94-year-old Wendell Winkler walks around in a snapback cap that reads, ‘Genuine Antique Person’ on the front, and ‘Been there, done that, can’t remember!’ on the back.

But if you ask him about the gold Big Eight Conference ring he wears on his right ring finger, there is little that he doesn’t remember about his time as a head linesman in the now-dissolved conference.

Winkler, who simply goes by ‘Wink’, will have a hard time ever forgetting one of college football’s most memorable games — and one of the most notorious. Winkler was the Big Eight’s supervising official in the press box during the University of Colorado’s 1990 matchup against the University of Missouri, better known as the ‘Fifth-Down Game’.

Winkler’s officiating career began as a way to make ends meet as he put himself through law school at Washburn University. When washing windows and helping at the local liquor store wasn’t cutting it, officiating six-man football in Topeka, Kansas was.

Officiating was something Winkler enjoyed, so he kept officiating games on the weekends, even after becoming an attorney. Winkler jumped from high-school football to Big Eight freshman ball before eventually working his way up to calling varsity games. Once his days as a head linesman were through, he continued his career from the press box as a supervising official.

As a supervising official, Winkler said his job consisted of making notes of plays that he wanted the referees to review on film ahead of their next game.

“You sat in the press box and observed play,” Winkler said. “You made a notation of the play and time so they could check the film the next week.”

Winkler’s side hustle has allowed him the opportunity to see enough football for a few lifetimes, and his resume bears that out. Over the course of Winkler’s 21 years as a head linesman, in addition to his 25 years as a supervising official, Winkler worked two Orange Bowls, two Sun Bowls and a Sugar Bowl. Winkler was the head linesman for the 1971 edition of the “Game of the Century” between the No. 1 Nebraska Cornhuskers and the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners that decided that year’s Big Eight champion — and the eventual national champion, after the victorious Cornhuskers crushed Alabama in the Orange Bowl.

While the No. 12 Colorado Buffaloes Oct. 6 matchup against the Missouri Tigers didn’t initially seem to have those kind of implications, the game turned out to be an important one down the stretch for the Buffaloes.

With wins over Texas and Washington, both ranked opponents at the time, and a Week 1 tie with No. 8 Tennessee, the Buffaloes were heavy favorites heading into Columbia, Missouri for their meeting with the 2-2 Tigers.

The Buffaloes and the Tigers traded blows, and after Missouri scored a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to give them a 31-27 lead, the Buffaloes would have one last chance to win the game.

With 2:29 remaining, the Buffaloes would have to drive 88 yards on a slippery field that they could hardly keep their feet on. What was supposed to be a blowout appeared to be an upset in the making.

With a fresh set of downs, 31 seconds to play and one timeout in their pocket on the Missouri three-and-a-half-yard line, it looked like the Buffaloes had the game in the bag.

Colorado quarterback Charles Johnson spiked the ball on first down.

Running back Eric Bieniemy was stuffed at the one-yard line on second down, forcing the Buffs to take their final timeout with 18 seconds remaining.

Bieniemy was stuffed at the goal line on third down.

The Buffs then spiked the ball on what they believed to be third down, but was actually fourth down with two seconds remaining, giving them just enough time to run one more play from the goal line.

On what everyone would later realize was actually ‘fifth down’, Johnson took it himself into a pile of Tigers and Buffaloes, and whether or not he broke the plane, the officials signaled a touchdown. Game over. Buffs win.

The Buffaloes were gifted an extra down, but nobody, not even Colorado, noticed until it was too late.

“If they knew it was fourth down, they wouldn’t have spiked the ball,” Winkler said. “They just spiked the ball to stop the clock and they scored on the last play.”

On that specific Saturday, Winkler was making his way down to the field from the press box during the final two minutes just as he’d done every other Saturday before.

“With all the turmoil as they were driving down to score and stop the clock and everything, we usually left the press box with about two minutes to go, so we’d be down on the field,” Winkler said. “At Missouri, you’d have to go down the elevator and go around the building to the south end of the field, and this is on the north end of the field on the goal line. Of course, we couldn’t tell what was going on. All I knew was that they called timeout and they spiked the ball.”

As he made his way towards the north end zone, where the Buffaloes had just won the game, he heard his name come over the intercom.

“After it was over the P.A. announcer said, ‘Will Wendell Winkler report to the 50-yard line,'” Winkler recalled. “I’m at the 50-yard line, J.C. Louderback comes over and says, ‘Wink did we give them a fifth down?’ and I said, ‘Hell I don’t know!'”

Winkler, making his way down from the press box, missed all the commotion.

“I didn’t even see the last series,” Winkler said. “I was coming from the south end and it was clear at the north end.”

During the postgame critique with the officials that he conducted every week, they had confirmed what the rest of the world already knew by that point. In the midst of CU’s hurry-up offense, just about everyone in the building had missed the fact that the Buffaloes ran an extra play.

“I don’t think anybody knew but the statistician,” Winkler said. “But after the ballgame was over, everybody knew it was a fifth down.”

Even after Louderback had realized the he’d just made a mistake that wound up costing Missouri the game, there was nothing he could do about it. The mistake had already been made.

“There was nothing he really could have done,” Winkler said. “The ballgame was over.”

Winkler had nothing to do with the actual call, but being an official himself, he knows just how difficult it can be to keep track of all the different things going on in a football game. Even 27 years later, he feels that everyone in that situation should’ve paid closer attention.

“All of the officials were good officials,” Winkler said. “It was just one of things where with all the turmoil and everything, they just blew it. All of the officials should’ve known what down it was, not just the head linesman, but the boxman and everybody else. Nobody really paid attention during the hurry and hustle.”

After defeating the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 10-9 in the 1990 Orange Bowl, the Buffaloes finished the season ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll, while the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets finished No. 1 in the Coaches’ Poll, receiving one more vote that the Buffaloes due largely in part to their controversial win in what came to be known as the “Fifth-Down Game”. As a result, the Buffaloes and the Yellow Jackets split the 1990 National Championship title.

It’s fun to reminisce on one of college football’s most unique games for just about everyone except J.C. Louderback. According to Winkler, he still sees his friend J.C. every year when all the officials get back together. They joke about a lot of things, but that game never comes up.

“Everybody wants to forget it,” Winkler laughed.

For as much football as Winkler has seen, one of college football’s wildest finishes was just another day at work.

“It’s just another memory,” Winkler said.

Nowadays, Winkler spends his time watching football on the couch like the rest of us, but unlike the rest of us, he splits his time evenly between watching the officials and the actual game.

Winkler hasn’t officiated a game in any capacity since the Big Eight officially dissolved in 1996, but along with the Big Eight ring he wears on his right hand, he still carries his game coin around in his pocket everywhere he goes.

While the message on his hat may portray Winkler as a forgetful man, the ring on his finger and the coin in his pocket say otherwise. True, there are some things about his time as an official that Winkler doesn’t remember. With the amount of football that he’s seen, how could he not?

But that midseason game between Colorado and Missouri in 1990? It’s one that Winkler will never forget.