconds to play.

Harmon squibbed the kick, and Cal’s Moen scrambled to retrieve it at the Cal 46-yard-line. He considered trying to run the ball for a touchdown–but then, as he wrote later in an alumni journal, “I remembered ‘gra-bass,’ one of Coach Kapp’s training games. It had no rules, just one bunch of guys trying to keep the ball away from another bunch of guys.” So, that’s what he started to do. He pitched the ball behind him to teammate Richard Rodgers, who tossed it to freshman Dwight Garner, who returned it just as two Stanford defenders barreled into him. (Some people still say that he didn’t actually get rid of the ball before his knee brushed the turf. but Garner and his teammates swore that he did.) Then Rodgers lobbed the ball to Mariet Ford, who returned it to Moen by flinging the ball backwards over his shoulder just as he was about to get nailed by three panicking Stanford defenders. Moen caught the ball and bolted for the end zone, 25 yards away.

Meanwhile, Stanford’s band, confident that their team had won the game, had already gathered at the end of the field. Apparently without noticing that 22 football players were hurtling toward them, they began to play Free’s “All Right Now.” Before the band really knew what was happening, Moen crashed triumphantly into the end zone–and into trombonist Tyrell. The touchdown counted, and the Bears won the game 25-20. “The Play,” as it became known remains one of the most famous in college football history.

John Elway was a great college football player–he was the first-round pick in the next year’s NFL draft–and he went on to have an impressive professional career, but, thanks in part to the loss his team suffered at the hands of its marching band, he never did play in a college bowl game. “Each year it gets a little funnier,” he told a reporter recently, but “it sure wasn’t a lot of fun at the time. We just wish we had the band come out for some tackling practice.”

ALSO ON THIS DAY

American vessel sunk by sperm whale

The American whaler Essex, which hailed from Nantucket, Massachusetts, is attacked by an 80-ton sperm whale 2,000 miles from the western coast of South America.The 238-ton Essex was in pursuit of sperm whales, specifically the precious oil and bone that could be derived from ...read more

Nuremberg trials begin

Twenty-four high-ranking Nazis go on trial in Nuremberg, Germany, for atrocities committed during World War II.The Nuremberg Trials were conducted by an international tribunal made up of representatives from the United States, the Soviet Union, France, and Great Britain. It was ...read more

Nuremberg war-crimes trials begin

On this day in 1945, a series of trials of accused Nazi war criminals, conducted by a U.S., French, and Soviet military tribunal based in Nuremberg, Germany, begins. Twenty-four former Nazi officials were tried, and when it was all over, one year later, half would be sentenced to ...read more

Henry James’ first novel is published

On this day in 1875, American writer Henry James publishes his first novel, Roderick Hudson. Earlier in the year, he had published Transatlantic Sketches, a book of travel essays, and a short-story collection titled A Passionate Pilgrim.James, born in New York in 1843, was the ...read more

Explosions rock West Virginia coal mine

Methane gas explosions in a West Virginia coal mine kill 78 men on this day in 1968. The damage to the mine was so extensive that it had to be sealed with the bodies of the men still inside.The Consol No. 9 mine was located about 10 miles from the town of Monongah, between ...read more

Trials open at Nuremberg

The International Military Tribunal for the Prosecution of Major War Criminals of the European Axis begins trying German war criminals at Nuremberg, Germany, on this day in 1945. Following Germany’s defeat in World War II, Winston Churchill planned to shoot top German and Nazi ...read more

Sherman on the move

On this day in 1864, nearly a week into the famous March to the Sea, the army of Union General William T. Sherman moves toward central Georgia, destroying property and routing small militia units it its path. Advanced units of the army skirmished with scattered Rebel forces at ...read more