Game went according to plan
It’s the most wonderful time of the year for sportsbooks: football season. College football first official weekend wraps up tonight and the NFL begins this week, so sports bettors also feel like it’s Christmas morning. But with all the fun people have wagering, there are also tons of bad beats. The Penn State-West Virginia game on Saturday featured one of the worst, or best, depending on which side of the action you were on.
Penn State was a heavy favorite against its border rival, about three touchdowns, give or take. The two schools actually played against each other every year from 1947-1992, but had not played since then until this past weekend.
West Virginia traditionally has a pretty solid football team, but they are expected to be bad this year – last place in the Big 12 in most projections – and Penn State is expected to be one of the best teams in the country (they went in ranked #7), so it was not a surprise that the Nittany Lions won the game pretty easily, 38-15.
But it was how Penn State arrived at that final score and covered the spread that has some sports bettors upset.
Penn State was up 7-0 after the first quarter and West Virginia tied it earlier in the second, but after that, it was all Nittany Lions, as they built a 31-7 lead by about halfway through the fourth. West Virginia got a late touchdown plus the two-point conversion with 3:34 remaining to make the score look fairly respectable and actually cover the 21-point spread.
Hanging on to slim hopes, West Virginia still tried to get the ball back, spending its timeouts during Penn State’s next drive after an onsides kick, but Penn State picked up first downs, eventually getting to the point where the game was sealed.
The turning point for bettors
Eventually with a first down at West Virginia’s 5-yard line, Penn State could have just taken a knee and ended the game, but they kept going. They tried a run for no gain on first down and then backup quarterback Beau Pribula ran it in for a touchdown on second down with just six second left in the game. Adding on the extra point made it 38-15, Nittany Lions.
West Virginia bettors were furious, as most teams would have just knelt the clock out, but the Nittany Lions decided to run up the score and, in turn, beat the spread (and hit the over). One bettor on Twitter claimed it was rigged:
Another thought Penn State players and coaches had money on their own team and thus needed that last-second score:
Obviously, those were just bettors who were mad something didn’t go their way when it looked like it would. Besides, the easier way to manipulate the game would have been for Penn State to intentionally underperform so that they didn’t cover. The most logical reason for continuing to play things out after the game was decided was simply to get the backups some reps.
West Virginia’s coach said he wasn’t upset about it, though he kind of was, considering he said: “I just think stuff like that comes around and goes around. At some point, it’ll come back around.”