From the PG Archives: Frenchy Simply Dazed By It All
The Immaculate Reception as it ran in the Dec. 24, 1972, Pittsburgh Press. Jack Tatum and Frenchy Fuqua collide, the ball caroms back, and Franco Harris, far right, swoops in for history.
Franco Harris, far left, sees the ball fly into the air after the Oakland Raiders' Jack Tatum decks the Steelers' Frenchy Fuqua (33), setting up the "The Immaculate Reception."
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This story was first published in the The Pittsburgh Press on Dec. 24, 1972. It was written my Bob Smizik, now a columnist for the Post-Gazette.
Lying there on the Three Rivers Stadium turf, Frenchy Fuqua didn't have the slightest idea what was going on. He was in another world.
He didn't know the Steelers were turning what appeared to be an agonizing defeat into a glorious 13-7 win over Oakland in the American Football Conference playoff game yesterday.
Fuqua was the middle man -- in the eyes of referee Fred Swearingen if not the Oakland raiders -- in the weird 60-yard touchdown pass play that gave the Steelers the win with five seconds remaining in the game.
The Steelers were in a fourth-and-10 situation with 22 seconds on the clock and the play that Coach Chuck Noll sent in wasn't working. "Oakland covered the play very well," said Fuqua, "so we scrambled."
Terry Bradshaw saw Fuqua open and zipped the ball toward him. But oops, here comes tough safety Jack Tatum. Bang! Fuqua goes one way, Tatum the other and the ball in a beuatiful third direction -- into the hands of Franco Harris (who else?)
And now the delicate question: Did Tatum touch the ball? Because if he didn't Harris' grab and ensuing 42-yard run for the winning score was illegal.
"No comment," smiled Frenchy, usually a guy with a lot to say. "I'll tell you after the Super Bowl. I'm not chopping down any cherry trees, but no comment."
But Fuqua had other comments on the play, and so did Harris.
"I was dazed," Frenchy said. "I looked around and I hear people cheering. I couldn't imagine what happened. I hadn't seen Tatum coming. He gave me a good lick. Everything was dizzy. Then I finally got up and I saw this dude at the five-yard line and I couldn't figure out why.
"I was trying to figure out he got the ball when he was supposed to be on the other side of the field."
Harris got the ball because he had good football sense.
"I wasn't supposed to be there," Harris admitted. "But when I saw Terry throwing the ball I started running to block if Frenchy caught the ball.
"I saw Frenchy and Tatum go up. I saw the ball go in the air and I said 'oh, no! Wow! This is it.' But the ball bounced toward me.
From there it was all instinct.
"Reaction moves your hands," said Harris, who gained 64 yards on 18 carries during the afternoon.
Fuqua couldn't beleive any man would have that kind of reaction. "I thought that ball was too low for anyone to catch. I thought it was impossible to catch."
Like Fuqua, the man who authored the play didn't know what was happening either. Terry Bradshaw was lying on his back when Harris grabbed the ball and took off while more than 50,000 people went nuts.
"I felt pressure coming from one side," said Bradshaw, "so I moved to the other side. Then I got some pressure over there so I started to scramble. Then I saw Frenchy and I didn't see anyone around, thought I'd drill it. Then I don't know what happened. Guess I got knocked down.
"When I looked up I saw Franco taking that Italian Army down the sidelines."
If there was some luck involved in the play, the Steelers weren't afraid to admit it. "God has been with us," said Fuqua.
"It was a dream play," Harris said. "Sometimes you need a little help like that."
And finally for the last question. With Bradshaw back there scrambling for his life and a trip to the Super Bowl, how come big, tough Franco harris wasn't with him trying to knock down a couple of those angry defensive linemen?
"I thought I'd sneak out and be a safety valve," harris explained.
Some safety valve!
Some football player.
First Published October 7, 2007 9:15 pm