As I watched the last minute and a half of the Cal/Oregon State game unwind in all of its drama and suspense, I felt myself sliding to the edge of my seat. Knowing that they were playing from behind with a second string quarterback with a chance to move into first place in the national rankings, they willed themselves down the field, and without a timeout, they found themselves twelve yards away from the winning touchdown with just seconds left to play. And then it happened: After playing well over his head for most of the game, Kevin Riley the red-shirt freshman quarterback for Cal, made what he thought would be the game-winning run. Scrambling across the middle of the field, he came up two yards short of the goal line. The problem was there was no time left to get the field goal team on the field, The Bears lost by three points as the clock expired. Kevin Riley went from hero to goat over the course of twelve seconds.
You may not remember the game between Centennial and Nevin Platte Junior High back in 1976. I do. I was there. I was playing guard for the Cyclones of Centennial, and we were ahead in the fourth quarter. With just minutes to go, and our offense bogged down near mid-field, our coach elected to punt. Since I also played on the punt coverage team, I lined up, ready to finish up the game. At the snap, I waited for the sound of our kicker's foot making contact with the ball, and then I ran, straight down the field as hard as I could. That's when I looked up and say the guy in orange and black moving past me on the left, headed in the opposite direction. Ahead of him was open sideline. He scored a touchdown, and with only a few minutes left, we were unable to score again. Platte won by three points. When I reached the bench, my coach grabbed me by the face mask and asked me if I knew what my responsibility was for punt coverage. I thought for a moment and recalled the drills that we had run for weeks leading up to this game. "To watch the sideline?"
"Exactly!" he spit, and released my face mask with flourish.
I didn't cry, but I felt like it. My teammates gave me a wide berth in the locker room, and I walked home alone that night. The following week I was moved to tackle, and removed from the punt coverage team. When the season was over, I hung up my cleats for good.
Here's what coach Jeff Tedford had to say about the last play of the Cal game: "It's not his fault whatsoever. He played his heart out down the stretch to get us in that situation. We didn't lose the game because of that play." I think I would have liked to play for coach Tedford.