The NCAA tracks thousands of records. Most are easily quantified. The record for the most rushing yards in a quarter goes to ... the person who had the most rushing yards in a quarter. There’s the most punts blocked, the most fumbles, the most penalty yards ever against one team in one season, and so on, all of which make immediate sense.
But there’s one in the FBS book that is vaguely defined. In a way, this is the best record the NCAA has:
Most Points Scored In a Brief Period Of Possession Time By Both Teams
That’s not “most points in a quarter” (63, Navy-North Texas in 2007), “a half” (94, same game), or “a game” (137, Pitt-Syracuse in 2016). It’s just some span of time that can be considered “brief.”
It’s one of the most honest things the statisticians can say here: Look, we don’t really have a handle on this. But it’s hard to argue that the feats do not deserve to be commemorated. Here’s the first one:
29 in 1:34 of possession time during four drives (4th quarter)—Hawaii (62) vs. San Jose St. (41), Nov. 6, 1999
There was also a 20-point outburst in 0:28 in 2003’s USC-Cal game. But I’m here to blog about this 1999 game, the one bizarre enough to have its own non-record record.
The NCAA doesn’t have a publicly available FBS record book from before 2000, and a contact there didn’t have one either. But in this little section, there are no games listed from before this one, which entered the book for the next season. It’s possible the NCAA made up the record just to recognize what happened in San Jose that day.
The most sudden points explosion in major football history happened on a 70-degree day in an almost-empty stadium.
The Rainbows were 5-3 in their first year under June Jones, en route to a 9-4 record and victory in a Hawaii Bowl predecessor, the Oahu Classic. The Spartans were 3-5 and would not win another game. The final score was Hawaii 62, SJSU 41. You are not here to be kept in suspense about who won.
The game appears to have been broadcast only in Hawaii. The announced crowd was 15,367. This was kickoff:
This was who remained early in the fourth quarter, shortly before things got silly. With 3:05 left, Hawaii led 49-25.
Then, 94 seconds of clock time later, this was the scene:
These 29 new points were meaningless in almost every way. They didn’t change the outcome or much change Hawaii’s margin of victory in a nondescript game.
But the scoring did demonstrate one of college football’s defining features: something fun and stupid happening when almost no one is watching.
1. The first domino was the kind of blocked punt that probably wouldn’t have happened in the 2010s.
While most 21st-century programs were installing spread offenses, they were also installing spread punt schemes. That changed everything. In the NFL, everyone except two gunners usually packs it in to protect the punter ...
... but in college, most teams fan their blockers wide, causing the block unit to also fan out, to keep the punting team from throwing to an open guy on the end of the line:
In addition to making life relatively easy on college long snappers, the spread punt has just about killed the art of bull-rushing up the middle to block punts. The path to block a spread punt is, literally, not so straightforward.
But the game we’re discussing happened before the spread punt was a thing. Hawaii was winning 49-25 with a shade over three minutes left, and the Bows were punting from the Spartans’ 45, where a return wasn’t likely anyway. So SJSU had nothing to lose by sending the house:
Jeff Wucinich swatted the punt when it was barely off Chad Shrout’s foot. It bounced just right, so running back Casey LeBlanc could catch it at head height and stroll the last 24 yards.
San Jose State went for two and converted on a little throw from Chris Kasteler to Steven Pulley. That made it a two-score game at 49-33, with 3:04 to go.
That’s eight points. Start your stopwatch now.
2. San Jose State tried an onside kick, which failed, but what matters more to us is that it took almost no time off the clock.
The Spartans attempted the ol’ two-kicker onside, designed to get the receiving team flowing one direction while the ball goes the other.
Fortunately, Hawaii had the WAC’s leading receiver, Dwight Carter. He was unswayed by Spartan trickery and hit the deck immediately.
Official drive charts show no time went off the clock, which allowed the next thing to happen ASAP. (The live TV clock showed three seconds rolled on the onside kick. Believe whatever you want.)
3. The next step was crucial to the record: San Jose State’s defense had to remain one of the worst defenses in the country.
With the clock at either 3:04 or 3:01, Hawaii had first-and-10 at the SJSU 47. Jones called for a zone run to the short side, one of the least aggressive things he could’ve dialed up. But none of the blue guys could lay a finger on Avion Weaver:
UH’s Eric Hannum missed the extra point, meaning the biggest eruption of all time should’ve been one point bigger. 55-33 with 2:56 left.
Weaver’s run took another eight seconds off the clock. Counting the moment the San Jose State punt block TD was scored, we were up to 14 points in nine seconds.
4. It truly became a party once San Jose State got the ball back.
Things had gotten sort of dumb when SJSU let up that TD right after a failed onside kick, but far dumber on the ensuing kickoff, when SJSU tried a double reverse ...
... and wound up with a nine-yard return. This is another area where the play logs are messy, but SJSU wasted eight or nine seconds that could’ve made this made-up record look even more impressive.
On the Spartans’ first play, Kasteler threw a dead duck toward Pulley. Hawaii’s Quincy LeJay — who would lead the WAC with seven picks and three touchdown returns — was in the area.
Hawaii hit the PAT this time. 62-33 with 2:37 left. That’s 21 points in 27 seconds.
5. San Jose State’s offense made arguably the most clutch garbage-time drive ever.
Kasteler brought the Spartans back out with less than 2:37 left on the clock. (There wasn’t a live clock on the game broadcast. But the previous TD came with 2:37 left, and I timed the following SJSU kick return at six seconds from when the ball hit the returner’s hands, so I estimate 2:31. The official box score says it was 2:37.)
SJSU dinked and dunked 40 yards up the field. Hawaii’s defenders appeared disinterested, showing little regard for posterity. With just more than a minute and a half to play, Kasteler lobbed the ball for LeBlanc, the man who’d returned the blocked Hawaii punt.
1:30 remained. The score was 62-39. And the teams had just combined for 27 points in 1:34.
6. The Spartans, sensing the moment, decided to go for two and try to make it a three-TD game.
This feat of football history ended on a basketball play.
Kasteler fumbled the snap. He recovered in time to pitch to RB Deonce Whitaker, who dribbled the ball around but picked it up in time to plunge hard into the lane.
Officials called that a block, not a charge. The two-pointer was good. Did it need to be? Would this have been an official NCAA record even without this two? Best to be on the safe side. Punch it in and claim vague glory.
Twenty-nine points in one minute and 34 seconds.
After the game, nobody seemed to notice the history at hand.
There’d have been no reason to notice. This “record” is that obscure.
The newspaper writers following Hawaii wrote about the mettle of QB Dan Robinson, who’d built up the Rainbows’ massive lead before all of this silliness. And they wrote about the program clinching bowl eligibility in Jones’ first year, right after an 0-12 season that got Fred von Appen fired.
The San Jose State writers — well, there were few, because this was San Jose State.
The record book is a home for obvious achievements and big, round numbers.
But this is, to me, the most college football record in its hundreds of pages. This eternal testament to a bizarre moment is just something the NCAA made up, and that series of words sums up the entire sport.