Story entered Monday, 08/20/2001  


Book, CD track football's fabulous finishes

By Michael Canan of the Scripps Howard News Service

- Doug Flutie's 1984 Hail Mary, the infamous 1982 Stanford Band play and Kordell Stewart's 1994 game-winning pass to Michael Westbrook have become famous as some of the most dramatic finishes in college football.

But a 1985 shootout between Illinois Division III rivals Principia College and Illinois College also deserves recognition as one of the greatest college finishes, said Ted Mandell, author of recently released "Heart Stoppers and Hail Marys: 100 of the Greatest Football Finishes (1970-1999)."

The 1985 gem of a game between Principia and Illinois College included two Hail Marys and three touchdowns in the final 28 seconds. The 39-player Principia team, from the smallest school in NCAA football, pulled off the last second 26-22 win.

"They had back-to-back Hail Marys," Mandell said. "I'd never heard of anything like that."

Mandell said he enjoys the games in his book that are not famous, like the Division III thriller. "It's like having 100 sons or daughters; it's hard to choose a favorite," Mandell said. "But I'd lean towards the games no one's heard of."

Tracking down the story behind the games was difficult, but finding the original play-by-play broadcasts that Mandell included on an accompanying compact disc was even more challenging.

"For some of the audio clips it was a real scavenger hunt," Mandell said. "I would start with the sports information department (at the colleges involved) then the radio company. But a lot of them don't keep an archive. A lot of times some of the calls were really hard to find. One of Division III plays, the only guy who had it was the guy who scored the touchdown."

Once he located a copy of the broadcasts, he had to barter for the rights to use it. He managed to obtain 64 of the heart-throbbing plays.

It was the radio calls that first interested Mandell in college football's most dramatic finishes six years ago. Mandell then decided to conduct serious research on the games and create the book and compact disc.

When Mandell began to delve into the world of the final minutes of football games, he was hooked, which was fortunate since it took him two years to finish the book and CD.

"When I got into the research, I really got enthralled in the background behind the finishes," Mandell said. "I learned a lot more about the Stanford band play than I ever thought possible."

Mandell said sometimes the story lines behind the final plays are lost in the shuffle. For example in the 1982 Stanford-California game many fans forget about Stanford quarterback John Elway's incredible drive to put the Cardinal in field goal range. Before the kick gave Stanford the lead, however, Elway called time out too early, leaving time for the last-second pandemonium that resulted in a California win and a rule that banned bands from taking the field before games are completed.

To include more about each play, Mandell divided each of his 100 accounts into three sections: background, the play and aftermath.

"I wrote each chapter, and I wrote (the book) like a film," said Mandell, who teaches film and video production at Notre Dame. "The idea is you read half, then listen to it, then read the rest of the chapter."

The book tells the tales of legendary plays by stars such as quarterbacks Brett Favre, Joe Montana, Dan Marino and of course Flutie, who wrote the book's foreward, but the CD gives listeners a chance to relive the play, Mandell said.

"Every fan recognizes those great finishes," he said. "Especially to be able to hear how it sounded, it definitely brings back chills just listening to the CD."

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service

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