• A team scoring 26 points in the final nine minutes and a 104-yard interception return not reaching the end zone were responsible for brutal betting losses in this week's SI Backdoor Cover Jinx.
By Max Meyer
October 08, 2018

ESPN 30 for 30 voice: What if I told you that a less than two touchdown favorite couldn’t cover despite a seemingly insurmountable 49-10 lead in the fourth quarter? That a 104-yard interception return came up just short. That in a Texas-sized showdown on Sunday night, a matter of inches decided millions of dollars.

Welcome back to the SI Backdoor Cover Jinx, where there were several excruciating betting losses in this past week of football—including one that is currently on this season’s Mount Rushmore of soul-crushing beats.

But as always before we dive in, here are some accompanying tunes courtesy of Albert King. Warning: These lyrics, especially, “If it wasn’t for bad luck, you know I wouldn’t have no luck at all,” will cut deep into the core of every gambler. What a badass number though.  

5. North Carolina State -5.5

If you enjoy reading about favorites blowing big leads in the second half, this week’s SI Backdoor Cover Jinx is literary nirvana (you’ll see why later). For now, here’s the appetizer.

Undefeated N.C. State was up 28-3 with just under three minutes left to go in the third quarter. After Ryan Finley’s 34-yard scoring strike to Kelvin Harmon put the Wolfpack up 25, the Eagles responded less than 90 seconds later with a touchdown of their own to make it 28-10.

N.C. State drove again to Boston College territory on the following drive, however, Ricky Person Jr. fumbled on first down. The Eagles took advantage, as Anthony Brown and Ben Glines connected for an 11-yard touchdown on fourth-and-three. The two-point attempt was unsuccessful, and the Wolfpack maintained a 28-16 lead with nearly 11 minutes to go.

B.C. seemed primed for a backdoor cover on its following possession, but instead fumble luck swung the other direction, as Glines turned it over at the Wolfpack two-yard line with six minutes left.

N.C. State bettors thought they were in the clear after the offense got a first down to avoid being backed up near their own end zone. The Wolfpack couldn’t move the chains a second time on that drive, though, which would have probably iced the game and the cover.

Things went from bad to catastrophic on fourth down, as N.C. State’s punt was blocked and recovered in the end zone by Travis Levy. With the extra point through the uprights, B.C. was covering down by five points. The Wolfpack recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock, so the backdoor cover remained intact. But this heartbreaking “comeback” pales in comparison to the one residing later on.

4. Dolphins +6

This was a classic case of right side, wrong result.

The Dolphins did an excellent job of slowing down the Bengals’ offensive firepower in the first half. Already up 7-0 on a Kenyan Drake 22-yard touchdown reception, Miami added more points just before the break with a Jakeem Grant 70-yard punt return to the end zone.

The teams traded field goals to make it 17-3. The Bengals finally got going late in third, though that drive was aided by a T.J. McDonald unnecessary roughness penalty after an Andy Dalton incompletion on third down. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Dalton found Mixon from 18 yards out, and the Dolphins’ lead shrunk to 17-10.

That would be the last time Cincy’s offense would reach the end zone. The defense, however, was a different story.

Defensive lineman Michael Johnson picked off Ryan Tannehill and rumbled 22 yards into the end zone to tie the game at 17. The Bengals took their first lead of the game with 3:33 left on a Randy Bullock 20-yard field goal.

The Dolphins were at least still covering. But Miami had approached the dreaded bettors’ scenario of having a turnover-prone quarterback trying to lead a drive late in regulation.

On third-and-17 from Miami’s 18-yard line, those worst-case fears became reality after a Tannehill fumble was picked up by Sam Hubbard and returned to the house.

Tannehill was intercepted again on the following drive. And while the Dolphins got the ball one final time with 32 seconds left, down 27-17, that possession also ended without points. Those who bet on the Bengals should donate some of their winnings, because that had no business covering. 

3. Broncos/Jets OVER 21 points second half

This wager was off to a bumpy start thanks to just three points being scored in the third quarter. Jets kicker Jason Myers added his second field goal of the half to make it 27-10 early in the fourth quarter. Still, over bettors needed 16 points in 13 minutes to cash, and it seemed doomed when the Broncos failed on fourth-and-three from the Jets' six-yard line with 9:05 showing on the clock.

Yet, Gang Green drove 94 yards on six plays, with Terrelle Pryor’s 20-yard catch capping the touchdown drive. It became a 34-16 game with Case Keenum completing a deep ball to Demaryius Thomas with 3:18 left. The Broncos failed on the two-point conversion, though, which would have pushed the 2H total.

Despite not recovering the onside kick, the Broncos got the ball with 2:14 remaining after finally stopping a Jets offense that had gashed them for over 500 yards. Denver reached the New York nine-yard line with 34 seconds left, although a six-yard completion to Emmanuel Sanders brought it down to 11 seconds.

The Broncos still had at least one play left when they snapped the ball from the three-yard line. What unfolded became one of the greatest single-play rollercoasters in betting history.

Going from three yards out to a touchdown to disaster with Keenum’s interception to euphoria on Marcus Maye’s long return to ending with total devastation with Maye being stopped one yard shy of paydirt. HOW DO YOU NOT SCORE ON A 104-YARD RETURN?

2. Cowboys/Texans OVER 22 points first half

Betting the over can be incredibly frustrating when it’s a battle between subpar coaches. Whether it’s mind-numbing play calls or ultra-conservative decisions, overs in this situation feel like more of an uphill battle than usual.

Enter this primetime Jason Garrett vs. Bill O’Brien showdown.

Two Brett Maher field goals (one attempt came inside the Houston 10-yard line, a theme throughout the game) and a missed Ka’imi Fairbairn 48-yarder were responsible for the 6-0 Cowboys lead at the end of the first quarter.

Keke Coutee found paydirt on a one-yard touch pass from Deshaun Watson (that play is now all the rage in the NFL nowadays), and 1H over bettors were back in business. The Texans were back inside the Dallas five on their next drive, but had to settle for a Fairbairn field goal to make it 10-6 with six minutes left in the half.

A Dak Prescott sneak on fourth-and-inches from the Texans' 41-yard line—yes, you read that right Cowboys fans, Garrett went for it on fourth from that down and distance and yard line in the second quarter but not overtime—gave Dallas a good shot at scoring before the half. Unfortunately, the next play was a Prescott throw that bounced off Tavon Austin’s hands into those of Kareem Jackson.

The Texans now had the ball at their own 31-yard line. Four consecutive Watson completions moved it to the Cowboys nine-yard line with 29 seconds and two timeouts left. After two incompletions, Watson found star wideout DeAndre Hopkins over the middle and he seemed poised to score.

Instead, Hopkins wound up inches shy of glory for over bettors.

O’Brien rolled the dice on fourth-and-goal, yet Deshaun Watson lined up in shotgun. The QB’s first read, tailback Alfred Blue in the flat, was covered, and he then scrambled to his right. Several Cowboys were in pursuit, and Watson was stopped about two yards shy of the end zone by linebacker Jaylon Smith.

The teams had four trips inside the opponent’s 10-yard line in the game’s first 30 minutes, and those drives ended with a combined 13 points. And on that final possession of the half, football showed why it’s a game of inches. What a ruthless under in the Lone Star state.

1. UC Davis -13.5

The FCS not only gave us one of the biggest upsets in college football history this past week, it also gave us an all-time point spread collapse.

UC Davis led 42-10 after three quarters, and provided more cushion with a Gabe Martinez 16-yard touchdown catch with 9:15 remaining to make it 49-10.

Normally a 13.5-point favorite leading by 39 would be a lock to cash, but Big Sky football is apparently a different beast. Let’s run through everything that happened after that Martinez score.

•After converting on fourth-and-four from the UC Davis 7-yard line, Northern Colorado’s Milo Hall punched it in from one yard out. The ensuing two-point conversion made it 49-18 with 6:42 left.

•UC Davis kick returner Namane Modise's knee was down when he fielded the kickoff, and so the possession started at its own two-yard line. The Aggies recovered its own fumble on first-and-10 to briefly elude disaster. After a false start, they weren’t so lucky on second down, as Brock Johnson was tackled in the end zone for a safety. 49-20 UC Davis with 5:52 left.

•Northern Colorado only returned the free kick to its 11-yard line, but the Bears grinded out another scoring drive. They converted a fourth-and-15 from the UC Davis 30-yard line, and Hall scored his second touchdown of the quarter on an eight-yard reception from Conor Regan. Another successful two-point conversion made it 49-28 UC Davis with 3:15 left.

•The Bears recovered the onside kick, and now UC Davis bettors have started to sweat. Northern Colorado’s first two plays of the drive resulted in a sack and incompletion, bringing up a third-and-23. Sure enough, the Bears moved the chains after Regan completed a 33-yard throw to Alex Wesley.

•Now it’s near full-blown disaster, but at this point, most UC Davis bettors have felt more nauseous than panicked. Two plays later, Regan and Wesley connected again, however this time it was for an eight-yard score. 49-34.

Then, to etch their names into SI Backdoor Cover Jinx lore, Regan found Wesley once again on an NFL-esque touch pass for the two-point conversion and to put UC Davis on the wrong side of the number.

To recap: Three touchdowns, three two-point conversions, two successful attempts on fourth down, one disastrous kickoff return, one onside kick recovery, one safety and one third-and-23 conversion were all needed for this miraculous finish.

If you want to watch this unraveling with your very eyes, the video is below.

Most people in the stands in Greeley, Colo. won’t remember much from a 13-point home loss. For -13.5 backers, this is the type of loss that will haunt you for years. Ah, the ups and downs of sports betting.

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