Most Famous Plays in College Football History: Over 40 Years Later, “The Play” Remains Iconic

    Some plays in college football history will be remembered forever, and some are so famous they're simply referred to as "The Play."

    Some plays in college football history will be remembered forever. Some plays in college football history will be immortalized in folklore, talked about in bars and stadiums, and everywhere else sports fans unite to discuss or argue a particular moment’s correct amongst the annals of the great game. However, other plays demand something much more.

    Most Famous Plays in College Football History: Over 40 Years Later, “The Play” Remains Iconic

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    There are so many things that go into making a single moment memorable. Players making incredible plays. Coaches making the bravest of decisions. The time. The place. The event. So many factors can influence how one game or one play is forever enshrined in folklore, immortalized, and passed down among generations. The 1982 Big Game had it all, and then some.

    The time? November 20, the traditional rivalry week in college football. The place? California Memorial Stadium, home to a Cal Golden Bears team who were struggling to attract an invite to bowl season. The event? The Big Game, the annual rivalry between Stanford and Cal, where the two teams played for the Stanford Axe and much more besides the usual spoils of rivalry.

    The two teams traded punches, with Cal taking an early 10-0 lead, before Stanford recovered to hit the Bears with 14 answered points and a lead of their own. Joe Kapp’s Cal team rallied and put up the next nine points, crucially missing a two-point attempt that what have given them a clear touchdown lead.

    That decision appeared to be critical when two Stanford field goals — including one deep into the fourth quarter — gave the Cardinal a 20-19 lead with just eight seconds on the clock. Even the usually buoyant home radio announcer had given up hope. Everyone thought the game was over, giving Stanford a pivotal win in their bid for bowl eligibility. Everyone.

    “All right, here we go with the kickoff,” Cal announcer Joe Starkey strikes up what would become one of the most famous radio calls in all of college football.

    “Harmon will 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 got into the end zone!”

    The band is on the field. Words that send shivers down the spine of college football fans of all generations. The scene as Kevin Moen — who was the first man to make contact with the ball in “The Play” before receiving it back several seconds and touches later — barrelled through the Stanford Band and several other people on his way to the end zone will never be seen again.

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    Extraordinary. Unique. Bizarre.

    There are plenty of other adjectives to describe a moment that would, ironically, leave you speechless. Controversy is another, with Stanford maintaining to this day that Dwight Garner was down and that Mariet Ford’s lateral to Moen was an illegal forward pass. “The Play” truly had it all, a perfect example of why college football is just the best.

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