Of all the plays in all the football games ever contested, why is this one known simply as The Play? First, it happened in a major rivalry game, California vs. Stanford. And second, it came after future hall of fame quarterback John Elway had led Stanford to a field goal with four seconds left that everyone thought ended the game.
Stanford squib-kicked the ball down the field, and Cal’s only choice was for a player about to be tackled to lateral the ball to a teammate, keeping the play alive. They did that; in fact, they lateraled the ball five times.
Meanwhile the Stanford band, all 144 members, thought the game was over, and started onto the field. The last lateral was completed in the midst of the band, obscuring the view of the officials. And then, in one of the most memorable moments in football history, Cal’s Kevin Moen scored the game-winning touchdown by knocking over a trombone player.
A couple of interesting notes. It was John Elways’ last regular-season game for Stanford. Cal only had ten players on the field. If Cal hadn’t scored, Stanford would have been penalized for the band coming onto the field. And as exciting as the play is visually, it’s made even better by the radio call of Cal announcer Joe Starkey.
Well, you can talk about it all you want, but you’ve just got to see The Play to believe it. Here’s Starkey’s call of the last minute, “Only a miracle can save the Bears…”: