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Bad Beats / Lucky Wins

   by Larry Ness - 09/13/2006

As sports bettors, we all seem to remember our "bad beats" while taking for granted our "lucky wins." One must remember that for everyone suffering from a bad beat, someone else is celebrating a lucky win. One often hears a bettor talk about having the "right side" or "wrong side" of a game. After more than two decades in this business, I've resigned myself to the proposition that there are no right or wrong sides but rather winning and losing sides. Here's some of this past weekend's "bad beats and lucky wins."

The college weekend started on Thursday with Oregon State at Boise State. The Beavers opened the game with a long TD drive and after Boise State was held to a three-and-out on the team's first possession, OSU returned the punt for a TD. Up 14-0 and getting between 7 1/2 and nine points, the Beavers NEVER scored again. 'Over' players suffered a tough loss as the total was around 59 or 60 and the halftime score was 28-14 Boise. Boise made it 42-14 with almost 12 minutes left in the game and one more TD would push the game over. With no pressure on them, the Beavers easily drove to the Boise 20 yard-line but an offensive holding call set them back and they were eventually stopped on downs at the 18. No one scored after that.

Friday night Pittsburgh was in Cincinnati to take on the Bearcats. Pitt closed a 7 1/2-point favorite and the total closed 44. Pitt led just 7-0 at the half, making the 'under' look pretty safe. Pitt went up 23-0 midway through the third and led 26-7 after a FG with just about 7 1/2 minutes left in the game. However, things changed quickly. The Bearcats, whose only TD to that point had been after recovering a fumbled punt at the Pitt 17, drove 79 yards for a score and added a two-point conversion to make it 26-15. Pitt then promptly fumbled and Cincy was faced with a 4th and one around the Pitt 10. The Bearcats decided to go for it and were stopped with about 3 1/2 minutes left. Pitt bettors looked safe, as did under bettors. However, Pitt couldn't run out the clock and punted, leaving Cincy time for just one play. Pitt intercepted Cincy's pass and returned it for a TD, leaving under bettors shaking their heads, as the final read, 33-15!

Saturday's games provided a number of beauties. Last year at Clemson, BC beat the Tigers 16-13 in OT, in the school's first-ever ACC road game. Saturday's game was expected to be close as BC opened as a the small favorite but questions surrounding the health of QB Ryan saw the money make Clemson the small favorite by Saturday. Clemson jumped out to a a10-0 lead and led 17-10 at the half. However, BC returned the opening KO of the second half for a TD and the game remained tied at 17 into the fourth quarter. Clemson went up 24-17 but BC tied it with 4:59 left.

In OT, BC was held to a FG on its first possession and after a 22-yard completion, the Tigers had 1st and goal at the three. Lined up in a full-house backfield, Clem ran a sweep(?), losing four yards! BC then sacked the Clemson QB on second down and the Tigers had to settle for a FG. In the second OT, Clemson got the ball first and overcame a 2nd and 26 situation from the 41 with consecutive 20-yard completions. The Tigers scored but saw the extra-point blocked! BC then won the game on its possession by scoring and converting the extra-point (34-33).

Fresno State has made a habit of beating BCS schools under Pat Hill but the Bulldogs have suffered some heart-breaking losses to Oregon over the years. Last Saturday was no different. Midway through the third quarter Fresno State tied the game at 17-all. Oregon responded with a long drive but was forced into a FG attempt. FSU blocked the try but instead of allowing the ball to roll dead, FSU attempted to recover the ball. It squirted free and Oregon recovered at the FSU five-yard line. The Ducks scored to go up 24-17.

The Bulldogs tied the game on a 74-yard TD drive with just under 11 minutes to go. However, the Ducks mounted one last drive and faced a third-and-goal at the FSU four-yard line with just about five minutes left. On third down the Ducks were stopped and they set up for the go-ahead FG. Oregon was a 3 or 3 1/2-point choice, so a 27-24 final would see the game land "on the number", or given FSU bettors a half-point win. Oregon faked the FG attempt (remember FSU had blocked the last try) and kicker Paul Martinez took the pitch for a four-yard TD, scoring the first TD of his eight-year football career. The 31-24 final also gave Oregon the ATS win.

A quick look at Va Tech's 35-10 win over North Carolina could give one the impression that the Hokies dominated the Tar Heels. Not so. NC's first three drives all reached inside the Va Tech 35 but the Tar Heels came away with just three points. The last of those three drives resulted in an interception which was returned to the NC one-yard line, setting up Va Tech's first TD. Va Tech's second TD came after a blocked punt was recovered at the NC one! Leading 21-3 in the third quarter (Tech closed as 13-point favorites), the Hokies added a 69-yard interception TD and another their other fourth-quarter TD was also set up by an interception.

Let's not forget the NFL. The Sunday night game featured Peyton vs Eli and while the Giants outrushed the Colts 186-55 for the game and Eli played Peyton to a standstill, the Colts got the win and cover. Indy led 16-7 at the half (Colts were three-point favorites) but the Giants got to within 16-14 in the third quarter. An Eli fumble near mid-field in the late third quarter led to an Indy TD in the early fourth but Giants closed to 23-21 with about eight minutes left. NY got the ball back deep in its own territory when everything went wrong for Giant bettors.

Eli completed a third-and-two pass for about 20 yards (apparently getting out of danger) but NY was called for offensive pass interference (phantom call!). Naturally on the ensuing play, Eli's pass was intercepted. The Colts faced a third-and-two of their own with about 1:30 left in the game. If the Colts could convert, they'd run out the clock for a two-point win, giving the Giants the cover. However, Indy didn't convert and Vinatieri's 33-yard FG (I thought he had a broken foot!) gave Indy the 26-21 win and the cover!

Arizona got to open at home for the first time since 1988 and was rewarded with a game against the 49ers (13-35 these last three seasons). The Cardinals opened as 7 1/2 point favorites but were bet up to 9 1/2 or even 10. The 49ers scored first but Arizona quickly took a 21-7 lead. A 49er FG with 8:52 left in the game cut Arizona's lead to 31-24 but a 13-play Arizona drive led to a FG with just under two minutes left, restoring that 10-point lead. SF quickly moved 44 yards and on FIRST DOWN, kicked the 'covering' FG from 44 yards. SF then recovered the onside kick but went nowhere. However, for Cardinal bettors, the damage had already been done.

Under players cashed 12 of 16 tickets in Week 1 (games averaged just 34.6 PPG) but should have been 14-2! The Jets/Titans game opened 37 and closed 35 1/2. The Jets led 16-0 into the 4th with the Titans getting nowhere. Then, the Titans but together a nine-play 80-yard TD drive plus converted on the two-point try. With just over six minutes left, Pennington was hit and fumbled on a third-and-10 play from the NY Jets' 11. Tennessee recovered at the one. The Titans scored and again converted the two-pointer (you can't make this up!). Now under players were sweating and praying the game would be decided by a FG. No such luck, as Pennington drove the Jets on a seven-play 57-yard TD drive, giving the Jets a 23-16 win and over bettors a rare win in Week 1.

In the Dallas/Jacksonville game (total of 37), the Cowboys jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and the Jags returned in kind by outscoring the Cowboys 10-0 in the second. No one scored in the third and under players still looked safe with the Jags leading 17-10 late in the fourth. It still didn't look too bad when Jacksonville made it 24-10, as there was just over three minutes left and Dallas hadn't scored since the first quarter, However, that T.O. is a "money player" and he caught a 21-yard TD pass from Bledsoe, capping a 79-yard drive that took only 1:19.

Join me next Wednesday for another addition of Bad Beats / Lucky Wins, Friday for Ness Notes and every Monday for my latest Heisman Trophy Top-10.

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