If we are being honest, there aren’t a lot of great studio shows in sports right now — particularly in this specific moment as the coronavirus pandemic limits the options and energy for programs like ESPN College GameDay.
But the late night edition of SportsCenter, hosted by Scott Van Pelt, continues to be one of the rare exceptions. It’s funny. It’s informative. The interviews hit the right tone. And the planned segments are often memorable.
If you’ve watched the show even casually, you have probably noticed a bit called “Bad Beats,” in which Van Pelt runs highlights from the ends of games — many of them seemingly lopsided and/or meaningless — to show how a strange twist impacted tens of thousands of dollars switching hands based on gambling lines.
I don’t watch the late night SportsCenter every night. I haven’t seen all the Bad Beats segments. But one of the games from the segment Monday might have been the best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) that I’ve ever seen.
First, the premise: That you would wager on Virginia, favored by 39.5 points, to either cover or not cover the spread against Abilene Christian. I mean, I’ve plopped down a few wagers in Vegas on weekend trips, but I can’t imagine ever touching a game like that.
So what happened? Abilene Christian was trailing by 42 points late, but scored a late touchdown to pull within 36 with just under 90 seconds left. They’re going to cover! Abilene Christian gambling fans rejoice!
They were so excited to score a TD that they got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and the extra point was blocked. But still: Up 36. When Virginia gets the ball back, it’s going to be three kneel downs and an Abilene Christian cover, right?
You would think so. Abilene Christian didn’t even bother trying an on side kick. Instead, the ball went deep, where a Virginia player had to go retrieve it and fall on it at the 5 yard line. Fine. No worries. 1:25 left, Abilene Christian has just one timeout. Three plays and the game is over.
But then the first of two amazing things happened. Virginia, up 36, attempted a double pass from its own end zone.
Wait, what? You have to be kidding. I am not. Watch it for yourself, but be sure to pause the full segment after the double pass so you don’t spoil the ending yet.
Why on earth did they do that? Um, it was an accident. From Dailyprogress.com:
Offensive coordinator Robert Anae looked at the wrong line on his play sheet while being a little distracted trying to juggle substitutions. “Robert Anae was off a line,” Virginia head coach Bronco Mendenhall laughed. “He called in the wrong play at the end. We’re trying to run out the clock and we end up getting a double pass called out of our end zone.”
The resulting play ended up as a safety. So then it was 49-15 Virginia. The Cavaliers were still comfortably ahead, but Abilene Christian was for sure going to cover, right?
Well … Abilene Christian got the ball on the ensuing free kick and started marching down the field. But on the very last play of the game, Abilene Christian’s QB was hit as he threw the ball. It was intercepted and returned 84 yards for a touchdown as time expired. Final score: 55-15. Virginia wins by 40 and covers by half a point.
Honestly, I don’t know when I will stop thinking about the end of this game.