You know the moment when the singer has just finished the second encore of his closing song, and the crowd is still standing and applauding so loudly that he jumps back into the spotlight again, twirls the microphone like a baton and shouts, "One more time!"
This is that moment.
Maryland 42, Miami 40.
One more time!
The greatest comeback in the history of college football.
"That's the greatest comeback ever, right?" cornerback Joe Kraus asked the other day. "We're talking Bronko Nagurski and everything?"
Right, ever. Bronko and everything.
Sip it. Savor it. Clip it. Photostat it. Underline it in red. Press it in a book. Put it in an album. Hang it up on a wall.
Until Maryland did it against Miami last Saturday, no college team had ever come back to win after being down 31 points. Washington State came from 28 down earlier this season and beat Stanford; Oregon State came from 28 down, in 1981, to beat Fresno State. But 31 down was untilled soil. Uncharted territory.
And not just in one game, but in one half.
"The more I think about it, the more it hits me," linebacker Scott Schankweiler said yesterday. "We scored 42 points in one half. Against Miami. It's hard to believe."
Against Miami, the defending national champion. Against Miami, a team with legitimate aspirations to become No. 1 again. Against Miami, a team with Bernie Kosar, who seems destined to become one of the all-time greats, at quarterback. Against Miami, at Miami.
"I watched their players coming off the field, after it was over," kicker Jess Atkinson said yesterday, "and they looked so confused. It was as if they were wondering, 'What the hell happened?' "
America loves an underdog to begin with, but to see an underdog stage such a stunning comeback, to get up off the ground and pull a real-life Rocky, well, that's the stuff that dreams are made of. In his wildest fantasy, Walter Mondale could not have outdone the Terrapins.
"Unbelievable," said Miami's coach, Jimmy Johnson.
Before we get carried away here, let's take you inside Maryland's locker room at halftime. Down, 31-0, the last thing the players and the coaches talked about was winning this game. There was no fire and brimstone, no rant or rave. For all of you who, like Atkinson, wondered what is said in a locker room that makes a team come out so differently from one half to the next, the answer, as he found out, is "not much, really." Bobby Ross made no Gipper speech to his squad. Maybe, just maybe, Ross said something like, "We're still gonna play to win." But what he probably meant by that was: Let's keep our heads up, and go out there and play our best.
"I heard the captains and the coaches use the word 'win,' but personally, I wasn't really sure we could do that," fullback Rich Badanjek admitted yesterday. "I just wanted to keep it close. I didn't want us to get blown out, 60-20, or 60-0. I thought Miami was capable of that."
"I don't think winning was something anyone thought about until late in the game," Atkinson said. "At halftime, we were more or less thinking, 'Save face.' "
As in, not another Clemson. Last year, Clemson beat Maryland, 52-27, a game Schankweiler remembers as being "never-ending."
Anything but Clemson.
"Realistically," Ara Parseghian said yesterday, "Ross would have to walk on the field for the second half thinking, 'Gee, I'm just hoping that we don't get embarrassed.' It's 31-0; you have to be afraid of 62-0. Conversely, if you're Johnson, you can't conceive of a team coming back to beat you. You're thinking, 'How soon can I pull my regulars and give them a rest?' "
Parseghian, the former Notre Dame coach, can appreciate Johnson's headaches better than most. Parseghian still painfully remembers the 1974 game when Notre Dame led USC, 24-0, only to be victimized by the USC blitzkrieg -- 48 points in but 17 minutes -- and lost, 55-24. "It is just devastating," Parseghian said, "because you appear to have everything in hand. But things shift too quickly for you to control. I could see the tide turning, and I tried to put the fire out. I never could do it."
Pat Haden quarterbacked USC in that game. He and Parseghian now are college football analysts for CBS. Yesterday, Haden remembered that game in a different way: "We were down, 24-6, at the half. John McKay was our coach. As I recollect, he didn't say anything magical in the locker room -- just that the most important thing for us to do was take the kickoff and score. Anthony Davis took him literally, because he ran it back 100 yards for a touchdown. And after that there was a change in momentum like nothing I'd ever seen. Things just got out of hand. We weren't that much better a team than Notre Dame. There's no way we should have beaten them, down, 24-0. I can explain most things in my life. But I can't explain that."
Haden hadn't heard of anything like that since. Until Saturday.
"I knew Miami was up, 31-0, at the half," he said. "When I heard the final, I was unbelievably amazed."
"It's like when you read about a golfer making up a 10-shot defecit on the back nine, or a boxer being way behind in the last round and then knocking out his opponent," Parseghian said. "Things like this solidify the feeling for the fan that anything can happen."
Before someone could run a 3:59 mile, he had to believe a 4-minute mile was possible. In another context, Tom Wolfe called it "pushing the edge of the envelope." As of Saturday, Maryland is out there all alone.