The Year of "The Play"

Greatest College Football Rivalries and Moments of 1982

Angie Lewis, Writer
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College football season is underway, and we’re so stoked to be cheering on our favorite teams!

Rivalry games are always the most intense games of the season, especially for teams (and fans) that, well... just don’t have anything nice to say about each other. We’re talking teams like Michigan and Ohio State, Army and Navy, Florida and Georgia, Alabama and Auburn, Texas A&M and Texas, Mississippi State and Ole Miss — and the list goes on.

In a previous article we did ahead of the 2019 season, we researched and shared stats on some of the most-heated rivalries in college football. But today, as Atlas Roofing’s 40th anniversary year nears to a close, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at the greatest college football rivalries and moments of 1982.

“The Play”

One of the oldest rivalries in college football began in 1892 between Stanford and UC Berkeley (“Cal”). Ninety years later, the two teams competed in a game that ended in complete chaos, which became known as “The Play.”

On Nov. 20, 1982, the Stanford Cardinal played the California Golden Bears at California Memorial Stadium.

As the end of the fourth quarter neared, Stanford QB John Elway drove his team down the field, resulting in a field goal that put the Cardinal ahead 20-19, with 4 seconds left on the clock.

Excited about taking the lead, thinking they had just made the game-winning play, Stanford players over celebrated and were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, which moved the return kickoff back to the 25-yard line.

As both teams prepared for the last seconds of the game, commentator Joe Starkey made a remark that would go down in history: “Only a miracle can save the Bears now.”

As the clock started, the return kick was fielded at Cal’s 45-yard line, where the Bears’ DB Kevin Moen scooped up the ball. He then turned and quickly tossed the ball left, to WR Richard Rodgers.

After getting trapped along the sideline, Rodgers flipped the ball back to RB Dwight Garner, who, after pushing forward into a pile, managed to free the ball and passed it back to Rodgers.

At that point, Cardinal players thought Garner was tackled and the game was over, so all 144 members of the Stanford band strolled out onto the field, drifting into the endzone, and began to celebrate what they believed to be a victory and the end of the game.

In the meantime, the ball was still live as Rodgers ran it to the right, crossing midfield, where he found WR Mariet Ford and passed it to him. While diving into three Cardinal defenders, Ford pitched the ball backward, back into the hands of Moen at Stanford’s 25-yard line.

From there, after five lateral passes, Moen pushed through to the endzone, knocking down one of the Stanford band members, and scored the “miracle” winning touchdown for the Bears!

Watch that moment:

Continuing Contempt

Many other notable rivalry games were played in 1982, between teams whose heated meetups in 2022 may very well define the season, according to, including:

Auburn / Alabama

Better known as the Iron Bowl, this long-running rivalry began in 1893, when the Tigers defeated the Crimson Tide 32-22. Since then, the teams have had 86 meetings.

1982: Auburn 23, Alabama 22
This was the first victory in the series for Auburn since 1972.
2021: Alabama 24, Auburn 22
Series leader: Alabama (48-37-1)
Next meeting: Nov. 26, 2022 says: “Few games were filled with more anxiety than last season’s Iron Bowl. Fans of Alabama, Auburn and any other contending team watched with a thumping heart as Bryce Young took the first snap of an eventual 97-yard drive to tie the game, sending it to overtime. From there, The Crimson Tide survived four OTs to down Auburn and gain a wave of confidence while giving Young his Heisman Trophy moment — Alabama then went on to win the SEC Championship Game to advance to the national title game as well. Even when the Tigers aren’t a contender, they play a key role in the playoff race because each season they have a chance to shatter Alabama’s momentum.”


Better known as the Victory Bell, this rivalry started in 1929, when the Trojans trampled the Bruins in a 76-0 blowout. Since then, the teams have had 91 meetings.

1982: UCLA 20, USC 19
Occurring within minutes of “The Play” 400 miles north, this game also came down to the final seconds, when USC went for a 2-point conversion that ended in a quarterback sack by UCLA, which won the game 20-19.
2021: UCLA 62, USC 33
Series leader: USC (49-33-7)
USC technically has 51 wins, but its 2004 and 2005 victories were vacated.
Next meeting: Nov. 19, 2022 says: “Fittingly, UCLA is a contender to win the Pac-12 as USC brings in a transfer portal haul that’ll make it the favorite over almost every team on the schedule. The Pac-12 doesn’t just need USC to shine, it needs cross-town rival UCLA to as well, and the meeting between the two this season could be the biggest in a long, long time. It’s also worth mentioning that with the conference going away from divisions to decide the Pac-12 championship participants, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that we could see USC and UCLA battle twice in 2022.”

USC / Notre Dame

This rivalry began in 1926, when the Fighting Irish beat the Trojans by just one point, 13-12. Since then, the teams have had 92 meetings.

1982: USC 17, Notre Dame 13
2021: Notre Dame 31, USC 16
Series leader: Notre Dame (48-36-5)
Next meeting: Nov. 26, 2022 says: “USC is back in the national spotlight, and while the program has consistently come up short as of late, this time things feel different. Not only does the Pac-12 benefit from a strong Trojans team, but so does Notre Dame, who now has a marquee rivalry matchup back that could strengthen its playoff resume. Both teams have plenty to figure out under a new head coach, but what’s known is that this meeting is back to holding weight.”

Ohio State / Michigan

Often referred to as The Game, this long-running rivalry started in 1897, when the Wolverines overtook the Buckeyes 34-0. Since then, the teams have had 117 meetings.

1982: Ohio State 24, Michigan 14
2021: Michigan 42, Ohio State 27
Series leader: Michigan (59-51-6)
Next meeting: Nov. 26, 2022 says: “College football isn’t college football without a clash between Ohio State and Michigan to end the regular season, and with the Wolverines revival, it’s been even better. Last season, No. 3 Michigan downed No. 6 Ohio State in the highest stakes game of the season. While Buckeyes fans will never say it, Michigan snapping the skid was important for the rivalry. Because now we know Jim Harbough can down his biggest rival. Chances are that these teams will compete for a playoff spot once again in 2022 and will have to get through the other to get there.”