The acting was superb, the action non-stop and perfectly timed; the script was flawless and the dialogue convincing.
Impact on the audience of 53,320 at the Rose Bowl Saturday afternoon? Shock. Disbelief. Followed by either agony or ecstasy.
UCLA fullback Mel Farr, one of the key players in the 20-second mini-drama that played such a major role in UCLA's 41-10 victory over Oregon, considered it the ultimate comedy.
Oh, he played out his role before collapsing on the field in gales of laughter. He cried out, "Reverse! Reverse!" in a frenzied voice and didn't crack a smile until he saw Randy Austin in the end zone with the ball that Farr had wedged between Austin's legs on the fake punt to end all fake punts.
Maybe Mel Sr. should reconsider and let the kid major in theater arts.
Will the Pac-10 race turn on this whimsical antic? The game did. UCLA (3-0) is the only undefeated team in the Pac-10, and Oregon (2-1) has dropped into the pack.
Will UCLA Coach Terry Donahue's friendship with Oregon Coach Rich Brooks suffer in light of this type of directorial decision-making?
Will Austin, the heretofore unheralded redshirt freshman from Canyon Country, let the celebrity of his 38-yard touchdown run go to his head?
The Oregon players and coaches seemed to be taking the play pretty well in the aftermath of the game.
It was crushing at the time--early in the second half with UCLA leading, 17-7, and having come up short on the third-down pass that sent tight end Charles Arbuckle hobbling to the sideline. (Arbuckle was scheduled for surgery Saturday night.)
Momentum made a quick turnaround when Austin scored.
But by the time UCLA added a second field goal by Alfredo Velasco, a record-tying touchdown run by Gaston Green and a 65-yard interception return for a touchdown by Marcus Turner, there was not much use quibbling about how all those points were scored.
A touchdown pass or the "Bommerooski," it makes no difference in the standings.
Incredibly, Oregon actually outgained UCLA in this contest with a measly 289 yards to a measlier 280. But Oregon did itself in by giving up four fumbles and three interceptions.
Call them forced errors, though. UCLA had a hand in causing those turnovers.
Oregon quarterback Bill Musgrave completed 15 of 28 passes for 195 yards but also threw 2 interceptions.
Two of the fumbles that the Ducks lost were on punt returns, deep in their own territory.
"We played giveaway football today," Brooks said. "The kicking game was a major factor in the outcome of the game. The well-executed fake punt fooled everybody, including me, and it was the turning point of the second half."
Ironically, Donahue said, it was Brooks who impressed upon him the importance of the special teams and of trick plays when Brooks was his special teams coach on the Bruin staff of 1976.
The special teams coaches of this UCLA team, Greg Robinson and Ed Kezirian, put the Boommerooski in during the Bruins' bye week at the suggestion of a new member of the staff, Larry Coyer, who has used it in the past.
Robinson said he learned it years ago from Jim Colletto, a former member of the Bruin staff who is now the offensive coordinator at Arizona State, when Colletto was at Cal State Fullerton.
But all trace it back to former Houston Oiler and New Orleans Saints Coach Bum Phillips, who, legend has it, designed it for a high school team he was coaching many, many years ago.
It works because, if everyone involved gives an Oscar-winning performance, there are too many things to watch and nobody watches the ball.
Austin reports that as the Bruins lined up, the Ducks were yelling, "Watch for the fake; be ready for the fake." For all the good it did them.
The snap went not to the punter, Harold Barkate, but to his personal protector on the play, Mel Farr, who was lined up closer to the line of scrimmage than he would usually line up.
While Barkate makes his fake ("I'm supposed to reach up and look up and act like it's being snapped over my head, then yell a couple of cuss words and run the other way . . . "), Farr stuffs the ball between Austin's legs and then spins into Doug Kline, faking a handoff to Kline, while both Farr and Kline yell, "Reverse," and all the Bruin blockers sweep right with Kline.
Meanwhile, Austin is up near the line of scrimmage on the left side of the line, all bent over in a blockers' stance, with his elbows on his knees, concentrating on keeping his head up and keeping eye contact with the defender in front of him--because if he has to look down between his legs to see if the football is secure, the defender is going to see it, too.
He looks off to the right to lose the defender, then goes hurrying up the left sideline to score.
Austin, who was a tight end as well as a linebacker at Canyon High School, said he runs a 4.75-second 40-yard dash. Whatever he runs, it was fast enough to beat the Ducks once they figured out where the ball was.