Alamo Bowl Finish Recalls ’82 Cal-Stanford Game

John Elway’s last college football game, the one with the Cal band, is an immortal of the game. An also-ran bowl game from last night is drawing comparisons.

Alamo Bowl finish recalls wacky ’82 Cal-Stanford game

Photo: Nebraska's Terrence Nunn (83) runs upfield for a touchdown as Michigan defenders Shawn Crable (2) and Prescott Burgess (6) pursue during the first quarter of the Alamo Bowl college football game in San Antonio, Wednesday. (AP Photo) All that was missing was a band on the field – and a touchdown.

Michigan was 13 yards from pulling off an astonishing finish at Wednesday’s Alamo Bowl, one that would have ranked in college football with the 1982 California-Stanford game. The Wolverines trailed Nebraska 32-28 and were at their own 36-yard line when Chad Henne took the game’s last snap. Henne passed to Jason Avant to start a zigzagging, back-and-forth, seven-lateral journey down the field that didn’t end until Titus Brothers knocked Tyler Ecker out of bounds at the Cornhuskers’ 13.

As the play unfolded Nebraska coaches and players rushed the field, apparently thinking it was over after Avant fumbled at the Michigan 20. But, no, Mike Hart picked up the ball and pitched back to Ecker, who ran the last leg of the bizarre relay. Nebraska coach Bill Callahan, who was having Gatorade dumped on him as Ecker ran past, said it was good thing no flag was thrown for too many men on the field. “I thought the game was over,” Callahan said. “But evidently it wasn’t.”

For Michigan, it was another bad break in a season full of bad breaks. “I don’t know how that many people could end up on the field,” Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr said. “I just don’t know how that happened.”

Immediate comparisons were drawn to that November day in 1982 when Cal’s Kevin Moen started a lateral-filled kickoff return he finished by running through Stanford band members – who thought the game was over – and into a trombone player in the end zone to cap an outlandish 25-20 Cal victory.

I haven’t seen the replay but it’s not clear from the wire story why a flag wasn’t thrown.

ESPN runs a different AP story focusing on the football angle:

If Nebraska returns to national prominence next season, the Cornhuskers will remember the MasterCard Alamo Bowl — especially the frantic final play. Zac Taylor threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Terrence Nunn with 4:29 left, and Nebraska survived Michigan’s lateral-filled, game-ending play to beat the No. 20 Wolverines 32-28 on Wednesday night. “This puts us back on the map,” said Cory Ross, who ran for 161 yards.

The game ended on a bizarre play, with Michigan’s Chad Henne throwing a short pass and his teammates lateraling eight times up and down the field before the play fizzled out with Titus Brothers shoving Tyler Ecker out of bounds at the Nebraska 13. Extra players and some coaches from both teams were on the field as the play finished.

They also have a video clip of the play which I can’t get to run or directly link.

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James Joyner
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James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Having watched the game, I’ll tell you why a flag wasn’t thrown: the game was being officiated by the most incomptent ref crew I’ve ever seen in a college game.

    The failure to throw the flag on that last play was just the exclamation point at the end of a long night of blown calls and failure to follow procedure.