From the Right



When Four Seconds Mattered

Terence P. Jeffrey on

Then Stanford -- still with one timeout left -- did something shocking: It ran the ball, and running back Mike Dotterer took it all the way to the 18-yard line.

Then Stanford ran Dotterer again, who was tackled immediately.

That is when Stanford made the opposite mistake Cal had made: It did not worry enough about the clock.

An article published in 2002 in Stanford Magazine described it this way: "But with the clock winding down, Elway made what at the time seemed an insignificant mental error: he called timeout with 8 seconds remaining. This guaranteed that the game would not end with Stanford's ensuing field-goal attempt. Yet when kicker Mark Harmon drilled a 35-yard field goal a moment later to put Stanford ahead, 20-19, he recalls thinking, 'I just won the Big Game!'"

"But the game clock had four seconds remaining," Stanford Magazine explained.

What happened in those four seconds?

Stanford sent a squib kick down field. The Cal return team lateraled the ball five times -- with the third lateral being made by a player who arguably was already down.


With the Stanford student band running through the south end zone onto the field in an ill-timed celebration, Cal's Kevin Moen, who had been the first to field the kick and first to lateral it, took the last lateral and ran the ball into the end zone where he collided with a Stanford trombone player.

The referees ruled it a touchdown. Cal won.

Had Stanford simply waited four seconds to call its last time out, Cal would not have had the four seconds it needed to win the game.


Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor-in-chief of To find out more about him, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at

Copyright 2022 Creators Syndicate, Inc.



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