Mississippi Miracle
October 27, 2007
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A drawing of the 15 laterals in the play and pictures of the team on the field after the game and the seven players who touched the ball

On Oct 27, 2007, two Division III football teams geared up for a seemingly standard final play with merely 0:02 showing on the scoreboard.

The Trinity Tigers, trailing the Millsaps Majors 24-22, took the field 61 yards from the endzone, but both teams were also light years away from the center of the sporting universe. At the time, you wouldn’t have thought blame ESPN, CBS, or NBC for failing to broadcast the contest, even though it would help decide a Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship and a bid to the NCAA Division III playoffs.

But as Trinity prepared to snap the ball, all 11 Tigers on the field were about to find a way: not just into the endzone, but onto television screens, award shows, and imaginations of viewers worldwide.

“It’s a lateral!”

The offense describes breaking the huddle as a calm feeling—they had already started to accept defeat, so what was there to be nervous about? Quarterback Blake Barmore ’08 and his offense lined up at the 39-yard line, purple and white pieces of paper raining down on them. The Majors had already set off their confetti cannon, declaring a win at their homecoming game. Barmore took the snap from shotgun and threw a 10-yard pass down the middle to Shawn Thompson ’09, at which point the Majors stadium's loud speaker began playing “We are the Champions” and setting off fireworks. After that, what ESPN dubbed a “lateralpalooza” ensued.

Jon Weiner and Shawn Thompson broadcasted the game in real time. Photo from the 2008 Mirage.And while the Tigers seemed to gain momentum the closer they got to the endzone, the Majors began to wear themselves out, players collapsing on the ground, out of breath. As the play stretched on—and it would take 62 seconds in total from start to finish, what ESPN called possibly the longest play in college football history—the fatigue began to set in. Finally, in the last lateral, bounced to wide receiver Riley Curry ’09, Curry ran the ball into the endzone virtually untouched. Trinity’s team stormed the field, dogpiling on Curry. In total, the ball was lateraled 15 times, touching seven different players.

Then-head coach Steve Mohr says the first thing he looked for were any flags on the field. Scanning the turf, he saw the officials already heading to the locker room, and the score already changed on the scoreboard to Trinity 28 - Millsaps 24. That’s when he shook his head in disbelief.

 

“Things have to go perfectly for that to work...We couldn’t do that again against air if we tried” - Head Coach Steve Mohr, Mirage 2008

And up in the pressbox were two Trinity students, broadcasting the game to Tiger fans around the country. Their call has become as famous as the play itself. Jon Weiner made play-by-play calls, infusing energetic awe with an impressive ability to quickly recall the names of player after player, while Shawn Thompson made color commentary.

The Laterals Heard ‘Round the World

That night, the football team watched their play on ESPN’s Sports Center, the players going nuts in the hotel lobby. And when they got off the plane in San Antonio, news reporters were waiting for them at the airport. From there, a craziness that matched the play ensued. Alongside millions of YouTube views, the play earned accolades from media outlets around the world. The play was named the Pontiac Game-Changing Performance of the Year for the 2007 NCAA football season, winning $100,000 for scholarships for Trinity students. Named the No. 1 sports moment of 2007, the play was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine. It was also nominated for an ESPY award in 2008 for the best play of the year.

As for the play call, Jon Weiner’s excited announcing also received major attention. Ellen Degeneres even played it on her talk show! The play actually kicked off his broadcasting career —Weiner is now a multimedia sports journalist for ESPN.

“You never want to yell and scream as a broadcaster, and I look back now and listen to it and have mixed feelings because I sound like I’m just screaming my head off, but it was so exciting and so improbable and it was the only way I would have known to do it,” - Jon Weiner, play-by-play announcer

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