The Odds of a Daydream/Nightmare Comeback?

In Time.

In Time.


What Are The Odds of a Daydream/Nightmare Comeback? The answer in sports, of course, is dependent upon our ability to specify the key details of the “comeback” situation we are trying to evaluate. The situation that vividly came to light in college football this past Saturday, especially for two universities in the cities of Houston and Memphis, was this one:

What are the odds of a college football team that is trailing by twenty points in the 4th quarter of coming back to win the game?

Playing at home last Saturday night, the Houston Cougars fell behind, 34-14, when the Memphis Tigers scored early in the 4th quarter. From that point, the improbable unfolded. Kyle Postma, an untested back up quarterback for the Cougars, then led his team to 21 points on three unanswered touchdown drives that gave Houston a 35-34 lead over Memphis with about 1:27 minutes left in the game. When UH then survived a desperate Memphis drive that only expired when the Tigers missed a 42 yard field attempt goal with seconds to go, the Cougars had performed the near-impossible, coming back from a twenty point deficit in the 4th quarter to win, 35-34, in a stunning expansion of their season record to 10-0-0, vaulting Houston the next day to an AP ranking of #13 in the nation.

According to one game story, UH was the 343rd college football team this season to trail by 20 or more points in the 4th quarter, but only the first this year to launch a comeback rally that actually won the contest, 35-34.

Reference was also made to the fact that once Houston fell to a 20-p0int deficit, that they then had only a 2.7% probable chance of winning the game. Assuming that this percentile appraisal was not simply pulled from the air, it means that someone had to research the entire history of college football and calculate all of the times in history that a “20 plus point deficit in the 4th quarter” got turned around and converted into a victory.

Bottom Line: It only happens 2.7% of the time in all of college football history and, this year, UH was the first in 243 such 4th quarter deficit situations (0.oo4%) that it has happened in 2015. That translates into extremely rare, extremely joyful for winning UH; and extremely painful for losing Memphis.

Not so fast, Cougar-Haters! – This is not a mere disconnected UH gloat from one of the elder mountain lions of 1946, who saw the first Cougars play football during the early times of his own cub days. None of us ancient ones need to gloat when the soulful satisfaction of such a win generates an inner glow of fandom joy.

And besides, this past weekend came bearing karmic qualities. Older Cougars already knew the taste of the “Memphis yang” that emanates from this “Cougar yin”. – We learned it bitterly on the frozen tundra of the January 1, 1979 Cotton Bowl – when the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame and Joe Montana came back in the last seven minutes of the minus eight degrees day to reverse an identical by score 4th quarter deficit of 34-14 to snatch an identical 35-34 final score comeback win on the last TD and extra point in the game.

We already knew exactly how the Memphis Tigers and their family of fans were going to feel Sunday when they got home and awakened from the stunning upset of the night before. A casual Internet search of the Memphis newspaper sports pages since Saturday bore out all assumptions. The Memphis people were going through the same shock, denial, self-blame, and disappointment that we Cougars tasted in the Notre Dame collapse of 36 years ago.

The Memphis people will also soon enough pass through a delusional period in which they swear to never forget the lesson of their stunning loss to the Cougars. The problem with this consolation is that wisdom absorbed from pain is always an individual soul experience. When the success of your team athletic efforts are so dependent upon absorbing the lessons of painful experience, it gets pretty tricky to maintain that “wisdom” when your club also needs to absorb dozens of new 18 year old players who weren’t there with you to absorb the major  lessons of catastrophic disappointment.

The best way to summarize my point here is to simply tell you what happened Saturday night as we were all joyously filing out of the stadium after the game. As we awaited an elevator in the company of a young (all decked out in red UH gear) Cougar couple and their pre-school son, I couldn’t wait to share the story I’ve tried to tell here today. When I led off with a statement about how much the Memphis game struck me as an exact reversal of our 1979 “ice bowl” loss to Notre Dame, I was stopped by the young Cougar dad’s first question:

“What’s an ice bowl?” The young UH man quickly asked.

About that same time, the elevator door opened.

“After you,” I motioned to the young man and his family.

A two-level elevator ride wasn’t enough time to condense via adrenaline into the kinds of words I’ve tried to use here.




One Response to “The Odds of a Daydream/Nightmare Comeback?”

  1. Tom Hunter Says:

    Bill: I like how you used as a caption for the photograph the words from the official seal of the University of Houston–In Time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: