Before this past Saturday, I thought I had known every cruel way to lose a football bet at the end of the game. A backdoor cover by the underdog in the final seconds. A long game-tying field goal to send the game to overtime, where unders go to die. Betting on a favorite that is just a yard or two out from covering the number, but can wrap up the game by just taking kneels.
I was mentally prepared for all of these scenarios. What happened in Baton Rouge on Saturday night, though, I was not.
As you can imagine, the LSU/Arkansas game absolutely made the list in this week’s SI Backdoor Cover Jinx, because it just goes to show that you are never really out of the woods with any bet until the clock shows zeroes. And while that ending is why betting on sports is not for the sane, it’s also the exact reason why I love doing so: It makes every game so much more interesting since every play matters, even when the score appears out of reach.
With that, let’s continue with our five most excruciating betting losses from this past week. But first, as always, here are some tunes to accompany this distressing reading.
5. Florida -6
It was astonishing that Florida was in a position to win this game, let alone cover. The Gators were down 17 points in the third quarter after South Carolina’s Rico Dowdle scored from four yards out.
Three touchdowns in a span of 15-plus minutes, however, put Florida up 35-31 with 4:09 remaining. A Jake Bentley interception shortly after gave the Gators back the ball in South Carolina territory.
Back in Week 7, Florida covered a -9.5 spread after trailing Vanderbilt 21-3, and it seemed like the Gators were going to break the hearts in equally devastating fashion of South Carolina bettors.
Instead, Jordan Scarlett ran for two first downs, which cost the Gamecocks a couple minutes of clock and all their timeouts. On Scarlett’s final run, he was tackled at the two-yard line, just short of what would have been a miraculous cover. But this felt like karma after the Vandy episode, and Florida coach Dan Mullen wisely had his team operate in victory formation, unlike one of his SEC coaching counterparts.
4. Cowboys/Eagles UNDER 45 points
This week’s NFL action was relatively tame on a gambling front in terms of heart-pounding finishes.
Sunday night’s showdown appeared to be a snoozer in the second half, with the Cowboys leading 16-6 midway through the third quarter after a missed 42-yard field goal by Brett Maher.
Then a rare NFC East scoring barrage transpired, with the two teams combining for four touchdowns in a span that occurred in less than 15 minutes. The final blow was an Ezekiel Elliott one-yard touchdown run with 3:22 left in the game to give the Cowboys a 27-20 win over the Eagles.
The good news: We get to bet against the Cowboys and Jason Garrett again this upcoming Sunday with their spread becoming inflated again after that victory. The line has already fallen from Falcons -4.5 to -3 in Atlanta.
3. Ole Miss +13.5
The Rebels have been a wonky team to bet on all season. It seemed like a 96-yard fumble return by Zedrick Woods early in the third quarter was the type of backbreaking swing needed for an underdog to not just cover, but also pull off the upset.
Instead, that was the last touchdown this Ole Miss team would score vs. Texas A&M despite all that offensive firepower.
Kellen Mond and Quartney Davis connected for their second touchdown of the second half with 4:36 left, which put the Aggies up 31-21. Ole Miss responded by driving inside the Texas A&M 10-yard line, but ended up kicking a field goal with just under two minutes left to make it a one-possession game.
What ensued next is the worst-case scenario for bettors backing underdogs.
Ole Miss didn’t recover its onside kick attempt, which put Texas A&M in Rebels territory. On the next play, Trayveon Wlliams darted 46 yards for a touchdown to put the Aggies on the right side of the number for the first time all game.
Yet, the Rebels still had multiple timeouts and 99 seconds at their disposal to march down for a backdoor cover. They gave Ole Miss bettors hope, but those dreams disappeared with Jordan Ta'amu getting sacked on the A&M 22-yard line on third and then completing a pass to star wideout A.J. Brown shy of the sticks on fourth-and-21.
2. Western Kentucky +17.5
Lane Kiffin’s FAU squad has become the poster child for the SI Backdoor Cover Jinx. So just beware betting on FAU games, unless you like sweating out last-minute drama.
A Devin Singletary one-yard scoring run gave the Owls a 27-9 lead less than five minutes into the fourth quarter. Western Kentucky came back with a 10-play, 75-yard drive capped by a D’Andre Ferby seven-yard rushing touchdown.
Now down 12, Western Kentucky recovered the onside kick. Four plays later, the Hilltoppers were at the FAU 10-yard line, primed to score again to make it a one-score game. Instead, a sack and three incompletions gave the Owls the pigskin back at their own 13-yard line with 3:57 left.
Despite not getting the touchdown, Western Kentucky bettors still had to be feeling good about covering the 17.5-point spread. But they knew the drill, no long touchdowns.
Two runs for 10 yards by backup tailback Kerrith Whyte Jr. gave FAU a first down and drained the clock down to 2:19 remaining. Just needing one first down to ice the game, Whyte Jr. broke free on his third straight carry, scampering 77 yards to put a dagger into the hearts of those who put money on the Hilltoppers.
1. LSU -13
Words only don’t do this finish justice. Here is a three-part story of this wild ending.
After LSU tailback Nick Brossette iced the game by running for a first down, he fell down short of the end zone. Arkansas didn’t have any timeouts left and there a little over a minute left on the clock. Two kneeldowns ends the game.
Instead, absolute chaos.
I had Arkansas +12.5, so you better believe I was screaming at the television. “WHY AREN’T YOU KNEELING, ED ORGERON?”
Despite the Tigers not punching it in for what would have been an all-time bad beat, Brossette and Orgeron have etched their names into SI Backdoor Cover Jinx lore for a helluva scare.
Yet, as always, the cover is always worth the sweat.