Boink! …That’s Just How the Ball Bounces

Lyn Scarbrough

October 27, 2020 at 3:56 pm.

Boink! … Boink! Boink! Boink!

When you’ve been involved with college football for more than five decades … covering it, broadcasting it, writing about it, or sometimes just being a fan … you think you may have seen it all.

After what happened in Houston on Saturday afternoon, apparently that was not the case.

Boink! … Boink! Boink! Boink!

 Consider the Rice Owls … the poor Rice Owls.

If there has ever been a team deserving a break it’s Rice. The Owls haven’t had a winning season since 2014. In the five seasons since then, Rice has won a combined 10 C-USA games (10-30 in the conference) and just 14 games overall (14-47). In only one season has there been more than three wins.

Then, came 2020. While two conference teams had already played six games before this past Saturday, Rice had not played even one. Of the first six games on the schedule, three had been postponed and three were outright cancelled, all due to the coronavirus. No team in the country had been more negatively impacted by COVID than the Owls.

Finally, they had a home game. Middle Tennessee (1-3 C-USA, 1-5 overall) was coming to Rice Stadium. Even though the Blue Raiders already had six games, it looked like a game that the Owls might win.

It may be that no team has ever been victimized more by the field goal in a single game than Rice was in the closing stages on Saturday. Here’s what happened:

The Owls led 34-31 when on the final play of regulation, MTSU’s Crews Holt banged through a 48-yard field goal, the longest of his career, to force overtime at 34-34.

In the first overtime, Crews missed a 50-yard field goal attempt. So now, any points for Rice would win the game.

With the ball on the Blue Raiders 25-yard line, Owls’ coaches took the conservative approach … the “safe” approach. Rather that throw the ball or hand it off, risking a turnover or a large loss of yardage, they basically knelt for three consecutive plays, putting the outcome of the game on the foot of Collin Riccitelli, a graduate transfer from San Marcos, Calif., who had previously played for Stanford. He faced a 45-yarder to win the game.

His kick was long enough … but it drifted to the right, hitting high up on the post.


 The ball careened downward to the left, hitting midway on the crossbar.


It continued its high bounce to the left, striking the other post.


Then it ricocheted back down to the right, again hitting the crossbar.


Then it fell harmlessly to the turf in front of the goal post.

No good! Incredibly, no good!

In the second overtime, it again was on the foot of Riccitelli, who was probably still stunned in disbelief over the quadruple-boink just minutes before. This field goal attempt – a 40-yarder – was blocked.

Middle Tennessee, who had to feel blessed by the football gods, went on to score and win the game in two overtimes.

Reaction to the multiple-bouncing field goal attempt was immediate. Television announcers, along with announcers on the Rice and Middle Tennessee networks, couldn’t believe their eyes.

Social media jumped right in.

Some questioned the coaching strategy – “Rice just basically kneeled three straight plays and kicked a 45-yard field goal for the win … and this happened!”

Others expressed empathy for the Owls – “It was a quadruple boink and no good. Life ain’t fair.” … and — “The entire Rice football team needs a hug right now.”

Even in these days of COVID, that’s an understandable idea.

You know, football is not like other sports. Basketball, baseball, tennis, volleyball, softball, golf, racquet ball, lacrosse, you name it. Those balls are round, so you can usually guess which way they will go.

Footballs are pointed, so you never where they will go.

Over the years, a lot of teams have been hurt by the unexpected football bounce.

You’ll remember the “Prayer in Jordan-Hare” when the long pass from Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall was bounced by Georgia defenders into the hands of steaking receiver Ricardo Louis who took the game winner into the end zone. That ball could have gone in any direction, but it went right to Louis’ awaiting arms. The Bulldogs fell to the turf in pain. The Tigers, no so much.

There are a lot of other examples. But, has there ever been one as gut-wrenching, as improbable, as unbelievable as what happened in Houston on Saturday?

Few teams have ever deserved the bad bounce karma less that Rice, especially in that situation. Of course, on the other side, the Blue Raiders didn’t exactly see it that way.

Rice travels this Saturday to M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg, Miss. to play Southern Miss (1-1, 1-4), another team having a tough season and needing a break.

Here’s hoping that neither team loses this one by hearing a BOINK!