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News

The Holy Roller

Posted Oct 1, 2013

The game known as The Holy Roller only goes to show that anything can happen in an NFL game, and usually does.

Hall of Fame TE Dave Casper (87) caught five passes for 100 yards and 1 TD, and also scored the last-second, game-tying touchdown on a fumble recovery in the Raiders 1978 win at San Diego.

Story originally published February 13, 2011

September 10, 1978
NFL 1978 Regular Season Week 2

Sometimes numbers don’t make any sense. On September 10, 1978, the improbable become probable and the impossible became reality. “Weird” doesn’t begin to describe the ending to The Oakland Raiders Week 2 trip to Jack Murphy Stadium for their match-up with the San Diego Chargers. Only legendary radio announcer Bill King could describe it.

This game featured many statistical anomalies for the Silver and Black. Usually, if your quarterback throws for three interceptions you lose. Usually, if your opponent doubles your time of possession you lose. Usually, if you fumble on the last play of the game you lose.

The Raiders won the opening coin toss and elected to receive. The Silver and Black’s opening drive started promisingly enough but RB Mark van Eeghen fumbled and DT Louie Kelcher recovered at the San Diego 10-yard line. The Chargers marched down the field and attempted a K Rolf Benirschke 28-yard field goal which was blocked and the Raiders took over at their own 20. Oakland promptly went three and out. SS Mike Fuller called for and made a fair catch at the San Diego 45 of a P Ray Guy punt. The Chargers drive stalled at the Raiders 45 and P Jeff West’s punt went into the end zone for a touchback.

Two plays later QB Kenny “Snake” Stabler was picked off and the interception was returned to the Oakland 35. San Diego took advantage as Pat Curran caught a deflected pass from QB Dan Fouts for a 14-yard touchdown reception. The extra point was good and the home team took a 7-0 lead to start the second quarter.

After an Arthur Whittington kickoff return and a sack on first down, Stabler connected with WR Cliff Branch for a 41-yard gain. The Snake then found TE Dave Casper on consecutive plays – first a 44-yard strike and then a 6-yard touchdown pass. K Errol Mann’s extra point was good and the Raiders tied the game at 7-7 with just over 12 minutes left in the second quarter.

 

WR Morris Bradshaw's 44-yard TD reception made it a one score game and gave the Raiders a shot at victory.

San Diego went three and out and the Raiders took over at their own 40 after Neal Colzie’s fair catch. Oakland went three and out and punted the ball back to the Chargers. San Diego RB Hank Bauer capped an 8-play, 75-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run up the middle. Benirschke missed the extra point and this one point would prove to be critical.

The teams traded punts the rest of the quarter and San Diego was content to run the ball and run out the clock and take a 13-7 lead into the locker room at halftime.

A holding penalty derailed the Chargers first possession of the second half and Stabler’s second interception of the game ended the Raiders drive. After a three and out and a San Diego punt, Stabler tossed his third pick of the day but the Raiders defense stiffened, didn’t allow a score and forced a punt. The Raiders went three and out and punted the ball back to San Diego.   

Bauer scored his second rushing touchdown of the day, this time from two yards out, to culminate an 11-play, 64-yard drive. This time the extra point was good and the Chargers led 20-7 with just over 12 minutes left in the fourth quarter.

The Raiders next drive fizzled at the San Diego 36 and Guy shanked the punt which officially traveled only 17 yards, and was marked at the Chargers 19. Despite a running into the kicker penalty that extended San Diego’s next possession, the Raiders defense forced a West punt. Colzie’s 17-yard return put the Raiders at their own 45. Three plays later, Stabler went deep to WR Morris Bradshaw for a 44-yard scoring strike. Mann’s extra point was good and the Silver and Black trailed 20-14 with just over 8 minutes left.

The teams traded punts, two for the Chargers, one for the Raiders. The visitors got the ball back with 1:07 left on the Jack Murphy Stadium clock. Stabler missed Casper on first down and hit Bradshaw, who made a nice catch on a deflected pass, for 13 yards to the Oakland 32 on 2nd down. He then connected with FB Pete Banaszak for 14 yards to the 46. TE Raymond Chester hauled in a 27-yard toss to the San Diego 27. Stabler overthrew Chester in the end zone on first down but found a diving WR Fred Biletnikoff for 13 yards to the 14 on 2nd down. An incomplete pass intended for Biletnikoff in the deep right corner of the end zone stopped the clock with 10 seconds left to play.

Stabler took the snap and rolled to his right – an awkward move for a left-handed quarterback when facing the tremendous rush the Chargers brought on the play. Bill King’s call became legendary. “Stabler back, here comes the rush, he sidesteps, can he throw? He can’t! The ball, flipped forward, is loose, a wild scramble, two seconds on the clock, Casper grabbing the ball, it is ruled a fumble, Casper has recovered in the end zone, the Oakland Raiders have scored on the most zany, unbelievable, absolutely impossible dream of a play!”

After LB Woodrow Lowe hit Stabler and the ball flew forward, and Banaszak flipped it ahead, Casper fell on the ball in the end zone after bending over and kicking it while trying to pick it up. As the referees signaled “touchdown,” Casper stood up with the ball in his arm, practically devoid of emotion, stunned. “Madden is on the field, he wants to know if it’s real, they said ‘yes, get your big butt out of here,’ he does,” King told the listening audience. “There is nothing real in the world any more, this one will be relived…forever.”


TE Dave Casper cradles the ball and stoically walks off the field after recovering a fumble in the end zone for the game-tying touchdown.

Bedlam reigned but the game was merely tied. The officials had to clear the field so Mann could come on and try the extra point. The kick was good and the Raiders claimed a 21-20 victory. Two after effects came from this game. The NFL changed the rules and outlawed “forward” fumbles and the term “Holy Roller” was added to the sports lexicon.

The Raiders held Fouts to 175 yards passing while Stabler threw for 307, but Snake also tossed three interceptions. The Chargers held the ball for 39:46 to the Raiders 20:14. Yet, it was the Raiders who somehow found a way to win even if it was “an impossible dream of a play.”

Game notes: Jerry Markbreit was the referee for this game...game time weather was sunny and clear and the temperature was 73 degrees with winds out of the West at 15 m.p.h....Raiders TE Dave Casper caught five passes for 100 yards and a touchdown, WR Morris Bradshaw caught four passes for 107 yards and a score...RB Mark van Eeghen carried the ball 12 times for 72 yards.