THE FEATHERDUSTER

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Sports gambling column: Week 12

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This past weekend, I had the best sports-related Saturday of my life.

I woke up on Saturday morning around 10:15 a.m. like I usually do, hoping to catch the last 30 minutes or so of ESPN’s College Gameday. I had forgotten where the show was taking place that day, and I was pleased to see ESPN was in Columbus, Ohio for the Michigan-Ohio State game, which I always look forward to. But because my parents and my friend, fellow senior Andrew Paape were driving up to College Station, Texas with me for the LSU-Texas A&M game that same day, I would have to miss at least the second half of the Michigan-Ohio State game. So as I gathered my chargers and earbuds for the two-hour drive, I paid little attention to the College Gameday broadcast, until they brought up the Michigan-Ohio State game with four or so minutes remaining in the show, as they always do with whatever game is featured that week. I saw Michigan was favored by 4.5 points, which struck me as odd because even though they were ranked six spots higher than Ohio State, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh had never beaten Ohio State during his tenure (he still hasn’t). I frantically searched for my laptop, knowing that I only had about three minutes to place a bet before the betting for the game would be locked since Michigan-Ohio State started immediately after College Gameday ended. I logged in to Bovada as quickly as I could and noticed that the Ohio State money line to win outright was a smooth +165. I placed $10 on it and hopped in the car to head up to College Station. Of course, I was constantly refreshing my ESPN app to check on the game, and I was pleased to see that Ohio State had jumped out to a 21-6 lead with four minutes left in the second quarter. After that, thanks to some great plays by quarterback Shea Patterson and a fumbled kickoff by Ohio State, Michigan was able to score 13 points in six seconds to cut the lead to two. Even though it wasn’t even halftime yet at that point, I was already dreading the seemingly inevitable Michigan win, which would have pretty much crushed my gambling dreams. But Ohio State quarterback Dwyane Haskins Jr. was able to shred the vaunted Michigan defense in the second half to the tune of a 62-39 victory, and the game was pretty much over by the time we pulled into the parking garage in College Station.

As I’m sure you can imagine, I was very excited to win my first bet. But that excitement paled in comparison to what was to come later that day.

Once we got to College Station, we still had about four hours until the LSU-Texas A&M game, which was set to kick off at 6:30 p.m. Since Andrew and I both applied to A&M, we wandered around with my parents, which we had to do anyway because we were picking up two pairs of tickets from two different people at two different tailgates. Since these tailgates happened to be on opposite sides of the massive campus, we probably walked at least three miles that afternoon in what would become a very agitating and confusing trip full of curses directed towards Apple Maps. Eventually, Andrew and I found the person who had helped us get tickets, a senior at A&M named Kyle (named after the Kyle of Kyle Field) who uses a wheelchair. Once we had all introduced ourselves, Andrew and I explored College Station on our own for an hour or two while my parents stayed at the tailgate they had been invited to. We got back to Kyle Field at about 6:00 to meet up with my parents, but we still had to track down Kyle, who still had our tickets. A gameday at Texas A&M is about as hectic as it gets, so it took us around 20 minutes to find Kyle in the masses of people. When we did, there was no time to waste before the game, and Kyle showed us to the elevator we would use to get to our seats. Ascending on the crowded elevator, we had no idea that we were about to witness the craziest college football game of all time.

By the time we got to our seats in the student section, Andrew and I quickly realized that there is nothing quite like a home game at Kyle Field. Through the years, I’ve been somewhat dismissive of everything Aggie, always claiming that (as a huge LSU fan), Texas A&M’s football program and traditions weren’t on par with the big-time programs in the Southeastern Football Conference (SEC). But the atmosphere at Kyle Field is incredible, especially against a hated rival like LSU that had won seven straight matchups against A&M. As one of the very few LSU fans in the A&M student section, I was out of my element both as a high school student and as an LSU fan. But I was able to disguise myself as an A&M fan by wearing the promotional shirt that was made for the game, which I had bought that afternoon at the A&M bookstore (one of my best decisions). While the shirt was intended to be neutral, it only came in maroon, so I looked like your regular A&M fan. I cheered half-heartedly for A&M, even though both Andrew and I looked like idiots in the student section for not knowing any of the many chants that A&M fans belt out over the course of a game.

I often found myself alternating between the ambiguous sounds I made to support LSU and the cheers that I made towards A&M (the most painful being coming when LSU kicker Cole Tracy missed a field goal by hitting the post). The game was extremely entertaining. However, I’m not going to even attempt to describe more than a select few individual plays to you because as much as I like writing this column, (you know, I don’t have to write these) it would probably take me something like 10,000 words (that’s a third of Of Mice and Men) and more caffeine and time than I have available to me. Go watch the highlights, or just watch the whole game if you can find it. What you need to know is that this game was probably the craziest game ever played in college football history, and would probably be widely considered to be the greatest game ever played in college football history if the stakes were higher. But even before the record-tying seven overtimes, this game was one for the ages. Everyone watching that game thought LSU had it in the bag up by seven with only 26 seconds left after A&M quarterback Kellen Mond threw what appeared to be a game-sealing interception for LSU, caught by free safety Grant Delpit (the same guy dropped a game-sealing interception just a few plays earlier). Andrew, Kyle and I left our seats, with me being the only one happy with the result of the game. However, as we were about to go down the elevator to start the process of driving home, we noticed a group of people huddled around one of the screens that was showing the telecast of the game. Mond had recovered his own fumble before the same play that he had thrown the interception on. The original call on the field was that he was not down before throwing the ball. But on the replay, Mond clearly was down, meaning that A&M still had the ball and still had a chance to send the game to overtime. Not only did A&M convert on a do-or-die long fourth down, but they also were able to spike the ball with one second left in regulation after a replay review, meaning that A&M got two game-sealing plays reversed in under 30 seconds (can you tell I’m still a little bitter?). Even after all that, A&M still had just one second to tie the game with a touchdown. When they did, Andrew and I simultaneously lost our minds when they scored, sending the game to what would be the first of seven overtimes. I have never heard a stadium cheer as loudly for anything than the fans at Kyle Field did at that game.

What transpired during those seven overtimes might have been even crazier than the ending of regulation, but since each team scored over 40 points in the overtime periods, I’m not even going to bother talking about plays except for the final one of the 74-72 A&M win. An A&M receiver made a great catch on a two-point conversion, capping off an incredible night for the A&M receivers and sports fans as a whole. With the five-hour marathon of football finally over, Andrew and I thanked Kyle for the tickets and made our way back to the car to meet up with my parents.

Despite the fact that we got back in Austin sometime around 2:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, I was way too wired to sleep a wink on the drive back home (the same could not be said for Andrew). I was thinking about a lot of things, but the topic that stuck with me the most was the sheer amount of things that had to go right for that game to go the way that it did. First of all, Andrew and I were lucky enough to decide to go to that particular game in the first place, even luckier to find Kyle before kickoff, and perhaps most fortunate to not leave the stadium when we thought it was over after what we thought was the game-ending interception. That’s not even mentioning all the crazy things that had to go the way they did to get the game to seven overtimes, so yeah, I am very grateful to have witnessed what will probably be the most entertaining sporting event I’ll ever witness in my lifetime. That’s a bittersweet thought, but the vast majority of sports fans won’t be able to ever say they were at a game as wild as this one was. LSU losing was disappointing, sure. But am I really going to complain about the loss when I got to experience what I did? That was a night that I’ll never forget, and oh yeah, I’ll never forget my first gambling win either. See you next week.

 

Money spent to date: $100

Winnings to date: $26.50

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Sports gambling column: Week 12