The tape rolls relentlessly. With Jones as an escort, Lett takes off for the end zone. Beebe, having run a fly pattern up the left sideline on the play, stops 20 yards downfield, sees Lett scoop up the ball and reflexively gives chase. "At first I thought, There's no way I could catch him," says Beebe. "Then, about right here"—on the screen, Lett is 25 yards from the goal line—"I'm thinking, this guy's a D lineman, maybe I can catch him."
To this point Beebe had been having a so-so game. He had dropped a tough look-in pass in the end zone in the second quarter, then snagged a 40-yard touchdown pass on the last play of the third quarter, putting the Bills, however briefly, within striking distance at 31-17. After his TD, Beebe dropped immediately to one knee for a brief prayer. "You heard my story," he says. "I mean, there's no way I should be here. So each time I get in the end zone, I want to glorify God."
During the off-season Beebe has worked his pursuit of Lett into the standard address he gives to church groups. Says Beebe, "I tell parents, If you bring your kids up right, when they get into a situation like that, they don't have time to think, they just react. If you're brought up right, you react by not quitting, even if the score is 52-17."
Lett absorbs this in respectful silence. The tape continues. Fifteen yards from the goal line, Lett slows. He and Jones are looking inside, over their left shoulders. Meanwhile, Beebe is on the outside, hugging the sideline and closing fast. "Look at that," says Beebe as he blows by Jones. "I was so close. He could have swatted me like a fly."
Despite being undetected by Jones or Lett—who must have been the only two people on the planet who failed to realize what was unfolding—Beebe still had no plan for preventing a touchdown. "I was going to jump on your back," he tells Lett. That wasn't necessary.
At the 12, Lett triumphantly holds the ball out in his right hand.
Watching in disbelief two time zones away was Reuben Rice. On a wall in Rice's office at Emporia State is a framed black-and-white photograph of Lett. In the picture Lett has just recovered a fumble against Carson-Newman in the 1989 NAIA championship game. He is holding it at arm's length. "But this time," says Rice of the Super goof, "he got caught."
As Lett hits the one-yard line, Beebe reaches out with his right hand and swats the ball out of Lett's grasp and out of the end zone. Exhausted and incredulous, Lett drops to his knees while the zebras huddle. "And look at Lett!" NBC's Dick Enberg is shouting on the broadcast, "If they call that a no-touchdown, he's going to dig a hole and crawl out of this place."
"He's going to need a big hole," says analyst Bob Trumpy.
Beebe laughs, then notices that Lett is not amused. "Sorry, Leon," he says.