Big Plays By The Bay No. 1: CAL CREATES COLLEGE FOOTBALL’S SIGNATURE MOMENT
College football has been played in the Bay Area for 133 years with numerous great players and games – plus some remarkable stories that have been forgotten. Bay Area Blitz contributor Mark Purdy has picked the 10 best stories. He will count them down in the monthly newsletter leading up to January’s College Football Playoff National Championship at Levi’s Stadium.
[RELATED: Big Plays By The Bay:2 | Big Plays By The Bay:3 |Big Plays By The Bay: No. 4 | Big Plays By The Bay: No. 5 | Big Plays By The Bay: No. 6 | Big Plays By The Bay: No. 7 | Big Plays By The Bay: No. 8 | Big Plays By The Bay: No. 9 | Big Plays By The Bay: No. 10]
The utterance was spontaneous and organic. Joe Starkey, the California Golden Bears radio play-by-play man, saw the chaos below him on the field. Then the chaos became even more chaos.
Starkey screamed, “AND THE BAND IS OUT ON THE FIELD!”
Thus did Starkey immortalize the Bay Area’s biggest big play in history and a snapshot that, in one online survey, was named college football’s most memorable moment of all time. Cal’s improvised five-lateral kickoff return for the winning touchdown in the 1982 Big Game rivalry between the Bears and Stanford is still amazing to watch many years later.
Even before the crazy finish at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, the game had been thrilling and taut. Cal led 19-17 late in the fourth quarter. But on a last-minute desperation drive by Stanford, quarterback John Elway converted a 4th-and-17 situation for a first down and set up a 35-yard field goal by Mark Harmon that gave the Cardinal a 20-19 lead with four seconds remaining. Stanford’s raucous celebration drew an unsportsmanlike conduct flag from the officials. This meant that Stanford had to kick off from its own 25-yard line. So what? The Cardinal merely needed to tackle the Cal player who received the ball.
The task wasn’t that simple. Stanford’s squib kick was fielded by the Bears’ Kevin Moen, who scrambled a bit and then lateraled the ball to Richard Rodgers . . . who quickly pitched it backward to Dwight Garner . . . who was nearly tackled at the 50-yard-line, but just before his knee hit the ground, flipped the ball back to Rodgers . . . who eluded one Stanford player before pitching the ball to Mariet Ford . . . who at the 27-yard line was confronted by the Stanford band, which had taken the field when the drum major assumed that Garner had been downed back at the 50. Ford sidestepped one Stanford band member and then blindly lateraled the ball to a trailing Moen, who crossed the goal line and bulldozed over a Stanford trombone player.
Pandemonium reigned. There was no officials’ signal. Referee Charles Moffett convened his crew. There was no video replay review in that era. After a short conference, Moffett raised his hands for a touchdown.
Starkey screamed again, “THE BEARS HAVE WON THE GAME! OH, MY GOD!”
Final score: Cal 25, Stanford 20. The story and highlights went national instantly. And years later, Stanford and Cal fans still argue about whether Garner was tackled.