3 Utah State Bettors Visited Alabama With $2 Million On The Line. Their Bets Lost Within Minutes.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images. Pictured: Calvin Tyler Jr. #4 of the Utah State Aggies.
A group of New Jersey bettors placed futures wagers earlier this year on Utah State to win the national championship. A win could have netted a profit of $2 million.
The bets were so ridiculous that the news made its rounds across the country — and even to an Uber driver in Nashville named Renee.
Bar owner Pete Kizenko, a man who calls himself “Johnny Tsunami” and Naomi Etienne — decked in Utah State gear — flew from New Jersey to Nashville in order to see their beloved, newly adopted team take on Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
A three-and-a-half hour car ride from Nashville to Tuscaloosa was in order. During the ride, the trio found out their driver, Renee, had placed a wager on Utah State to win it all after reading about their exploits.
“She couldn’t believe we were the people who made the bet,” Kizenko said.
In April, Kizenko put down $1,000 on the Aggies to win the natty at 1,000-1, a bet that would have netted $1 million.
Days later, he put another $1,000 down and syndicated it to seven people, including employees and patrons at his Freehold, N.J. bar, like Johnny and Naomi.
The bets were made on a hunch, a total shot in the dark derived from rumors Kizenko had heard from former Division-I athletes at a wedding.
Utah State started the season well with an 11-point, Week 0 win over UConn.
Then, came the real test. A date with the best team in the country at their own home turf. A win would almost certainly vault the Aggies into the national championship conversation, contingent on an undefeated season down the stretch.
The issue? Utah State were 42-point underdogs. Had they pulled off the miracle, it would’ve been the biggest upset in college football history, besting the time when Stanford beat USC as 40.5 point underdogs in 2007.
The trio were treated as “B-List celebrities,” Kizenko said, among the roughly 500 Utah State fans that made the journey down south.
“The Alabama fans were mostly nice, save for the guy who spit in my face,” the man who calls himself “Johnny Tsunami” added.
As the gang sat down in their seats, they were optimistic — buoyed by months of anticipation — that maybe, just maybe, their ridiculous longshot would gain its legs that Saturday afternoon.
After a Utah State three-and-out started off the contest, Alabama marched down the field. But, the Aggies held them to a field goal.
“I felt pretty good at that point,” Kizenko said.
Except another Utah State three-and-out ensued. Then, Alabama reached the end zone for the first time.
And Utah State’s death came swiftly afterward.
Down 10-0 from their own 34-yard line, Utah State went for it on fourth-and-one and didn’t convert. Three plays later, it was Alabama, 17-0.
“I liked that they went for it there,” Kizenko said. “When you play Alabama at Alabama, you have to try to win.”
It got more painful from there.
Pete wanted some extra action and caught the Aggies at +38.5. By halftime, it was 41-0.
Bama only scored 14 points in the second half, but Utah State didn’t get close, only mustering seven first downs on 136 yards of total offense during an eventual 55-0 shutout.
“I watched the kicker warm up the whole game,” Kizenko said. “Felt kind of bad for him that he didn’t get in.”
While the loss was as quick as it gets, the build-up throughout the offseason made it all worth it, Kizenko said.
The trio even said they would consider executing on a similar Hail Mary longshot down the road — if they found “the right pony.”