The Play

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The Play is one of the most famous and highly discussed plays in the history of American college football, in which California used five laterals on the last play to beat Stanford 25-20 in the 1982 Big Game. The following are useful and/or memorable quotes from people who were involved with The Play.



Joe Starkey, Cal radio announcer

  • [Live call of The Play] All right here we go with the kickoff. Harmon'll probably try to squib it and he does. Ball comes loose and the Bears have to get out of bounds. Rodgers along the sideline, another one...they're still in deep trouble at midfield, they tried to do a couple of...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!! Will it count? The Bears have scored but the bands are out on the field. There were flags all over the place. Wait and see what happens; we don't know who won the game. There are flags on the field. We have to see whether or not the flags are against Stanford or Cal. The Bears may have made some illegal laterals. It could be that it won't count. The Bears, believe it or not, took it all the way into the end zone. If the penalty is against Stanford, California would win the game. If it is not, the game is over and Stanford has won. We've heard no decision yet. Everybody is milling around on the FIELD!!! 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 over Stanford!
  • You don't figure to get the long runback. But on the sideline Richard Rodgers, without a doubt the real team leader on defense for the Golden Bears team last year as well as this year, had told his teammates 'The ball will not fall.' Those were his exact words in that situation. If it looks like you're going to be tackled, do something with it, throw it up for grabs, lateral it, do anything.
  • There were so many things to see, you almost didn't know what to look at. I don't think I've ever had more stimuli coming at me.
  • I just lost it. I lost it like I've never lost it in any sporting event I've ever covered. Because to me it was just the zaniest, most bizarre, and unheard of play that I'd ever seen at any level of sports.

Dave Maggard, Cal athletic director

  • I was standing there with Stanford president Donald Kennedy, and he's being a gracious winner. And as the play develops, his face turns ashen.

Joe Kapp, Cal head coach

  • We learned to play a game called grabass. ... It's really a free-spirited game with not many rules, in fact no rules. We learned to play that game in practice, on Sundays, where everybody could get a sweat, run as much as you wanna run. It's a keep away type game. We only had 10 players on the field, and, as it worked out, successfully.

Dwight Garner, Cal player

  • And I guess if I had to think about it, if I look at the film, and thought about it again... nah, wasn't down. We won. We won.
  • You look back and you go, 'Wow, you never know what life holds for you.' The subconscious is an incredible tool that we as humans have. We get fed subliminal messages all the time, through music and advertising. Subconsciously, you think back and you begin to say, 'As long as you have a breath, there's always hope and opportunity.' I think it really helps you be an optimist. You think there's still four seconds on the clock in everything you do.

Kevin Moen, Cal player

  • At that point I start to notice the Stanford Band on the field, and my first thought was, hey, put your head down and go.
  • I was kind of floating on air at that point. I realized I had gotten in the end zone, jumped up, [Stanford trombonist Gary Tyrrell] happened to kind of stroll in front of me, hit him, and then I just kept goin' on my celebration and I was like suck my dick trombone dude.

Mariet Ford, Cal player

  • It really didn't hit me what we were doing until Dwight got it to Richard.

Richard Rodgers, Cal player

  • In the huddle I said, 'Listen, if you guys get in trouble pitch the ball back if you're gonna get tackled.' Everything went as planned I guess.
  • I see Mariet, who's maybe 5'5, and it seems like he's running five yards a stride.
  • Looking back on it, what's amazing is that the ball didn't touch the ground, because at that time, the play would have been dead.
  • I had the best seat in the house. I'm the person [Garner] pitched the ball to. He was not down.

Ron Rivera, Cal player

  • [Regarding the hoax newspaper distributed by Stanford] I can remember going on campus at 8 o'clock class and walking at about 7:45 and picking up one of the Daily Californians and looking at one of the headlines and being stunned to the point where I ran to the athletic department to find out what was going on. And everybody said, 'No it's a hoax, it's a hoax,' and it was pretty good. And for a brief moment I thought that they had overturned it. I was scared to death.


Donald Kennedy, Stanford president

  • In retrospect, I realize this was one of the great things that occasionally happen in college sports. That is, every once in a while something happens that reminds you that this isn’t the National Football League. Instead, this is a game conducted largely by 19- and 20-year-olds, and every once in a while something marvelously unexpected happens.

Andy Geiger, Stanford athletic director

  • I don’t want to take anything away from the Cal people, in that they were very creative, with a very clever execution of the concept. I always will admire them for that. But what disturbs me is that it was an unjust outcome. It devastated our program.

Paul Wiggin, Stanford head coach

  • I remember telling my wife in the car afterward: 'What you saw had a major, major effect on our lives. I don't know what it will be, but our lives won't be the same as they were two hours ago.'
  • I remember, right after that game, my whole family had planned to go to Williamsburg, Virginia. And the one thing about Williamsburg is that no one there would care a thing about that game. So we got there and went to the Visitors Center and we were waiting in line, and a little bearded guy came up to me and said, 'You know, Coach, tell me what happened in that play.'
  • It changed some things in my life, too, but I didn’t jump in some black hole. I can't say my life has fallen apart. I would say, probably, my life's better. That's just the way I believe, the way I think. I damn well got over it.

John Elway, Stanford player

  • I don't think that a touchdown can be scored when you've got a whole band on the field. Now if he runs through three trombone guys, a tuba player, and two drum players, and dodges... and then runs right over a trombone player at the goal line and they call it a touchdown then, yeah, I think that that probably shouldn't have been called."
  • "This was an insult to college football... it was just a farce. They [the officials] didn't have control of the whole game. They ruined my last game as a college football player. I don't believe they can take something away like that. I don't believe they can take something like that away from this program. Something has to be done about the referees.. There's no doubt in my mind. It's all right to make a mistake, but somebody should be man enough to stand up and admit it. It was a very bittersweet ending. I did not want it to end this way. It's something I'll have to live with the rest of my life.
  • Each year it gets a little funnier. We just wish we had the Band come out for some tackling practice. [20 years on.]

Rod Gilmore, Stanford player

  • To this day, I won't tell that we've lost that game. I mean, as far as I'm concerned we won that game 20-19. ... Dwight Garner was down. There's no question in my mind 20 years later, as it was two seconds after he went down. He was down on that play. ... He knows the truth. The truth is out there. And Dwight knows he was down. And it's time for Dwight to admit that. ... The second thing that was wrong on that play was that Mariet Ford's lateral was not a lateral. I think it was a forward lateral. I think he tossed it at the 25 and it was caught at the 26 by Kevin Moen, or something like that.

Charles Moffett, game referee

  • I called all the officials together and there were some pale faces. The penalty flags were against Stanford for coming onto the field. I say, did anybody blow a whistle? They say no. I say, were all the laterals legal. Yes. Then the line judge, Gordon Riese, says to me, 'Charlie, the guy scored on that.' And I said, 'What?' I had no idea the guy had scored. Actually when I heard that I was kind of relieved. I thought we really would have had a problem if they hadn't scored, because, by the rules, we could have awarded a touchdown [to Cal] for [Stanford] players coming onto the field. I didn't want to have to make that call.
  • I wasn't nervous at all when I stepped out to make the call; maybe I was too dumb. 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.

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