Memorable Football Games – IV
January 2, 1982: Orange Bowl, Miami: Kellen Gives His All

The San Diego Chargers and the Miami Dolphins produced the highest scoring playoff game in NFL history. Some call this AFC semifinal the greatest game ever played.

Sparked by Wes Chandler's 56-yard punt return and a 35-yard interception return by Glen Edwards that set up another TD, the Chargers jumped to a 24-0 lead in the first quarter. Dolphin coach Don Shula replaced QB David Woodley (from LSU) with Don Strock. He provided the spark needed to close to 24-17 at halftime. The final TD occurred on a sensational play with 0:06 left. From the SD 40, Strock threw to WR Duriel Harris at the 20. He lateraled to Tony Nathan who streaked untouched into the end zone.

Still hot after the break, Strock led a 74-yard drive culminating in a 15-yard pass to TE Joe Rose. The Chargers, dormant since the opening period, answered with a 60-yard drive, topped by Dan Fouts' 25-yard strike to TE Kellen Winslow.

Miami stormed back. Strock fired six straight completions, the last a 50-yard TD to TE Bruce Hardy. Lyle Blackwood intercepted a Fouts pass to set up Nathan's 12-yard scoring run on the first play of the fourth quarter to put Miami on top for the first time, 38-31.

The back-and-forth game settled down until S Pete Shaw recovered a Dolphin fumble with 4:39 left on the Charger 18 to prevent at least a FG. Fouts went to work, leading his troops to the enemy 9. With 0:58 left, Fouts, under a heavy rush, threw a blind pass to RB James Brooks to tie the game.

After Miami recovered an ill-advised squib kick on their 40, Strock put Uwe von Schamann in position for a 43-yard FG with four seconds left. The kick was deflected by none after than Winslow, who wasn't a regular on the FG-block unit. "It was the biggest thrill of my life. I felt like I scored three touchdowns."

The Chargers won the toss and marched inside the Dolphin 10. Rolf Benirschke had his turn to be the hero, but a bad snap and poor hold made him hook the easy kick. Given a reprieve, Miami drove right back to set up a 34-yard FG attempt by Von Schamann. Curses, blocked again – this time by Leroy Jones.

Starting from their 16, San Diego drove 74 yards to Miami's 10 again. This time Benirschke didn't miss to give the Chargers a 41-38 win after 13:52 of OT and four hours and three minutes from the opening kickoff. Players were too exhausted to celebrate with the usual enthusiasm.

Watch highlights of the game

Charger coach Don Coryell: "I have coached for 31 or 32 years and this is tremendous ... There has never been a game like this. It was probably the most exciting game in pro football history." Shula agreed: "A great game ... Maybe the greatest ever."

The 79 points broke the playoff record for combined points set by the Bears in their 73-0 rout of the Redskins in 1940. Fouts completed 33 of 53 for 433, a playoff record. The 1,030 combined yards (Miami 466, SD 564) replaced another mark, as did the 836 passing yards. Altogether the teams set 11 records. Winslow made his own mark with 13 receptions for 166 yards despite leaving the game at various times for a pinched shoulder nerve, dehydration, severe cramps, and a lip gash requiring three stitches.

The following week, the Chargers played in weather as diametrically opposed to Miami as you can get: -9° with -59° wind chill. The Bengals won 27-7 in what is known as the Freezer Bowl.

December 12, 1982: Schaefer Stadium, Foxboro MAThe Dolphins Wuz Robbed

As the strike-shortened 1982 NFL season neared its end, games counted even more than usual. The 2-3 New England Patriots of Coach Ron Meyer needed a victory over 4-1 AFC East rival Miami Dolphins of Don Shula. The teams' first scheduled meeting in Miami had been cancelled by the strike. The Dolphins, stuck in a division to this day with three northeastern teams (Bills, Patriots, Jets), have often been challenged to win in un-Florida-like conditions in December. In this case, snow started falling in the morning and continued all day. As a result, the key figure in the game proved to be a member of the grounds crew.

24-year-old Mark Henderson was on work release with the Patriots maintenance crew after serving 18 months in prison for burglary. They were put to work before the game cleaning off the stands. Henderson recalls: "They invited fans to come help. They could get $10 and a free ticket. About 400 or 500 people came." By the 3 pm kickoff, the crew was soaking wet. Henderson: "No one seemed to want to run the tractor to sweep the sidelines, so I did."

During a game filled with dropped passes, missed FGs, and inept play, Henderson made repeated runs on a John Deere tractor with a sweeper attached (not a snowplow although the game is remembered as the "Snowplow Game") up and down the sidelines and along the 10-yard line markers on the artificial turf field.

As the scoreless game dragged into the fourth period, the Patriots mounted a drive that took them to fourth down on the Miami 16 with 4:45 left. Meyer called timeout and sent on the field goal team. As holder Matt Cavanaugh and kicker John Smith, a former English soccer player, tried to clear a spot for the hold and chisel through the thin layer of ice, Meyer ran down the sidelines to Henderson and told him to "Do something."

Henderson drove along the 20 yard line then swerved and followed Cavanaugh's lead to sweep where the ball would be placed down. The Dolphin defenders shouted and cursed, to no avail. When play resumed, Smith kicked a line drive that cleared the crossbar.

Watch a video of the kick.

Instead of showing the kick, Henderson and his "snowplow" were shown on the Diamondvision screen. The crowd started chanting his name. The Patriots squelched Miami's comeback effort to escape with a 3-0 victory.

Shula was livid: "That was completely illegal." Henderson had a great retort: "What were they gonna do? Put me in jail?" The Patriots awarded him the game ball. As a member of the Competition Committee, Shula made sure the rules were changed for 1983 to prohibit officials from allowing the field to be cleared before a kick.

After the regular season, Miami defeated New England 28-13 in the first round of the playoffs in Miami on their way to a 27-17 Super Bowl loss to the Redskins in balmy Pasadena.

Fast forward to 2001 when New England played their last regular season game in Foxboro Stadium (as Schaefer Stadium came to be known). As luck would have it, the Dolphins were the opponent. The team wanted to bring back Patriot stars from the past but didn't try to contact Henderson because he had been reported dead. It turned out it was another Mark Henderson, who also had been incarcerated. When Snowplow Mark's friends convinced the Patriots he wasn't dead, he had to prove who he was when he arrived. An assistant equipment manager who'd worked with Henderson vouched for him. He reenacted his John Deere swerve on a snowless field and the crowd went wild.

January 2, 1984: 50th Orange Bowl, MiamiNo Tie for Tom

Many commentators called 12-0 Nebraska one of the greatest teams of all time as it prepared to meet 10-1 #5 Miami in the Orange Bowl. Howard Schnellenberger's Hurricanes had not lost since their opening game against Florida. Yet they were 11-point underdogs to the Cornhusker juggernaut, which was on a 22-game winning streak.

Before the evening kickoff, several upsets occurred in earlier bowls. Georgia upset #2 Texas in the Cotton Bowl, and UCLA downed #4 Illinois in the Rose. #3 Auburn played Michigan in the Sugar Bowl the same evening. (Auburn eked out a lackluster 9-3 victory.) These facts are significant in judging what happened at the end of the Orange Bowl.

Fired-up Miami scored 17 unanswered points in the first quarter. Bernie Kosar tossed two TD passes. Nebraska fought back to score on their patented "fumblerooskie" play. QB Turner Gill took the snap and put the ball on the ground. G Dean Steinkuhler picked it up and rumbled 19 yards for a TD. The Huskers won the second quarter 14-0 to trail by only 3 going into the Orange Bowl's interminable halftime.

Miami got back in the groove in the third quarter to extend the lead again to 31-17. The Huskers suffered further adversity when Heisman Trophy RB Mike Rozier injured an ankle. Nevertheless, Nebraska began to wear down the 'Canes in the fourth quarter. First they marched 76 yards to pull to 31-24.

After Miami missed a FG, Nebraska took over on its own 26 with 1:47 left. They roared into enemy territory before facing 4th and 8 on the 24. Eschewing the pass, Gill pitched to Jeff Smith who raced down the sideline for a TD with 0:48 left.

Then came one of the most controversial calls in football history. A tie would have secured the national title for Nebraska. However, Tom Osborne didn't hesitate to go for two, which the Miami D seemed to expect. Gill rolled right and threw a pass that was batted down at the goal line. Miami held on for a 31-30 win. Video of Huskers final TD and 2-point try

Miami leapfrogged to #1 in the final AP poll, with Nebraska #2 and Auburn #3.

Frank Reich, Buffalo Bills
Frank Reich
November 10, 1984: Orange Bowl, Miami FL – Greatest Comeback

After backing up Boomer Esiason at Maryland for three years, Frank Reich finally became the starting QB for his senior season.

  • However, he injured his shoulder in the fourth game and was replaced by Stan Gelbaugh.
  • Reich stayed on the bench until the ninth game at Miami.

The Hurricanes, led by QB Bernie Kosar, led 31-0 at halftime.

  • Reich took over for the second half and promptly directed the Terrapins to a touchdown.
  • The defense held the powerful 'Canes to only three points while Reich engineered three more TD drives to pull to 34-28.
  • In Q4, Reich hit Greg Hill with a 68y TD pass which bounced off the safety's hands to give Maryland a 35-34 lead.
  • They ended up winning 42-40.
  • Reich finished 12-of-16 for 260 yards and 3 TDs.

Maryland vs. Miami 1984
Frank Reich in action against Miami

This game ranked as the largest comeback in NCAA history until Michigan State overcame a 35-point deficit against Northwestern in 2006.

  • Later in the 1984 season, Miami was victimized by Doug Flutie's legendary Hail Mary pass.
  • And in the 1984 Sun Bowl, Reich rallied Maryland from a 21-0 deficit to a 28-27 win over Tennessee.
  • Incredibly, Reich later sparked the largest comeback in NFL history against the Houston Oilers in a January 3, 1993, playoff game in Buffalo. This time Reich, starting in place of injured Jim Kelly, led the Bills from a 35-3 hole to a 41-38 overtime victory on their way to Super Bowl XXVII.

Today Reich gives motivational speeches based on his two great comebacks.

October 19, 1985: Husky Stadium, Seattle WA – Let Sleeping Beavers Lie

After Appalachian State's victory at Michigan to start the 2007 season, researchers mentioned this Memorable Game as one of the sport's greatest upsets. It ranks as the greatest overcome point spread in college football history.

Oregon State entered the 1985 campaign with a new coach, Dave Kragthorpe. Dave's predecessor, Joe Avezzano, ended his six-year "reign" with a 6-47-2 record, never winning more than two games in any season. The Kragthorpe era (error?) began with victories over Idaho and California. However, OSU fell on hard times after that, losing to Fresno State 33-24, at Grambling 23-6, at USC 63-0, and at Washington State 34-0. No OSU team had ever allowed 97 points in back-to-back games. A major reason for the downturn was the loss of QB Erik Wilhelm for the season. Furthermore the Pac-10's leading receiver, Reggie Bynum, was also injured. So you couldn't blame the oddsmakers for making the Beavers 37-point underdogs against Washington.

Don James' Huskies were coming off an 11-1 season that culminated in a 28-17 victory over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. Their '85 season was the exact opposite of OSU's: losses to Oklahoma State and BYU followed by wins over Houston, UCLA, Oregon, and California. Their 3-0 conference record put them atop the Pac-10. The Seattle media had fun lampooning the visitors. "Oregon State plays football pretty much the way Barney Fife played a deputy sheriff on Mayberry." James said he expected to give his reserve QB, Don Chandler, some playing time.

A Washington FG started the scoring, but backup QB Rich Gonzales, who had taken only nine snaps previously, threw a 43-yard TD pass for a 7-3 Beaver lead (their first points in three games). However, the home team responded with an 80-yard drive to regain the advantage going into the second quarter.

A botched punt gave Washington the ball at the Beaver 38. However, the Huskies failed to take advantage of the break, throwing an interception in the end zone from the 8-yard line. The Beavers then drove 80 yards, with Gonzales scrambling the last 20, for a 14-10 halftime lead.

Washington regained the lead 17-14. Then with 1:32 left in the third quarter, WU had first and goal at the one. After two plunges gained nothing, OSU linebacker Osia Lewis blasted RB Vance Weathersby causing a fumble that ended the threat. The longer you let the underdog hang around ...

A Huskie FG with 7:59 left increased the lead to 20-14. The visitors drove 70 yards before turning the ball over on downs. However, the defense forced Washington to punt from their end zone with 1:29 left. DE Andrew Todd blocked the kick, which Lavance Northington recovered in the end zone. The PAT gave OSU a 21-20 victory.

The OSU players shouted, "You can blame this one on your media" as they jubilantly left the field. No hometown reporters showed up to ask questions of Kragthorpe. WU finished the Pac-10 schedule 5-3. UCLA, whom they had defeated, went to the Rose Bowl with a 6-2 record.

November 8 , 1997: Faurot Field, Columbia MO – Why It's Called "Foot"-ball

Tom Osborne's #1 8-0 Nebraska Cornhuskers visited Larry Smith's 6-3 Missouri Tigers. NU had won 18 straight against MU since the Tigers' 35-31 victory in 1978. The streak included some dreadful drubbings: 1987: 42-7; 1989: 50-7; 1990: 67-21; 1991: 63-6; 1993: 49-7; 1994: 42-7; 1995: 57-0; and 1996: 51-7. Since taking over at Mizzou in 1994, Smith had been outscored 150-14 by Osborne. No wonder mighty Nebraska was a 29-point favorite. Yet this game almost produced a monumental upset. Almost.

The crowd of 65,000 and a national TV audience saw a fired-up Tiger team lead most of the game behind three TD passes from QB Corby Jones, who finished with 12 of 20 completions for 233 yards and a pick. RB Brock Olivo scored on a 1-yard leap and a 34-yard catch.

Jones hit WR Eddie Brooks for a 15-yard TD to give the home team a 38-31 lead with 4:39 to play. This put the onus squarely on Nebraska QB Scott Frost. However, the Tiger D forced a three-and-out. Taking over at its own 22 with 3:31 left, the Mizzou O had a chance to ice the game by running out the clock or kicking a FG. The sprinkler system kicked on at the opposite end of the field for 30 seconds. Was this a harbinger of the strange events about to take place? At any rate, Mizzou made only one first down before punting.

So Nebraska started one of the most famous drives in school history on its own 33 with 1:02 left. A 27-yard completion to Kenny Cheatham to the MU 40 was followed by two incompletions. However, Frost hit Eric Warfield for a first down at the 27. Another sideline pass to Cheatham produced a first down at the 12. Two incompletions in the end zone brought the clock to 0:07. Then came one of the oddest plays in football history.

With the Mizzou fans poised to tear down the goal posts, Frost threw over the middle to WB Shevin Wiggins at the goal line, but the ball was tipped downward. Falling backwards, Wiggins kicked the ball over his head into the end zone where freshman WR Matt Davison made a diving catch just inches from the ground. After fans who had prematurely stormed the field were cleared, the PAT tied the game. Since overtime had been inaugurated the previous season, Osborne didn't have to decide whether to go for two as he did in the 1984 Orange Bowl.

The play is ranked #49 in ESPN's 100 Moments That Have Defined College Football. (You can watch a video of the play when you select that play from the list.) Though there was no replay review at the time, video does confirm that Davison did indeed catch the ball – for whatever consolation that is to Missouri fans.

NU took the ball first in OT and scored on Frost's 12-yard option run on the third play. Then the Black Shirt defense sacked Jones on fourth down on MU's possession to claim an improbable 45-38 victory.

Watch a video of game highlights. (The deflected TD is at 4:00.)

A disconsolate Smith said afterwards: "It's just one stinking play." Wiggins later claimed he kicked the ball intentionally to keep it alive, which calls for a 15-yard penalty and loss of down. Also Davidson made his miracle catch wearing a new pair of gloves specially ordered in anticipation of wet weather and hand delivered by a member of the Husker radio team.

Even ten years later, QB Jones is still reminded of that game. His opposite number, Frost, ended up playing six years at safety in the NFL.

The close call at Mizzou dropped NU to #3 in the polls as Michigan took the top spot. Nebraska completed its regular season 12-0 and ranked #2. Then, before the Orange Bowl, Osborne announced his retirement. NU clobbered Tennessee in Payton Manning's last game, 42-17. The coaches gave Osborne a farewell present of a #1 ranking in their poll while the AP kept undefeated Michigan, the Rose Bowl champion, in the top. The title was NU's third in four years. The BCS replaced the Bowl Alliance the very next year to avoid such a split championship.

November 20, 1993: South Bend IN – "Game of the Century" a Week Later

On November 13, 1993, Notre Dame upset #1 Florida State, 31-24, in still another "Game of the Century." The victory put the Irish at the top of the polls and in position for their second national title under Lou Holtz.

The next week, the other Catholic college playing Division IA football came to town – the Boston College Eagles bent on revenge for the 54-7 shellacking they had endured in South Bend the year before in a game memorable only because scenes for the movie Rudy were filmed at halftime. Among the indignities the #9 7-0-1 Eagles had suffered was ND faking a punt while leading 37-0. BC had been 7-0-1 and ranked #9. Now they were #16, having won seven in a row after opening losses to Miami (FL) and Northwestern. Despite Holtz's warnings that BC would be no pushover, the fans felt confident that ND would preserve its record of never losing to another Catholic school in 106 years of football. The main concern of the faithful was whether the bowl coalition might force a rematch with FSU in the Fiesta Bowl.

BC started strong on both sides of the ball. Coach Tom Coughlin's offense, averaging 42 a game, threw some new wrinkles at the Irish, running out of passing formations and vice-versa. The Eagles led 10-0 after Q1 and 24-14 at the half. Going into the fourth quarter, they were on top 31-17. Senior QB Glenn Foley built the lead to a whopping 38-17 when he hit TE Pete Mitchell with 11:13 for his fourth TD pass of the game. As the late afternoon temperature fell into the mid-30s, many in the crowd left.

Then came one of the most amazing turnarounds in football history. A minute after BC's score, ND RB Lee Becton ran 29 yards for a TD, then ran in the two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 38-25. Unfazed, Foley directed his O into Irish territory but fumbled the snap at the 31, where Jim Flanigan recovered for the home team. Six plays later, FB Ray Zellars scored from the 4 to bring ND to 38-32. Then Foley again fumbled the snap on a third-and-nine play. He recovered on his 30 but BC had to punt. Notre Dame had the ball on their 33 with 2:51 left.

QB Kevin McDougall, who started that season because freshmen Ron Powlus broke his collarbone, went to work, connecting with Derrick Mayes for 46 to the BC 21. Quickly (too quickly as it turned out) ND had fourth-and-Goal at the four. McDougal hit Lake Dawson in the back of the end zone to tie and Kevin Prendergast's PAT completed the improbable comeback, 39-38. "I've never seen a team rack up that many yards in seven minutes," Holtz said later.

But Foley had the confidence of his BC predecessor, Doug Flutie. With his pro background, Coughlin ended most practices with a two-minute drill. Still, ND had all the momentum, intensified when Anthony Comer muffed the kickoff at the 3 and was buried at the ten. But a personal foul penalty moved the ball to the 25 with 1:01. Coughlin figured the ball would have to reach the ND 25 to give his kicker a chance to win the game. After an incompletion, Foley threw over the middle straight to LB Pete Bercich. However, he dropped it. Foley then completed two short passes to the BC 43 with 0:27 remaining.

From the shotgun, Glenn stepped up in the pocket and, just before running, spotted Mitchell across the middle to the ND 33 with 0:18 left. It was Pete's 13th reception of the day for 132 yards. After throwing the ball away to avoid a blitz, Foley threw a middle screen to Ivan Boyd to the 24. Time out with 0:05 left.

Boston College-Notre Dame 1993
On came the Eagle kicker, senior walk-on David Gordon, a former soccer player who had never made a FG longer than 39 yards. Against Northwestern, his kick with 1:07 had sailed wide right, and BC lost 22-21. Earlier in this game, he missed a 40-yarder. Now he needed to hit from 41. Coughlin stopped Gordon as he took the field. "All I want you to do is make good contact with the ball and good things will happen. I know you can make it."

Catholic prayers rose from both sidelines as the teams lined up. Foley took the high snap and placed it. Gordon kicked a knuckleball that started right but, contrary to what you'd think for a left-footed kicker, hooked left through the uprights straight into the chest of "Touchdown Jesus." 41-39 BC.

Holtz after the game: "It would have been an unbelievable victory. To be down so far and to come back and have it within your grasp with a minute to go, it's heartbreaking. I don't know what else to say, except that we all hurt." Back in Boston, BC students crashed the gates of Alumni FIeld and took down their own goalposts.

In addition to #1's fall, West Virginia beat #3 Miami and Michigan downed #5 Ohio State. Notre Dame dropped to fifth in the bowl coalition poll behind Nebraska, Florida State, West Virginia, and Auburn. BC moved up to #11 but the next week fell victim to the same letdown that Notre Dame suffered, losing to West Virginia.




1982: Kellen Gives His All

1982: The Dolphins Wuz Robbed

1984: No Tie for Tom

1984: Greatest Comeback

1985: Let Sleeping Beavers Lie

1997: Why It's Called "Foot"-ball

1993: "Game of the Century" a Week Later


Memorable Games - V


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