It was the most bizarre ending to a Cal game since, well, since Cal's last game—its celebrated defeat of Stanford on a last-second five-lateral kickoff return at the end of last season. This time, with 57 seconds left, Golden Bears Linebacker Ron Rivera tackled Texas A&M Running Back Jimmie Hawkins in the Aggie end zone to give Cal a safety and a 19-17 victory that seconds before had almost been allowed to slip away. With 1:20 to go and the score tied at 17-17, Bears Kicker Randy Pratt made a 22-yard field goal, but he was roughed on the play. Defying common wisdom, Cal Coach Joe Kapp elected to take the penalty—and the three points off the board—and go for the TD. On the next play, with the ball on the Aggie two-yard line, Quarterback Gale Gilbert fumbled the snap. A&M recovered, but two plays later Hawkins, sweeping to his right, was trapped by Rivera in the end zone. Said Kapp, "No question, Ron saved my butt."
Until the safety, the game's main attraction had been the debut of the Aggies' Twelfth Man kickoff squad, which, with the exception of the kicker, is composed of student volunteers rather than varsity players. The first time the unit lined up, Coach Jackie Sherrill called for an onside kick. The neophytes recovered—but before the ball had traveled the required 10 yards, so Cal took over on the A&M 46. In the Twelfth Man's next appearance, following a third-quarter field goal that made the score 17-3 in favor of the Bears, Ike Liles, a senior electrical engineering major, tackled Cal Returner Dwight Garner at the Bear 17. "There's no question that the Twelfth Man gave us a psychological lift," said Sherrill. "When they came out and stopped Cal short, it created a new atmosphere." The unit got two more opportunities, but Bear returners downed both kicks in the end zone.
Florida State beat East Carolina 47-46 on a five-yard touchdown pass from Kelly Lowrey to Tight End Tom Wheeler with 4:36 to play. The lead changed hands seven times as Seminole Tailback Greg Allen ran for 154 yards and Lowrey completed 28 of 35 passes for 322 yards and three TDs. For East Carolina, which lost 56-17 to Florida State in '82, 5'6" Henry Williams scored on a 56-yard return of a punt—the only one of the game—and a 98-yard run with a kickoff.
In Florida's 28-3 victory over Miami, the Gator defense forced seven Hurricane turnovers—three interceptions and four fumbles. Miami's offense, it turned out, was too predictable. "When they line up with split backs, you know they're going to cross and run the trap or draw," said Florida's All-America linebacker, Wilber Marshall. "And when they're in the I, they run blasts or sweeps." Said Safety Tony Lilly, "When Miami checks off, they throw a quick release to their tight end or to their backs. They kept doing it and we were ready."
September 11, 1983
In what figured to be one of the few tough games on North Carolina's squeezably soft schedule, the Tar Heels beat South Carolina 24-8. Duke was upset by Virginia 38-30 on a remarkable performance by Wingback Quentin Walker. He touched the ball only five times—catching scoring passes of 65 and 80 yards and running 58 yards on a reverse before rushing for four and 12 yards.
Operating under its new quarterback, John Cummings, Pitt didn't get a single first down in the first half against Tennessee. Cummings eventually connected with Flanker Dwight Collins for a 56-yard TD, and the Panthers won 13-3, but while running out the clock Cummings suffered a broken left collarbone and probably will be out at least four weeks. "We're in trouble," said Coach Foge Fazio. "We don't have a quarterback. I don't know what the hell to do."
In four notable mismatches, Clemson, in the first game of its two-year NCAA probation, rolled over Western Carolina 44-10; Boston College defeated Morgan State 45-12 in a chippy game in which one Morgan State player was ejected and Boston College Coach Jack Bicknell threatened to bench one of his Eagles for fighting; West Virginia routed Ohio 55-3 as Mountaineer Quarterback Jeff Hostetler completed 15 of 23 passes for 205 yards in less than three quarters; and Oregon State, winless in its last 27 Pac-10 games, lost 50-6 to Arizona.