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Wednesday, August 4, 2010
This list knows House of Pain well

By Mark Schlabach

There are losses, and then there are the gut-wrenching losses, the kind that leave you wanting to keep your head under the pillow for days and days.

These are the losses that leave college football fans with one thought when they awake the next morning: "That didn't really happen, did it?"

Yes, it did. And more times than not, you'll never forget the details of how it happened.

For some programs and coaches, whether it's because of happenstance or just plain, old, bad luck, they've found themselves in harm's way much more than others.

Here are the coaches and programs that have spent too much time in the House of Pain:

1. John Cooper

John Cooper
John Cooper was often pained when playing Michigan.

The former Ohio State coach had a 2-10-1 record against rival Michigan from 1988 to 2000, losing to the Wolverines when he often had the higher-ranked team.

In 1993, the No. 5 Buckeyes lost to four-loss Michigan by a 28-0 score on Nov. 20. The loss cost Ohio State a Big Ten title and a trip to the Rose Bowl. Afterward, Cooper could say only, "This is one of the most embarrassing games I've ever been associated with."

It only got worse for Cooper. In 1995, the No. 2 Buckeyes were led by Heisman Trophy-winner Eddie George but lost to the Wolverines 31-23 on Nov. 25. Michigan running back Tim Biakabutuka ran for 313 yards. The next year, Ohio State blew a 9-0 lead and backup quarterback Brian Griese rallied the Wolverines to a 13-9 victory.

2. Lloyd Carr
If misery does indeed love company, Carr and Cooper might be sharing a retirement home. Carr was one of Michigan's most successful coaches, winning 122 games, five Big Ten titles and the 1997 national championship during his 13 seasons.

But the end of Carr's tenure was marked by numerous disappointments. After starting his Michigan career with three consecutive victories over rival Ohio State, Carr's teams lost six of their last seven games against the Buckeyes. And who can forget the 2007 opener? In Carr's final season, the Wolverines lost to Football Championship Subdivision opponent Appalachian State 34-32 in the Big House.

3. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Tom Osborne guided the Cornhuskers to three national championships, but before he won his first title in 1994, there was plenty of heartbreak in the heartland.

In 1982, the Cornhuskers' only loss was at Penn State, in which the Nittany Lions won 27-24 after a controversial catch and diving touchdown reception in the final seconds. In 1983, Nebraska lost a national championship after quarterback Turner Gill's two-point pass fell incomplete in a 31-30 loss to Miami in the Orange Bowl.

And, in 1993, the Cornhuskers lost another national title after Byron Bennett missed a 45-yard field goal on the final play of an 18-16 loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl.

4. Missouri Tigers
The Tigers have endured myriad losses in the final seconds. BYU beat them 21-17 in the 1983 Holiday Bowl on, of all things, a halfback pass to Cougars quarterback Steve Young with 23 seconds to play.

In 1990, eventual co-national champion Colorado scored the winning touchdown in a 33-31 victory on what should have been fifth down. In 1997, Nebraska's Matt Davison caught a tying touchdown after the ball bounced off the hands, chest and foot of teammate Shevin Wiggins. The Cornhuskers won 45-38 in overtime and went on to share a national championship with Michigan.

Even when Missouri was really good -- it was ranked No. 1 in the country heading into the 2007 Big 12 championship game -- it was overlooked. After losing to Oklahoma 38-17 in the Big 12 title game, the Tigers were left out of a BCS bowl game. Kansas, which lost to Missouri 36-28 during the regular season, was invited to the Orange Bowl instead of the Tigers.

5. Clemson Tigers
In 1984, the Tigers lost to Georgia 26-23 on Kevin Butler's game-ending, 60-yard field goal. Four years later, Clemson lost to Florida State 24-21 after Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden's gutsy "Puntrooskie" play set up the winning field goal.

Life has been just as frustrating for Clemson fans during the past two decades. The Tigers haven't won a conference championship since 1991, but they've come agonizingly close a couple of times. In 2000, the Tigers were 8-0 and ranked No. 4 when they lost to Georgia Tech 31-28. The Yellow Jackets won after Kerry Watkins made a one-handed touchdown grab with seven seconds to go.

In 2008, Boston College's Matt Ryan threw a late touchdown pass to give the Eagles a 20-17 lead in a winner-take-all game to decide the ACC's Atlantic Division. Clemson's Aaron Kelly dropped what would have been a winning touchdown, and then the Tigers missed a 54-yard field goal try at the end.

6. Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning
Despite all his accolades, Peyton Manning could not get past Florida.

Manning was one of college football's greatest quarterbacks, and he's been even better in the NFL. Manning went 39-6 as Tennessee's starting quarterback, but three of those losses came in highly anticipated games against SEC East rival Florida.

During Manning's sophomore season in 1995, the Vols took an early 30-14 lead, but the Gators scored 48 consecutive points in a 62-37 rout. The next season, Manning threw four interceptions and Florida sprinted to a 35-0 lead before holding on for a 35-29 victory.

After passing on the NFL to return for his senior season, Manning lost to Florida 33-20 in 1997. Florida's Tony George returned an interception 89 yards for a touchdown, and Manning finished his brilliant college career 0-for-Florida.

7. Arkansas Razorbacks
Back when the Razorbacks still played in the Southwest Conference, their fans weren't exactly "calling the hogs." Instead, the cries might have been, "Oh, no! Not again," every time Arkansas played Texas.

In 1969, President Richard Nixon watched the No. 2 Hogs blow a 14-0 lead against No. 1 Texas. The Longhorns came back to win 15-14 and captured the national championship.

In 1985, the No. 4-ranked Razorbacks lost 15-13 to an unranked Texas team. In 1987, Texas quarterback Bret Stafford threw a winning touchdown to Tony Jones on the final play of a 16-14 win over the No. 15 Hogs. Two seasons later, the No. 7 Hogs lost to the unranked Longhorns again, falling 24-20.

Life hasn't been much easier for the Razorbacks in the SEC. In 1998, Arkansas suffered one of its most gut-wrenching defeats. Holding a 24-22 lead over eventual national champion Tennessee, Hogs quarterback Clint Stoerner stumbled and fumbled with 1:43 left. The Vols recovered it and scored a touchdown in their 28-24 victory.

8. Miami Hurricanes
Miami has won five national championships, and it dominated the sport during the 1980s. The Hurricanes have been the beneficiaries of others' misery -- see their close wins over FSU and Nebraska's failed two-point conversion in the 1984 Orange Bowl.

But few programs have endured so many gut-wrenching moments, either. In fact, the Hurricanes were on the wrong end of four of the most famous finishes in history.

Consider this: In consecutive games during the 1984 season, Miami lost in the biggest comeback in the sport's history and on one of its most famous plays. After leading Maryland by a score of 31-0 at the half, the Canes lost 42-40. Less than two weeks later, the Canes lost to Boston College 47-45 on Doug Flutie's famous Hail Mary pass.

In 1988, Miami lost the "Catholics vs. Convicts" game at Notre Dame, after Irish defensive back Pat Terrell knocked down Steve Walsh's two-point conversion pass in the end zone for a 31-30 victory.

The most grueling Miami defeat of all came in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. The Hurricanes thought they'd won another national championship after Ohio State quarterback Craig Krenzel's pass fell incomplete in the first overtime. But a controversial pass-interference penalty kept the Buckeyes' hopes alive. Krenzel scored on a 1-yard sneak, forcing a second overtime. The Buckeyes scored, and then Miami failed to find the end zone from the OSU 1 on four straight plays in a 31-24 loss.

9. Illinois Fighting Illini
The Illini won the Rose Bowl three times from 1946 to 1963, but their last two trips to Pasadena, Calif., have been absolute nightmares. They were demolished 45-9 by UCLA in 1983 and 49-17 by USC in 2008.

Illinois' only other trip to a BCS bowl game wasn't much fun, either. In the 2002 Sugar Bowl, LSU had a 34-7 lead at halftime before rolling to a 47-34 victory.

10. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The Fighting Irish have played in as many significant games as anyone, and there's been enough heartbreak for Touchdown Jesus to shed a few tears. There were the devastating losses to rival USC during the 1960s and '70s (and again in 2005 on the "Bush Push") and the 1970 Cotton Bowl loss to Texas, in which the Longhorns scored the winning touchdown with 1:08 left.

The Irish lost to Colorado 10-9 in the 1991 Orange Bowl after Raghib "Rocket" Ismail's 91-yard punt return for a touchdown was wiped off the scoreboard by a controversial clipping penalty. Two seasons later, the Irish lost a chance to play for a national championship after Boston College's David Gordon nailed a 41-yard field goal in the final seconds of a 41-39 upset.

Mark Schlabach covers college sports for He co-authored Bobby Bowden's memoirs, "Called To Coach," which was published by Simon & Schuster. The book will be available in book stores Aug. 24 and can be pre-ordered here. You can contact him at