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When scoring a touchdown is a bad idea: Happened twice this weekend

It’s the most counter-intuitive notion in football: Those rare instances where scoring a touchdown on offense is a bad idea that actually decreases the scoring team’s chances of winning.

But it played out twice in spectacular (depending on which side you were on) fashion this weekend, with the part-math, part-instinct problem rearing its head in a huge college football upset and an NFL game between two teams who both could have used a win.

Here’s a look at the situations at how both played out:

*Underdog Indiana trailed Penn State 21-20 and seemed to be done for when the Nittany Lions forced a turnover on downs at Indiana’s 14 yard line with 1:47 left to play.

The Hoosiers had just one timeout left, meaning Penn State had time on its side. On the first play of the drive, Penn State’s Devyn Ford ran untouched toward the end zone. If he had fallen down at, say, the 2 — getting a first down without a touchdown — the game essentially would have been over. Indiana would have had to burn its last timeout to stop the clock, and Penn State could have kneeled down three times and won 21-20.

But … Ford instead ran into the end zone. Touchdown! Great! Nope. That increased the Penn State lead to 27-20. The Nittany Lions elected to kick the extra point (which they made) for a 28-20 lead. But that gave Indiana the ball back with nearly 2 minutes left and with a chance to tie with a touchdown and two-point conversion.

That’s exactly what happened — leading later to Indiana’s controversial touchdown and two-point conversion in overtime and a 36-35 win over the No. 8-ranked Nittany Lions.

Indiana coach Tom Allen said he had ordered his team to let Ford score. Penn State coach James Franklin, wise to the dynamics at play, had told his players not to score. But sometimes habits are hard to break.

We went through that situation this week [in practice],” Franklin said, “and we went through that situation on the sideline, and obviously we could’ve handled it better. What we wanted to do was get as much as you can and get down.”

Indeed, when you watch the video you can see Ford realizes his mistake about a half-yard too late.

What’s interesting is that Penn State still could have come much closer to sealing the game by going for a 2-point conversion. Making it would have put them up 29-20, a two-score lead with less than two minutes left. But missing it would have left it at 27-20, meaning Indiana would need only a TD and conventional extra point kick to tie. I’ve always favored going for 2 in that instance.

*The same situation — albeit with slightly different math — played out in the Lions vs. Falcons NFL game Sunday.

Just like Ford, Atlanta running back Todd Gurley was trying to get as many yards as he could without scoring. But like Ford, Gurley just couldn’t quite keep himself … out of the end zone. And just like Indiana, you can see Lions players celebrating because they allowed … a touchdown. Strange, right?

In that case, Atlanta was trailing 16-14 with just over a minute left. The Falcons could have run the clock down to just a few seconds remaining and tried a chip shot field goal for a 17-16 win.

While a field goal from, say, 20-29 yards is no sure thing (just ask any Vikings fan who was around in 2015), NFL kickers in 2019 made 98.3% of their tries from that distance in 2019.

By scoring a touchdown (and adding a 2-point conversion), the Falcons had a 22-16 lead but gave Detroit the ball back with a minute left needing a touchdown to win. Their win probability at that point was 93.4% — less than it would have been while lining up for a short field goal.

And indeed, the Lions went down the field quickly and scored on the final play of the game — adding the extra point for a 23-22 win. And again, everyone knew what they were supposed to do.

I was trying not to (score). My momentum took me in,” Gurley said. “It’s kind of crazy, the last time I played Detroit, I went down. This time I end up scoring. It’s like what goes around, comes around. It’s one of them unfortunate situations. I’ve been, I mean, plenty of those situations my rookie year, six or seven, and I’ve always got down. It was an unfortunate one right there.”

If there’s any consolation for Atlanta: The loss keeps them in the Tank For Trevor sweepstakes with a 1-6 record after last week’s blowout win over the Vikings left them vulnerable. Meanwhile, the Lions are 3-3.

Anyone banking on Detroit being two wins in the Vikings’ column late this season might need to think again — especially if Minnesota, which has found breathtaking ways to lose a couple of games already this season, manages to score a touchdown when it really shouldn’t.

Hulu becomes latest streaming service to drop Fox Sports North

Sports fans who access their local pro teams through streaming services are running out of options.

Hulu + Live TV announced in an email to subscribers Thursday that it is dropping regional sports networks from its channel lineup as of Friday. Locally, that means Minnesota subscribers will no longer have access to Fox Sports North and the bevy of programming on that channel.

Conveniently — but not conveniently — I’m a subscriber and can share that e-mail with you all. It reads:

Starting on October 23, 2020 Hulu will no longer have the rights to distribute certain Regional Sports Networks (RSNs) that are currently included with your Hulu + Live TV plan. While we were unable to reach an agreement with Sinclair Broadcast Group to continue offering channels like your Fox Sports RSN, YES Network, and Marquee Network, the good news is that you will continue to have access to a wide variety of sports from other popular channels including ESPN, TNT, and TBS, as well as FS1 and FS2.

Why yes, that’s tremendous news! Thank you for keeping channels I already pay for while ditching the one I really want!

As a “cord-cutter” who has been hopping from stream to stream, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I moved to Hulu more than a year ago after SlingTV (and DISH, a traditional satellite service) dropped FSN.

A few weeks ago, YouTube TV also dropped all the regional sports networks. With the news from Hulu, that means by far the three largest streaming services — all with more than 2 million subscribers — no longer carry the regional sports networks.

If there’s any glimmer of hope it’s this tweet from media and sports business reporter John Ourand, who notes that there isn’t a ton of programming on RSNs right now since we’re past the MLB regular season and the NBA, WNBA and NHL are in their offseasons.

Indeed, while virtually every Wild, Wolves and Twins game is on FSN (and a lot of Lynx games as well), that channel isn’t utilized nearly as often right now as it typically is in my house given the delayed start to the NBA and NHL seasons.

“These seem to be opportunistic moves to me,” Ourand wrote, adding, “My bet is that deals will be made as live games start up again.”

That said, it immediately impacts Minnesota United fans. Four more Loons regular-season matches are on FSN the rest of the season. Now they are unavailable to Hulu subscribers. FSN and FSN+ carried a combined 20 Gophers men’s hockey games last season as well as a variety of other local winter sports. Such games this season don’t figure to be available.

The appeal of streaming services is a pared-down menu of channels — but still the ones you want, particularly as a sports fan — for a lower price (Hulu is $54.99 a month) than traditional cable/satellite providers. They also don’t require a contract, just a month-to-month subscription, allowing the viewer to cancel without any fees.

But if Ourand is wrong and those channels don’t return (Sling hasn’t brought them back, and it’s been well over a year) to Hulu or YouTube TV then in-market cord-cutters will be out of luck — a real shame, and the opposite of what should be the future of TV.

Local Schedule
  • Colorado at Loons

    7 pm on FSN, 1500-AM

  • Gophers football at Maryland

    6:30 pm on ESPN, 100.3-FM

  • Vikings at Green Bay

    12 pm on Ch. 9, 100.3/1130

  • Loons at Sporting K.C.

    6:30 pm on FSN, 1500-AM

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