The television executives assembled in the conference room. The issue facing the TV execs on this day in 1984 is the University of Miami vs. Boston College football game scheduled for September 29. The game is a marquee showdown between two glamorous quarterbacks -- 5-foot-9 scrambling dynamo Doug Flutie of B.C., who was on the verge of becoming college football's first 10,000-yard passer, and 6-foot-5 Bernie Kosar of Miami, the defending NCAA champs.
The TV executives want to take advantage of this potential ratings bonanza, so they decide to switch the game to Friday, November 23, the day after Thanksgiving Day.
But the execs need to do some serious convincing and manipulating: Miami was scheduled to face Rutgers, so the TV honchos called the schools and inquired about the possibility of rearranging the schedule. Rutgers officials agreed to cancel its date with Miami -- for $80,000. The network forked over the money, and the B.C. game became a national telecast.
It's November 23, 1984, and the soldout crowd at the Orange Bowl has seen an electrifying shootout. Each team plays the entire 3-hour, 43-minutes marathon like a two-minute drill. There are 15 scoring drives, none less than 55 yards, five drives of 80 or more, and 1,273 yards produced by both teams combined.
At halftime, it's 28-21, B.C. While the teams rest and strategize in their locker rooms, a driving tropical rainstorm arrives. Snubbing the storm, Miami opens the third quarter with a 96-yard drive to tie the game at 28. The game remains tied at 31 entering the final quarter. Boston College snaps the stalemate with a field goal, but Miami regains the lead as Melvin Bratton comes right back with a dazzling 52-yard scoring run. With 3:50 remaining, B.C. completes an 82-yard drive to go back up, 41-38.
With 2:30 left, Miami is buried deep on its own 10 facing a third-and-21. Kosar scrambles back to his own goal line, is nearly tackled twice and unloads a pass to Darryl Oliver for a first down. The Hurricanes later make a first down on fourth-and-one and then Bratton scores his fourth TD of the game for a 45-41 lead.
The Hurricanes go wild on their sideline, celebrating what they believe is a landmark victory. Only 28 seconds remain. "I thought we had it won," Miami center Ian Sinclair would tell the media later. "We all did."
"I assumed we had lost," B.C. coach Jack Bicknell told the press. "I'm thinking, 'What am I going to tell these guys in the locker room?' They just played a great game."
Flutie isn't thinking only of the plays he's going to run on the game's final series. "We've got time for at least four plays," Flutie says to himself as he watches the kickoff. He runs through the Eagles' playbook in his mind. His plan is to get the ball near midfield with his first two passes, and then put one up into the end zone. Perhaps two, if there's time.
As the Eagles huddle up following the kickoff, Flutie yells, "OK, let's get near midfield. If we can get it there, we have a 50-50 chance of scoring."
Starting at the 20, Flutie gets 19 yards on his first play, a completion to Troy Stradford. Then, he gets 13 more on a completion to Scott Gieselman, getting the ball into Miami territory. Ten seconds remain. Flutie's next pass is incomplete. Six seconds remain -- and 48 yards to cover.
"OK, 'Flood Tip' on two," Flutie calls. Flood Tip is a play in which three receivers race downfield, flooding one area in the end zone and wait for Flutie's bomb to fall from the heavens. The play is specifically designed for Gerry Phelan at the goal line. If Phelan is unable to catch the ball, he is supposed to try to tip it to the two other receivers.
B.C. has tried "Flood Tip" three times in the previous two seasons and it worked once -- against Temple, earlier in the season, at the close of the first half. And it was Phelan who caught the touchdown pass.
Flutie takes the snap and darts backward. All-American lineman Jerome Brown chases Flutie out of the pocket. Staring straight into a 30-mile-per-hour wind, and with Miami's Willie Lee Broughton heading straight for him, Flutie heaves a bomb from his own 37, a bomb that sails ... and sails ... 60 yards through the evening sky.
Miami is in its prevent defense with three defensive backs assigned to the end zone. They plant themselves near the 10-yard line. They are unaware that Flutie can throw the ball 60 yards. As a result, they inexplicably allow Phelan to slip behind them, right at the cusp of the end zone.
"I didn't know Phelan was behind us," Darrell Fullington would tell the media later. "I took my eye away from him for just one second to see where Flutie was, and it was too late. I looked back, and the ball was in the air, and Phelan was past me. I jumped as hard as I could, but ..."
As the pass sails through the wet evening air, Fullington tries to recover. He scrambles backwards toward the goal line. He collides with teammate Reggie Sutton. With Fullington and Sutton off-balance at the 3, the ball begins to descend over their heads. They leap, but the ball sails right between their arms, just past the tips of their fingernails, and it falls right behind them ... right into Phelan's arms.
At the other end of the field, Flutie is lying on the ground, the aftermath of getting slammed by Broughton. As Flutie rises to his feet, he is unaware that Phelan is cradling the ball -- his 11th catch of the game for 226 yards -- as if it is "my first-born," he would say.
Flutie realizes what has transpired, that someone, somehow, caught the ball. Flutie begins running toward the end zone, his arms waving and flapping and whirling. "I thought the pass fell incomplete," he would say later. "When I saw the referee's arms go up in the air for a touchdown, I could not believe it."
"We flooded the area," Bicknell would say later with a laugh, referring to the name of the play, Flood Tip. "But nobody tipped it."
The B.C. players race jubilantly off the sideline, onto the field, toward the end zone, where Phelan is buried under a pile of wild, ecstatic players.