All-Time Greatest Point Spread Finishes - No. 3
by Josh Nagel - 12/15/2008
It would take a heck of a memorable game and some bizarre circumstances for an over/under total to make the list of greatest point spread games over the past five years. The LSU vs. Oregon State football tilt in 2004 qualifies as one such example.
The game ended up being a turning point in the careers of high-profile players from each team for different reasons, and they both went on to accomplish great things.
For gamblers, the side was a no-doubter if you had the points, but it was a heck of a wild ride for anyone who had the total. Here's the story.
Score: LSU 22, Oregon State 21
Date: Sept. 9, 2004
Spread: LSU -18.5, total of 43 ½
Why it was memorable: It was perhaps the wildest conclusion of a total in college football history. This was the first game of the season, and LSU was coming off a national championship under Nick Saban. The Tigers lost several key players to graduation and the NFL draft and were expected to have a young but solid team.
Oregon State had a veteran-laden club led by future NFL quarterback Derek Anderson and, upon further analysis, I was prepared to take the points here and hope the Beavers could keep things respectable in a historically brutal place for visiting teams.
That is, until I saw ESPN's pre-game coverage and saw that the field at LSU was a virtual swamp and the game might be delayed because torrential rains were making the field nearly unplayable. I switched my allegiance from the underdog to the under, and ran to the nearby casino to see that the total had dropped from 45 to 43 1/2. I took it anyway, figuring the offenses would literally be stuck in the mud and unable to challenge the over.
As predicted, neither team could do much on offense, but LSU looked particularly lethargic and Oregon State had some substantial drives. Midway through the third quarter, the Beavers were up 15-0 on two touchdowns and one field goal. A young kicker named Alexis Serna had missed both extra points amid the wicked conditions.
Behind a freshman quarterback named JaMarcus Russell, LSU launched a fourth-quarter comeback but needed a touchdown and a two-point conversion in the waning seconds to send it to overtime. This seemed unlikely but Russell led the Tigers down the field against an exhausted Beavers defense, got the touchdown and conversion, and the game went to overtime.
Bettors who had the under had cause for concern, though there was hope that if it went just one overtime, the total would stay under. This hope soon vanished. LSU quickly scored to go up 22-15 and Oregon State responded with a touchdown on its second play from scrimmage.
You do the math. One extra point and the total is going over and there's nothing you can do about it. I couldn't bear to watch but looked up when I heard the crowd roar and saw Serna slip as he approached the ball and shanked it to the right. His third missed PAT of the game, and it gave LSU the win and "under" bettors the cash.
Russell, of course, went on to a decorated career with the Tigers and ultimately became the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft after his junior year.
Serna and the Beavers were crushed by the miss, but the kicker made the most out of the adversity. He went on to set a school scoring record and never missed another PAT, making 145 in a row for the remainder of his career. He went on to be an all-Pac-10 selection and win the Lou Groza award as the nation's top kicker.
Even so, the night of Serna's trifecta of PAT misses lives on in sports betting lore.