Remembering College Football Bad Beats From the NCAA Video Game ‘Dead Era’

Remembering College Football Bad Beats From the NCAA Video Game ‘Dead Era’ article feature image

Rey Del Rio/Getty Images. Pictured: Michigan State’s Jalen Watts-Jackson scores a game-winning touchdown on a blocked punt against Michigan.

After 11 years in digital hibernation, EA Sports is finally set to release College Football 25 on July 19. We thought it would be fun to revisit the beloved video game series with a college football content collection.

Over the next month, we’ll be detailing how much has changed in the sport since the last game dropped in the summer of 2013, the stars that gamers missed out on playing with and more.

  • Pontiac College Classics 2.0
  • Top Moments in Gambling History (Today)
  • Top 5 Players We Would Have Loved Playing With (June 5)
  • Offensive Innovations (June 12)
  • How The CFB Landscape Has Changed (June 19)

Last week, we recounted the classic comebacks, upsets and last-second miracles that gamers could relive in a reboot of EA’s beloved “Pontiac College Classics” game mode.

In this installment, we’re highlighting what I affectionately refer to as “Great Moments in Gambling History.” The Bad beats and backdoors that broke hearts and busted parlays are getting their moment in the sun.

Here’s a look at the six moments gamblers will never forget from the “dead era” of the NCAA Football video game (2013-2024).

Coaching Blunders

2015: Michigan State vs. Michigan

Oct. 17, 2015
Battle for Paul Bunyan Trophy
Trouble With the Snap

Year 1 under Jim Harbaugh was going pretty well for Michigan. The Wolverines were 5-1 and ranked 12th in the polls.

They were about to score a top-10 victory over “Little Brother.” All they needed to do was protect a two-point lead with 10 seconds remaining at the Big House.

We all remember what happened next.

Long snapper Scott Sypniewski’s snap was a bit low, and punter Blake O'Neill struggled to field it cleanly. The ball rolled away from him, and by the time he picked it up, he was swarmed by Spartans.

He was spun around, and the ball popped up right into the waiting arms of sophomore safety Jalen Watts-Jackson. He was escorted to the end zone by a convoy of defenders and scored just as the clocked expired.

Michigan State had won outright as a +260 underdog and would eventually make the College Football Playoff.

So, why is such a fluky play in the "Coaching Blunders" section? All Harbaugh needed was his snapper and punter to execute a play they practiced thousands of times.

Well, when you watch the now-famous replay, you’ll notice 10 of the Spartans' 11 players on the line of scrimmage looking to block the punt. Michigan wasn’t in a punt “safe” formation. Instead, it had one gunner all by himself out wide.

Two defenders sprinted off the edge untouched, including the first one who hit O’Neil. Had Michigan been in a punt “safe” formation, O’Neill would have had another split-second to collect the football.

This is also taking other options off the board, including reasonable choices like going for it on fourth-and-2 at your opponent’s 47-yard line. A running play could have taken five seconds, and if they had picked up the yardage, they would have won the game.

But to punt and not account for Michigan State attempting to block the punt — there wasn't even a returner back — that’s a major blunder.

Watch the play here.

2023: Georgia Tech vs. Miami

Oct. 7, 2023
28th Meeting
Kneel It!

Mario Cristobal is set to make $80 million over 10 years as the head coach of the Miami Hurricanes, according to the Sun Sentinel. You would think, for that money, the university could count on Cristobal to help the program achieve great heights like winning the ACC or appearing in the College Football Playoff.

But we’re getting way ahead of ourselves. It seems like the Canes and Cristobal skipped right past some of the low-hanging fruit — namely the execution of the victory formation.

Leading 20-17 in the final minute of its game against Georgia Tech last October, Miami was one kneel-down away from a critical conference win.

With 34 seconds remaining, the Canes snapped the ball on third-and-10 at the Georgia Tech 30-yard line. The Yellow Jackets had zero timeouts remaining. The Action Network App reported the likelihood of an outright Miami win at 99%, while ESPN took it a step further claiming that there was a 99.9% likelihood of a Canes victory.

Instead of kneeling the ball, they ran it with Donald Chaney Jr. He picked up five yards and coughed up the football. Georgia Tech recovered — but that was just the start of the mayhem.

Remember, GT had zero timeouts remaining and needed to march it at least 40 yards to reach field-goal range. It had only 26 seconds to work with.

After replay confirmed the fumble and GT recovery, Haynes King started off the drive with an incompletion. Then he rainbowed a pass over a Miami defender who went for the game-winning interception.

Unable to undercut the pass, the football fell right into the arms of Malik Rutherford. His 30-yard reception put GT on the outer edge of field-goal range at the Miami 44-yard line. King spiked the ensuing snap, stopping the clock with 10 seconds remaining.

On the following play, King rolled out of the pocket, bought extra time and lofted his second deep shot of the drive inside the Miami 10-yard line. Christian Leary caught it in stride behind the Miami secondary and slid into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.

The all-time choke job by the Miami coaching staff and players is in the running for the worst “bad beat” in college football gambling history.

This wasn’t even Cristobal’s first time fumbling away a game that could have been won with a few kneeldowns. He pulled off a similar trick in 2018 as Oregon’s head coach, blowing a late three-point lead to Stanford before losing in overtime. It was all due to him insisting on running the football instead of kneeling out the clock.

His running back fumbled in a nearly identical situation. To quote Action Network’s Matt Mitchell, Cristobal should join Penn State’s James Franklin in "Clock Management Prison."

Watch the sequence here.

Phone With the Action App Open
The must-have app for college football bettors
The best NCAAF betting scoreboard
Free picks from proven pros
Live win probabilities for your bets

Hail Mary Magic

2013: Georgia vs. Auburn

Nov. 16, 2013
Deep South's Oldest Rivalry
Prayer at Jordan-Hare

This may be the little brother to the “Kick Six,” but you can make a strong case that this was Auburn’s most improbable win of 2013.

While it did win on the final play of regulation against Alabama in the Iron Bowl with a 109-yard return touchdown courtesy of Chris Davis, the stakes were different. That game was tied, and had he stepped out of bounds during the return or if an Auburn defender had been called for a block in the back, the game would simply have gone into overtime.

In this spot, the Tigers were staring down the barrel of a loss to Georgia.

Aaron Murray’s late touchdown run had given the Bulldogs a 38-37 advantage in what was a wild shootout featuring nearly 1,100 total yards.

Needing a field goal to win the game, Auburn had time to operate (1:39) and three timeouts in its back pocket.

But Georgia’s defense stiffened, creating two negative plays and one pass breakup in a three-play stretch. This set the stage for a fourth-and-18 at the Auburn 27-yard line with 36 seconds remaining.

Georgia rushed just three, dropping eight deep into coverage. Nick Marshall stepped up in the pocket and uncorked a high-arcing pass from his own 20. It traveled exactly 58 yards downfield before landing between two Bulldog defenders.

Josh Harvey-Clemons and Tray Matthews looked like two outfielders converging on a lazy fly ball. Instead of knocking the pass down or intercepting it, they inadvertently batted the ball up in the air.

Ricardo Louis caught the deflected pass in stride and sprinted into the end zone for the game-winning score.

The 73-yard pitch and catch also helped the Tigers cover the three-point spread. A prayer answered, indeed.

Watch the catch here.

2017: Florida vs. Tennessee

Sept. 16, 2017
3rd Saturday in September
Heave to Cleve

This nationally-ranked meeting was heavy on drama and excruciating to watch as a bettor.

After a low-scoring first half that ended, 6-3, in favor of the Gators, the game began to open up a bit in the fourth quarter. The Gators used a pick-six and a Feleipe Franks touchdown pass to Brandon Powell to open up a 20-10 lead with 5:13 remaining in the game.

Tennessee, a 6.5-point underdog, wouldn’t say "uncle." The Vols scored a touchdown, picked off Franks and banged home a short field goal in a 4.5-minute stretch to tie the game up at 20.

Not only were the Vols covering, but they also had a shot at an outright upset as +240 underdogs.

It appeared that Jim McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier were gearing up for overtime when they opted to run the ball on third down at their own 34-yard line. A short gain resulted in a first down, and Florida called its second timeout with nine ticks left.

Out of the timeout, UF went with four wide receivers in a trips-right formation. Franks stepped up in the pocket, wiggled through an arm tackle, approached the line of scrimmage and planted his right foot in the ground.

He launched a bomb from his own 36-yard line. The ball made it all the way to the end zone — two yards deep to be precise.

Tyrie Cleveland had a step on his defender, and the ball couldn’t have been better placed. He secured the pass, rolled over in the end zone and braced for a dogpile featuring 40 of his teammates streaming off the bench.

Because the play was the last of regulation and the game wasn't tied, no extra point was required. Florida won but didn't cover by the hook.

Watch the play here.

Scott Halleran/Getty Images. Pictured: Florida's Tyrie Cleveland catches a game-winning touchdown against Tennessee.

2014: Western Kentucky vs. Central Michigan

Dec. 24, 2014
1st Bahamas Bowl
Bahamas Are Bananas

As the College Football Playoff continues to expand, minor bowl games become less and less meaningful. But that doesn’t mean that December exhibitions don’t have the potential to deliver some holiday magic.

Case in point, the inaugural Bahamas Bowl between Western Kentucky and Central Michigan. This game certainly lacked in superstars and national intrigue but made up for it with an absurd second half.

As a 2.5-point favorite, Western Kentucky led, 49-14, with 8:56 remaining in the third quarter.

And then all hell broke loose in the West Indies.

Central Michigan clawed back into the game, and midway through the fourth quarter, the Toppers led, 49-28.

But a backbreaking wide receiver screen to Willie McNeal seemed to throw cold water on the comeback. He read his blocks perfectly, exploding down the sideline before cutting back at the CMU 18-yard line with his eyes trained on the end zone.

The only problem for McNeal was that his duck-under move had given three more Chippewa defenders time to track him down. He would be yanked down from behind, causing him to fumble the football. The Chips collected the ball at their own four and returned it back to their 36-yard line.

From there, Cooper Rush would lead a touchdown drive to cut the lead down to 14. After a three-and-out, CMU scored another touchdown in just 51 seconds.

Trailing by seven, CMU’s onside kick ricocheted off of a hands team member but was ultimately recovered by the Tops.

With just two timeouts remaining for the Chips and 1:09 on the clock, this game was all but finished. Western ran it three times and punted it back to CMU with the ball bouncing into the end zone with one second remaining.

Seventy-five yards stood between the Chips and the end zone.

Rush bought some time with his legs before firing a pass 50 yards downfield. Now, keep in mind, that only got the ball to the WKU 30.

It was caught by CMU’s Jesse Kroll, who quickly lateraled to tight end Deon Butler. He charged forward and was wrapped up at the WKU 15,but somehow bounced a lateral back to Courtney Williams, who made the most ambitious pass of the game — a left-handed flip to Titus Davis.

With eight Hilltoppers in his wake, Davis turned on the jets and extended the football out, hitting the pylon before being forced out of bounds at the goal line. If you had WKU laying the points, you still had overtime to bail you out — or so you thought.

Central opted to go for two and the win. And after making all that magic happen, they opted for a goal-line fade. The pass from Rush to Kroll was slightly off-target, and WKU survived without covering the spread. Brutality all around.

Watch the highlights here.

2023: Illinois vs. Mississippi State

Jan. 2, 2023
ReliaQuest Bowl
Tommy DeFeat-O

Even a forgettable minor bowl game played between two 8-4 teams can go down as a GMIGH (Great Moment in Gambling History).

This pillow fight was tied at 10 before a late chip shot from Massimo Biscardi gave Mississippi State a three-point lead with four seconds remaining.

After the kickoff, Illinois had one chance to score from its own 29-yard line. If you were holding an Illinois +3.5 ticket, you were golden. If you were on the other side, a loss by the hook was all but certain.

Future Italian-American cult hero Tommy DeVito dropped back to pass and threw underneath the prevent coverage. The pass was caught and then immediately lateralled to Isaiah Williams.

The Fighting Illini’s only true weapon sped down the sideline to the MSU 33 before stopping on a dime and hurling a lateral back toward the middle of the field. Tight end Tip Reiman caught it, then had it pop out of his hands. Luckily for Illinois, Casey Washington was there to snatch the ball out of the air.

He moved upfield a few yards and pitched it off to DeVito, who had made it inside the 40. The Illinois quarterback was hammered as he attempted a cross-field toss. The ball didn’t have enough steam on it and bounced in front of Williams.

Before he could secure it, the Bulldogs’ Marcus Banks scooped it up and took off running. His 60-yard scoop-and-score gave Mississippi State a 19-10 victory and an improbable cover with triple zeroes on the clock.

Watch the final play here.

How would you rate this article?

This site contains commercial content. We may be compensated for the links provided on this page. The content on this page is for informational purposes only. Action Network makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the information given or the outcome of any game or event.