"The Play" Embodies Big Game

Stanford has dominated the Big Game the last 25 years in terms of wins and losses. If not for Cal winning 5 of the last 6 under Coach Jeff Tedford, it would not be much of contested matchup. After the "The Play", Cal won only 4 of 19 Big Games. This year the rivalry is taking another step as Bears and Cardinal are fighting for a bowl game, but nothing could ever match "The Play".

John Elway and the Stanford Cardinal were a lock for the Hall of Fame Bowl in Tampa, Florida. The 1982 Heisman Trophy runner-up engineered a classic last-minute drive setting up Stanford for what looked like a game winning field goal.

With Cal leading 19-17, Elway overcame a 4th-and-17 on the Cardinal 13 with a 29-yard completion. He then led Stanford down to field goal range for Mark Harmon's 35-yard attempt. Elway called timeout with 8 seconds left on the clock not realizing there was more time to run down. Harmon's 35-yard field goal gave Stanford an apparent 20-19 victory. However, a 15-yard excessive celebration penalty on the Cardinal – enforced on the ensuing kickoff – gave the Bears a glimmer of hope with Stanford kicking from their 25. Nonetheless, Cal play-by-play announcer Joe Starkey praised Elway and the Cardinal for their performance and efforts, and remarked, "Only a miracle can save the Bears now!"

The final scoring drive was a just a precursor of what fans would see from Elway in his great Hall of Fame career in the NFL. However, Elway could not envision anything like "The Play" nor would he ever see anything like it in his in his many years as a pro.

After all four game seconds and five laterals later…

"The most amazing, sensational, traumatic, heart rending, exciting thrilling finish in the history of college! California has won the Big Game over Stanford. Oh, excuse me for my voice, but I have never seen anything like it in the history of I have never seen any game in my life!" described Starkey on that November afternoon.

What made it more amazing was the fact the Bears lined up with just 10 men on the field in the midst of the chaos.

No rivalry has anything like it nor will any play in college football history compare. "The Play" is still contested to this day. Stanford players and coaches still swear Dwight Garner's knee was down on the third lateral. But imagine if Garner was ruled down and the refs blew the whistle. "The Play" would have been just another attempt at a multiple lateral comeback lost in the annuals. There are other great last second comeback wins, but few if any have occurred in a historic rivalry game. It is still the greatest play in sports history.

When Cal and Stanford line up, everything is pushed aside. Records are thrown out the window. The loathing between the rivals is at its highest come November when they meet on the gridiron. But no matter what the outcome transpires this Saturday, "The Play" will always be the significant moment in one of college football's greatest rivalries.


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