THE SETTING: It is 15 years ago, in the late afternoon at Cal's Memorial Stadium.
The Big Game is coming down to its final moments, with Stanford trailing Cal 19-17. But Cardinal quarterback John Elway, in his typically dramatic fashion, has taken his team to the Bears' 18.
Earlier in the drive, he faced a do-or-die fourth-and-17 from deep in Stanford territory but got a first down.
At this point, we will let the participants take over. We'll let them describe what can easily be called the most outrageous finish to a college football game in the history of the sport.
Game referee CHARLES MOFFETT: "John Elway has become famous for that drive. Well, anyway, after that last play, he looked at me and said, "I'm going to call a timeout.' I said, "Let me know,' and he called it with eight seconds left as he was looking toward the bench. If he had waited to call the timeout . . ."
Stanford kicker MARK HARMON: "When the timeout was called with eight seconds left, I was real curious why not one second, why not three? But eight, why? It was just a passing thought."
RACZYNSKI: "You could see on the film, John immediately called time out. Then he looked at the clock and saw eight seconds, then with both hands he smacked himself pretty hard in the helmet, right where the forehead would be. Obviously, it was like, "Oh my god, why did I do that?' I know John has never allowed that to happen again. RODGERS: "I was screaming for him to pitch the ball to me, and he did. Then I saw the Stanford band, and players running on and off the field, and I also saw Moen and (Mariet) Ford running beside me."
HARMON: "When we had him, it seemed like an eternity. I was jumping up and running to our sidelines. When they kept running, my first thought is, "This is ridiculous. The game is over; what are these guys doing?"
DAVE MAGGARD, then Cal's 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."
Cal radio announcer JOE STARKEY: "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."
FORD: "It really didn't hit me what we were doing until Dwight got it to Richard."
RODGERS: "I had a good feeling then, because all their players were on the other side of the field. Then, I kind of option quarterbacked it to Ford."
FORD: "Richard was definitely setting up the guy in front of him, but when I got it, I see the band and I'm confused. Really, I'm just thinking about not getting put down by the band members."
RODGERS: "I see Mariet, who's maybe 5-5, and it seems like he's running five yards a stride."
PETE LIEBENGOOD, then Stanford's TV broadcaster: "Even by the time Rodgers gets it to Ford, it's already a hell of a play."
FORD: "I knew I wasn't going to make it. I knew I was in front of Kevin (Moen), but I never saw him."
RODGERS: "Then he just threw it over his head."
FORD: "I just figured Kevin was there and threw a blind pass. Once it left my hand I was smashed by three guys, and that's the last I saw of the ball."
MOEN: "I remember it floating in air and coming right to me. I saw the band but I couldn't really see the end-zone line."
MOFFETT: "The last guy disappears into the Stanford band and I have no idea what happened."
MOEN: "I remember seeing the band there and there wasn't really a lane to go through. As far as I was concerned, they were all Stanford players and I just busted through. I got to the end zone and spiked the ball. The trombone player was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."
TYRRELL: "I had turned around to look at our drum major, and I turned around again to see this guy. Time sort of stretched right there. I had this guy coming at me, and I thought he just wanted to get off the field to avoid the mayhem. And then I said, "Oh, he has the ball,' and boom! It was a sobering experience, literally. You could say I was more alert than before it happened."
RODGERS: "I thought he killed him."
MOEN: "I knew we had gotten into the end zone, whether it would count or not I didn't know. I had sort of lost consciousness, I got mobbed, and what was on my mind was to breathe, not whether we had scored."
MOFFETT: "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.
"The (other officials) were shook. So I say, "I can't believe it happened, but we got to make a decision here. We got a touchdown. Anybody disagree with a touchdown?' No one did.
"So I say, "Here we go.' 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."
HARMON: "When they said touchdown, I figured, "Something's wrong. These guys are making a mistake and I'm sure they'll correct it."
TOLLIVER: "Joe Kapp, in my mind, had some kind of influence. Not directly, but if had been another coach in another year, a penalty flag would have been dropped on Cal."
MOEN: "I had to go the length of the field through 50,000 people, and none of them knew I had scored. Later, in the locker room, I remember 100 reporters standing in front of me asking what happened, and I said, "Well, I don't know. I'll have to look at a replay. I know there were a lot of laterals."
McCASEY: "As the host SID, I had to serve as the pool reporter to the officials, and I go in to their dressing room, and Charlie (Moffett) says, "Hi, John, how's your little baby doing?' I said, "Charlie, all hell's breaking loose out there.' So I asked my questions I'd been given and went back out to the (Cal) media room, and protocol is gone. There's mothers and girlfriends and everything in there. It's crazy.
"Then suddenly there's this parting of the seas with (Stanford athletic director Andy) Geiger and (Stanford coach Paul) Wiggin coming through in red. And they are p-- . The writers are getting ready for a confrontation, and Geiger says, "Where's the officials' locker room?' I led them in, which is probably not permissible, but they went in. I think (assistant Jim) Fassel and some other assistant was with them.
"Geiger is yelling at the officials, and saying he's seen the tape, he's yelling and pounding, saying, "This going to cost people their livelihoods."
MAGGARD: "I started to walk in and then said, "Maybe this is not a place I should be right now."
MOFFETT: "They were pretty excited. They wanted to replay the thing."
McCASEY: "Finally, I think it was Fassel who says, "Let's go' and they march out the back door, but that leads to a balcony and the four guys bumped into each other as they turn around."
McCASEY: "I remember just before Joe (Kapp) was going to speak to the media, (assistant coach) Bill Cooper comes up to Joe and whispers, "Joe, the Bear will not quit; the Bear will not die.' And Joe uses it, but it was Cooper who said it first."
BARR: "I remember in the Stanford locker room, the media asking Paul rapid-fire questions and him showing his class."
GILMETE: "In the locker room they told us not to take our pads off, that we might have to go back out again."
WYMAN: "My brother (Mike) tore a door off its hinges. Then (Stanford) president Kennedy came in, and I was a freshman and didn't know who he was. He was saying how they can't do this to us, and I was thinking, "Who is this guy babbling? Get him out of here."
WIGGIN: "I've been over the play 100 times, I don't need to go over it again. But it indicated the end of the line for me at Stanford. The year after was a hypocritical year for me. The A.D. wasn't in total support.
"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 kind of laugh about it; the pain was really immediate. I remember, right after that game, my whole family had planned to go to Williamsburg, Va., 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."
STARKEY: "Three or four years ago I checked into a Tucson hotel, and the guy said, "Are you the one who made all that noise during the play.' He said he always felt sorry for that coach, and I turned around, and there was Paul, with a look of "God, will it ever go away?'
MOFFETT: "I looked at the play two days later with the (Pac-10) supervisor of officials and we agreed it was arguable, but a lot of plays are. Three rule changes resulted from that play, including one that does not allow a band onto the field until the game is over."
RODGERS: "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."
TOLLIVER: "The game was replayed this year on TV. I got a kick out of watching the first three quarters, but I couldn't watch the fourth quarter. I guess that showed that I wasn't over it."
FORD: "Once your football career is over, it's over... but not for me."
This story originally appeared in November 1992.
THE PLAY: STEP BY STEP
Four seconds left on clock... Harmon kicks off 1... Moen fields ball 2, runs to Cal 48 3... Moen laterals to Rodgers 4, who gains little 5... Rodgers pitches the ball to Garner 6, who moves to the Cal 49 7... Garner laterals to Rodgers 8, who runs to the Stanford 45 9... Rodgers laterals to Ford 0, who breaks free to the 25 !... Ford flips ball over shoulder, which is caught by Moen... Moen runs through Stanford band into end zone.
©1997 San Francisco Chronicle