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Bad Beats

   by Ben Burns - 11/18/2008

Buffalo at Akron

Most were expecting the final game ever played at the Rubber Bowl to result in a shootout. The over/under line opened at a high 58.5 and closed at an even higher 61. I felt the game would prove to be lower-scoring than expected though and made a bet on the final combined score to finish below 61.

With time winding down in the fourth quarter things were looking fairly good. In fact, with 30 seconds remaining, the teams had combined for just 41 points, as Buffalo held a 24-17 lead.

Cue the dagger. After more than 60 years at the Rubber Bowl, the Zips weren't going to go down without a fight. With 23 seconds left, they scored a touchdown. With the conversion pending, the score was now 24-23. Naturally, at this point, those of us with 'under' tickets were pulling for Akron to attempt a two-point conversion.

Unfortunately, the Zips decided to take their chances in overtime instead, electing to kick the single point and tie the game up at 24-24. All hope wasn't completely gone though, as with an over/under line of 61, there was still some room to work with though. After all, just the previous night a pair of high-scoring teams (Central Michigan and Northern Illinois) from the same conference, combined for only three points in Overtime.

Of course, that didn't happen here! Instead, the Zips and Bulls played four overtime periods and combined for 35 points! The final score of 43-40 doesn't reveal what a tough loss this was for 'under' bettors.

USC at Stanford

After Stanford shocked USC (as a 41-point underdog!) the previous season, the betting public backed the Trojans to have their revenge in this game. USC opened as a 22 point favorite but the line closed at -24.

The visiting Trojans got off to a slow start and found themselves trailing 10-3 at the end of the first quarter and tied 17-17 at halftime. In fact, without a 93-yard kickoff return touchdown, the Trojans would have been trailing at the break.

Whether it was that touchdown that caused it, or whether it was Coach Pete Caroll's halftime speech, the Trojans really "woke up" in the second half. Carroll had this to say: "When we got in the locker room, it just wasn’t going to be. These guys just were not going to let this game stay the same. Both lines of scrimmage just went crazy." Indeed, the Trojans dominated the second half and scored 28 unanswered points. It looked liked the game would end with a final score of 45-17.

Here's where things got interesting. With time winding down, Stanford coach Harbaugh decided to send his field goal kicker Aaron Zagory on for a meaningless field goal. Even if Zagory had made the field goal the pointspread would not have been affected. Despite the fact that the field goal was completely meaningless, in an effort to "ice" Zagory, Carroll decided to call a timeout.

Cue the dagger. Given some more time to think about it and with quarterback Alex Loukas pleading with him to "go for it," Harbough elected to send the offense back on the field.

What happened? Loukas threw an 18-touchdown pass as time expired to give Stanford the cover!

San Diego at Pittsburgh

If the ending of Saturday's USC/Stanford game was "strange," then the ending of Sunday's Pittsburgh/San Diego clash was downright bizarre. With the exception of the score, the game itself was relatively "normal." With time winding down, the Steelers were ahead by a single point. Note that no game in NFL history had previously finished with a final score of 11-10. That's not the bizarre part though!

Fast forward to the final play of the game. With no time left on the clock and deep in their own territory, the Chargers were doing anything that they possibly could to keep the final play of the game alive. After a couple of laterals, they fumbled the ball and Pittsburgh's Troy Polamula scooped up the ball and ran it into the end zone.

The Steelers, who closed as 4.5 point favorites, were a popular pick with the majority of the betting public. Therefore, there were more than a few excited bettors around the country when they saw the referees signal touchdown and the scoreboard read 17-10.

Game over, right? Not so fast! The replay booth decided to take a look at whether or not the passes were legal. After what seemed like a lot longer than it probably really was, the ref came out on the field and stated that one of the passes was an illegal forward pass but that Pittsburgh was declining the penalty and that the touchdown would stand. That wasn't the last of it though. Suddenly, the confused officials reversed their ruling and stated that because of the pass being illegal that the play would become dead on the spot and that the touchdown would no longer stand! Final score 11-10.

Here's the kicker. Even if one of the laterals was actually an illegal forward pass (I personally never saw conclusive evidence of this) the rules state that the score still should have counted. The NFL even admitted afterwards that the ruling was incorrect and that the touchdown should have stood.

In the span of a few minutes, what would have been an absolutely devastating beat for San Diego bettors (and the books!) turned into one of the more fortunate wins in recent memory.

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