In 1940 undefeated Cornell visited Dartmouth on a late-autumn afternoon with the hopes of securing the national championship of college football. Cornell hadn't lost in three years, and the Associated Press had ranked them No. 1 in the nation all year, and for good reason: they had pummeled all comers by an average score of 30-2.
Dartmouth was not about to roll over, though, and gave Cornell the fight of the season. The teams slogged it out in an exhausting defensive battleuntil the fourth quarter when Dartmouth kicked a field goal to take a 30 lead.
By the time Cornell was able to drive to the Dartmouth 6-yard line, there were only 45 seconds left to play. Three running plays brought Cornell to within inches of the goal line. With nine second remaining and staring at a fourth down, Cornell called a timeout. But before they could get off the next play, they were flagged for delay of game and penalized five yards. For its final play, Cornell attempted a pass, which Dartmouth broke upafter which the refs huddled immediately. Because of the penalty, the refs were confuseddid the previous play occur on third or fourth down? The hurried officials decided to give Cornell one more down. Now with three seconds left, Cornell threw a pass over the middle for a touchdown and the win.
Though there was no instant replay at the time, there was replaybut it took 24 hours to develop the film. The evidence was unmistakable: the refs had given Cornell an extra down. Given the rules, however, the refs were powerless to reverse the score.
But before the day was out, Cornell's coach and university president telegrammed Dartmouth: "We congratulate you on the victory of your fine team. The Cornell touchdown was scored ...1
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