Story entered Friday, 07/27/2001  


Just savor college football's best finishes

By Reggie Hayes of The News@Sentinel

University of Notre Dame professor Ted Mandell's book on the greatest finishes in college football history is packed with 336 pages of anecdotes, photos and interviews.

Like everyone else, I went straight for the CD.

"Heart Stoppers and Hail Marys," is a detailed look at both the most publicized last-second wins, such as California's kickoff return against Stanford and the Stanford band in 1992, and obscure classics, such as Williams' win over Amherst in 1997 where a freshman wide receiver kicked the game-winning field goal.

But the book's hook is the audio.

Mandell tracked down the radio calls of 64 of the games and included them in an accompanying compact disc, which was mastered by Larry Pester at Sweetwater Sound in Fort Wayne.

"Everybody loves the CD, no question," Mandell said.

There may be no better primer for the college football season than listening to these screams and gasps by announcers with no pretenses of self-control.

It's impossible to do justice in print to Michigan announcer Bob Ufer's call of a Hail Mary reception by Anthony Carter to beat Indiana in 1979.

But within a rambling four-minute monologue, Ufer describes Bo Schembechler as "looking up at Fielding H. Yost in football Valhalla," and later says Carter "was streaking down there like a penguin with a hot herring in his cummerbund."

The flip side, of course, is that some fan of the other guys will feel sick with every ecstatic call.

"I ran into Lee Corso (who coached IU in 1979) last year when he was setting up with ESPN before the Nebraska (game) and I told him about the book," Mandell said.

"I told him I had the '79 game against Michigan in there. He said, 'No, no, no.' He's still depressed about it."

Another unintentionally humorous track is by a group of student announcers calling the NCAA Division III game between Williams and Amherst in 1997. Mandell lends a sense of history by writing of how the schools' rivalry began when Williams' former president founded Amherst.

The radio call is more hysterical than historical.

The announcers spent the first half of the game tailgating while waiting for their equipment to arrive. Inhibitions were left in the parking lot before the final play: "Unbelievable! In the history of Williams-Amherst, I highly doubt it's ever been this exciting!"

Mandell's prose adds new insight to old games. For example, he writes that had John Elway waited four more seconds to call timeout before Stanford's final field goal -- preceding Cal's infamous kick return -- Stanford would have won.

"I thought I might get John Elway to sign a copy of the book," Mandell said, "but now I'm wondering if he's going to kick my a--."

Mandell also brings to life unknown last-second gems from Bloomsburg vs. West Chester in 1984, Appalachian State vs. James Madison in 1992 or Thomas More vs. Defiance in 1993.

"Heart Stoppers and Hail Marys" isn't cheap. It's listed at $49.95, CD included. But reliving past prayers whets the appetite for the ones yet to come.

Cue Track 18: "(Doug)Flutie takes the snap . . . uncorks a deep one for the end zone. (Gerald) Phelen is down there. Did he get it? He got it! Touchdown! Touchdown! Touchdown Boston College! He did it! He did it! Flutie did it! He got Phelen in the end zone! Touchdown!"

No word on whether Phelen resembled a penguin with a hot herring in his cummerbund, however.

[Heart Stoppers and Hail Marys: 100 of the Greatest College Football Finishes (1970-1999)]