Doc Five: Best College Football Buzzer Beaters – No. 1, The Play

This offseason we will count down various topics from Monday through Friday, bringing you the top five of the important and definitely some not so important issues in college football. It's the Doc Five, every week until we will thankfully have actual games to discuss.



“Oh, the band is out on the field!”

That phrase might be the greatest college football exclamation ever and unmistakably describes what we think is the greatest buzzer beater in college football history.

On Nov. 20, 1982, Stanford and Cal met in their annual rivalry, but this game would come to be the most memorable of any game in the series until then and since.

Stanford, led by quarterback John Elway, held a 20-19 after a field goal with 4 seconds remaining. Stanford, believing they had all but won the game, elected to squib the ensuing kickoff and that’s when the magic for Cal began.

Cal defensive back Kevin Moen fielded the squib kick in the Cal 45-yard line near the left hash mark. He lateraled the ball to Richard Rodgers, who gained a yard before pitching to Dwight Garner. Garner ran for five yards and, while being tackled, managed to pitch the ball back to Rodgers. When Garner was tackled, most of the Stanford faithful thought the game was over. Even the band came onto the field to begin its triumphant serenade.

But it wasn’t over and Rodgers got the ball to Mariet Ford, who threw a blind lateral over his right shoulder to Moen, who caught the ball at the 25-yard line and raced into the end zone – dodging and eventually knocking over band members – on his way to college football immortality.

Here’s the infamous call from Joe Starkey:

"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’s gone into the end zone!! ... 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!"

Of course, the game was not without controversy. Stanford coaches and players argued Garner’s knee was down and the game was over. Officials huddled and determined the play was good.

“I wasn't nervous at all when I stepped out to make the call; maybe I was too dumb,” Referee Charles Moffett said of making the official touchdown call. “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.”

For years, this play has been a big source of controversy between these two teams and college football enthusiasts. Not only were Stanford players and coaches questioning Garner’s knee, they also questioned whether the fifth lateral to Moen was actually an illegal forward pass. The replays were inconclusive.

On the other side, Cal folks contend that Stanford should have been assessed an illegal participation penalty because of the band on the field, which would have given Cal one last play anyway.

In the end, more than 30 years of review have not been able to dispute what has simply become known as “The Play.”. There was no instant replay and there was only camera angle. So while controversial, it’s still one of the greatest moments in college football history.

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Previous Doc Five Buzzers beaters: No. 2, Hail Flutie, No. 3 Bluegrass Miracle, No. 4, Miracle at Michigan, No. 5, Trinity University and 15 laterals

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