The Worst Bad Beat in College Football History?
The onslaught of a”bad beat” in sports betting has a unique sound and feel all its own. Think of an approaching freight train. Recall the suspense of a slasher movie. Imagine the instant right before an explosion.
I’ve heard this sound of terror many times.
Last night, Marieta and I sat down to a cozy post-holiday dinner at The Orleans. There’s a weeknight steak and lobster special for $7.11 going on at the cafe all this month. For those unfamiliar the layout inside The Orleans, the cafe is located on the casino floor, right next to the race and sportsbook. The place was packed.
I had the perfect plan. Enjoy dinner. Then, go cash my winning sports ticket. A hearty meal always tastes better with a winner tucked inside your pocket. Indeed, I had about as conceivable a “lock” as there was. I was so confident, that I considered ordering two steak and lobster specials. Why not? $7.11 twice was $14.22 — good for two steaks and two lobsters.
Then, I heard the rumblings of that horrible sound. It was the freight train, the horror scene, and the final ticks before an imminent explosion.
Truly one of those “Oh my God,” moments.
But wait. How did this moment of paralysis come to be? Why would hundreds of sports betters, as well as thousands of gamblers out on the massive casino floor suddenly be making such an odd collective sound? They couldn’t possibly be watching the same game I had bet on, could they? After all, my bet was a “lock.” It couldn’t possible lose.
Four hours earlier, I stood at the betting window with cash in hand. ”GIVE ME DUKE +9.”
Near end of the first quarter, Duke was ahead 16-0. Sixteen-zip. Sweet. I kicked myself for not playing the moneyline.
I didn’t check the score again until the closing minutes of the game. Why should I? Why waste the night watching something that was in the bag? Hell, it wasn’t just in the bag. It was gift wrapped. A late Christmas present. Getting +9 points, I was essentially ahead 25-0. And of course, I had the right side, because when I make a bet, it’s always the right side.
By the time we arrived at The Orleans, the game had come down to the wire. Duke’s opponent, Cincinnati made a valiant comeback. But the pointspread was in no danger. Frankly, I could’t care less which team won the game. I didn’t even know the name of the bowl in which they were playing. All that mattered was who covered, and my team, Duke, was certain to beat the spread.
A glance at the television screen showed the game tied — 34-34. Less than two minutes remained. Duke had the ball and was driving near the goal line. Remember, I was getting +9 points. Even if I didn’t score, it didn’t seem to matter. Go ahead, send the game into overtime, I thought. That way, I couldn’t lose.
With 1 minute and 32 seconds left on the clock and the game tied at 34-34, Duke had the ball 2nd and goal on the opponent’s 5-yard line. It looked like Duke was going to win outright. All they had to do was fall on the ball a couple of times and then kick the winning field goal. Once again, I thought to myself — I should have played the moneyline on Duke getting something like 4 to 1.
There really wasn’t any reason to watch, since my money was locked. So, we proceeded go to the cafe, get a table, and place our order.
It’s hard to keep track of time in the aftermath of tragedy, but a few more minutes passed. That’s when the rumbling sound of terror began.
The noise grew louder. Then, it grew louder still. I looked around and everyone tucked inside the sportsbook was standing. Half the room was hollering and wildly jumping up and down. The rest were either sitting in stunned silence or screaming profanities. Something big must have happened.
What was going on?
The buzz lasted for at least a minute or so. It appeared everyone was watching the Duke-Cincinnati football game. Had there been a spectacular play? No way. This wasn’t the sound coming from casual fans or the celebration of a remarkable athletic feat. No. No. No. This was the sound of pure ecstasy and unbearable pain. Alas, I knew that sound all too well. I had heard that sound many, many times.
I couldn’t bear to sit and wait in the dark. I had to find out what happened.
The walk towards the nearest television screen was one of those uncomfortable moments. A moment of trepidation. Sort of like getting ready to take a seat in dentist’s chair. Dread. Fear.
As I approached, the score at the bottom of the television screen slowly came into focus. The letters and numbers became increasingly clear. There was no way what I was seeing was true.
CINCINNATI — 48
DUKE — 34
Are you fucking kidding me? I think that’s what I said. I know for sure that’s what I thought. It’s all a big blur now. Like remembering what happened in the fuselage during a plane crash.
Wait just a minute. Duke had the ball on the opponent’s FIVE YARD LINE! There was a A MINUTE AND A HALF left in the game! I was GETTING NINE POINTS!
And now, I was losing by two touchdowns? I was down by FOURTEEN POINTS?
WHAT THE FUCK!!!
Even more amazing — there was still 14 seconds left in the ball game. So, whatever happened must have occurred in the span of just 78 seconds.
Recreating the crime scene from the official game log posted at ESPN.com, here’s what happened:
|2nd and Goal at CIN 5||Josh Snead rush for no gain, fumbled, forced by Brandon Mills, recovered by Cincy John Williams at the Cincy 5.|
|DRIVE TOTALS: DUKE drive: 9 plays 52 yards, 03:45 DUKE FUMB|
|1st and 10 at CIN 6||Brendon Kay rush for 9 yards to the Cincy 15.||34||34|
|2nd and 1 at CIN 15||Brendon Kay pass incomplete.|
|3rd and 1 at CIN 15||George Winn rush for 2 yards to the Cincy 17 for a 1ST down.|
|1st and 10 at CIN 17||Brendon Kay pass complete to Travis Kelce for 83 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.||40||34|
|Tony Miliano extra point GOOD.||41||34|
|Pat O’Donnell kickoff for 47 yards returned by Patrick Kurunwune for 14 yards to the Duke 32.|
|DRIVE TOTALS: CINCINNATI drive: 4 plays 94 yards, 00:48 CINCINNATI TD|
|1st and 10 at DUKE 32||Sean Renfree pass complete to Jamison Crowder for 13 yards to the Duke 45 for a 1ST down.||41||34|
|1st and 10 at DUKE 45||Timeout DUKE, clock 00:32.|
|1st and 10 at DUKE 45||CINCINNATI penalty 15 yard Personal Foul on Dan Giordano accepted.|
|1st and 10 at CIN 40||Sean Renfree pass intercepted by Nick Temple at the Cincy 45, returned for 55 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.||47||34|
|DRIVE TOTALS: DUKE drive: 2 plays 28 yards, 00:30 DUKE INT|
A three touchdown swing in 78 seconds? Yep.
First, the idiot Duke running back fumbled the ball on the five-yard line. Four plays later, Cincinnati throws an 83-yard touchdown pass. Then, Duke gets the ball back. On the third play of the drive, the quarterback gets blindsided, and Cincinnati runs back an interception 55 yards for a touchdown.
After muttering a string of expletives that won’t be transcribed here, I returned to the cafe. One look at my face, and Marieta knew exactly what happened.
“Don’t tell me, it lost,” she said.
My silence said it all.
“Pass me the butter, please,” I replied. ” These lobsters taste like shit.”