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Fall’s Tarts 2023: Midseason Roundup of College Football’s Dumbest Events

Yes, we’re talking about Mario again.

Georgia Tech v Miami Photo by Lauren Sopourn/Getty Images

I had every intention of doing Fall’s Tarts in 2023. As late as August, I’d signed up for it as a weekly column.

I have no idea what’s happened to the last month and a half. I’m stuck in early September, unable to accept a lot of what’s happened since then. I’ve had a really terrible year, and there’s something comforting about my football team showing its solidarity by being terrible right along with me.

However, I have to talk about something important. Someone did something so dumb that I can’t let it pass by without addressing it.

Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of moments worth highlighting. Of course, my previous editions of Fall’s Tarts frequently referenced Twitter, which is basically going away as they’ve made it clear that they don’t want to play nice with any other part of the internet. College Football BlueSky is not happening yet. Here’s a few observations:


Everyone’s in an arms race to produce the largest possible stadium video board, and somehow it feels like there have been more scoreboard mishaps than usual.

Iowa’s season opener saw their scoreboard fail to update after the opening touchdown. It seems even the equipment couldn’t quite believe that the Hawkeyes had put together a drive that had actually scored seven entire points in one go. After several minutes of this, the scoreboard completely died. To be fair, Iowa scoring an offensive touchdown is not something the engineers could have anticipated when designing the scoreboard.

Every score/clock peripheral at Ross-Ade Stadium froze late in the second quarter including the play clock. It would have been cool if that had mattered at all in the end of that game. My personal favorite scoreboard mishap was at NC State, where a brand new $15M unit was unveiled this year. In week 2, many east coast games were played under inclement conditions. Raleigh was not spared. Just before the game, the scoreboard was struck by lightning and totally shorted out.

The Worst Thing Anyone Will Say In The Booth

This abomination of commentary was on Kentucky back Re’Mahn (Ray) Davis, who transferred from Kentucky for a graduate season. Someone in the ESPN booth felt the need to compare his highly competitive transfer portal recruitment (where “everyone wanted him”) to his background as a foster child (where “nobody wanted him”).

Halfway through the season that is absolutely the call of the year.

Illinois Football Is BACK.

Last year was a fun fever dream for Fighting Illini fans. It had been quite a while since they authored a truly memorable tart with their own incompetence.


Illinois just didn’t field a kickoff, allowing Nebraska to get the ball right back after a touchdown. Wanna know the last Big Ten team to do this? It was Chris Ash Rutgers against Maryland. It’s in the In Memoriam highlight reel.

Endgame Management

Ryan Day has gotten himself in a bit of a pickle because Lou Holtz essentially called his Buckeyes a finesse team before their game against Notre Dame, and he chose to chirp back instead of just ignore the 90-year-old talking head who once flamed out as head coach of the 1976 New York Jets.

And boy was he the beneficiary of a boneheaded maneuver. Not once but twice, the Fighting Irish lined up at their own 1 yard line to keep the Buckeyes out of the end zone to preserve the win. Both times, they did so with ten players.

Think about the impact that missing defender could have had on a 17-14 Ohio State victory as you watch Day go on a megalomaniacal rant in the aftermath:

Ryan Day will show that nonagenarian who’s tough when he hits that alto range screaming about how unfairly the media treats him. Congrats!

Day’s Buckeyes are, however, undefeated. You know who else was undefeated? Miami.

In 2018, then-Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal led Stanford 31-28 and had a first down near midfield with 1:41 remaining. Stanford was down to their last timeout. Three kneels and a punt would have forced the Cardinal to drive the length of the field in ten seconds with no timeouts.

The ducks instead ran plays and gained 8 yards on first down, causing Stanford to save their timeout. On second down, CJ Verdell got the carry again, but fumbled reaching for a game-sealing first down. This left Stanford 50 seconds and a timeout, which they used to go down and set up a field goal for person-whose-name-is-just-two-printer-related-words Jet Toner. Stanford would win in overtime.

Five years later, Cristobal had Miami 4-0 and ranked #17 hosting Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets were fresh off a horrific loss to Bowling Green State which will probably be the biggest headscratcher of the year when all’s said and done. Cristobal had taken a lot of heat for what he did in 2018, but there was no guaranteed victory scenario there. CJ Verdell had been so close to clinching the game, after all. There’s merits to either choice.

Last weekend was different though. Georgia Tech trailed by three but used their last timeout with 1:18 left after a first down play by the Canes. The game was mathematically over. It was second down with 1:18 to play, and with 40 second play clocks, even kneeldowns taking zero seconds would end the game. Curiously, Miami lined up in the shotgun and handed off to Donald Chaney on second down, but he was tackled without incident after two yards. The game clock would reach 40 seconds left to play before the play clock ran out. We’ve seen this ending countless times; the winning team takes one final knee, then everyone slowly jogs onto the field as the clock ceremonially runs out the last leftover seconds of the concluded ballgame. With over 30 seconds left, the coaches are probably doing their handshake around the time the game goes final officially.

Except Tyler Van Dyke is in the shotgun! He hands off to Chaney, who fumbles and it’s recovered by Georgia Tech.

An unbelievable series of plays by Jimbo Fisher refugee Haynes King provided the winning touchdown, punishing Cristobal’s Canes for their malpractice. It’s the dumbest thing that’s happened in football since 1999.

They had a timeout on second down with under 1:20 to play. It is literally unbelievable that this happened. Even Trouble With The Snap wasn’t mathematically over, Michigan still had to punt the ball away and maybe defend a Hail Mary. Miami just had to kneel it down and the game would have ended right then and there! Van Dyke could have fallen on the ball. Chaney could have gone down before being hit. Hell, it’s somehow worse than if Cristobal had called a timeout and punted it away! At least they would have had farther to drive!

Cristobal has Kevin Steele to thank for not being the author of the dumbest thing that’s ever happened, because even this is not quite on the scale of intentionally deciding to score another touchdown instead of kneeling out the win and instead being stripped at the goal line for a 99-yard scoop&score that loses you the game.

I can’t make you any promises on continuing this series this season, but I can promise you that Bret Bielema and the Illini won’t challenge Cristobal, and I have good reason to believe that.

You have to be in position to win a game to blow it like that.