For all the fond memories of yesteryear, the final season when ties were allowed in college football — 1995 — was a reminder of why they went away.
The ties that season included a Pac-10 game that ended up deciding who went to the Rose Bowl; an ugly 3-3 snoozefest between Big Ten foes that was the final Division I game to finish tied; and a lower-level national title game that finished with co-champions and is believed to be the final college game to end deadlocked.
“It’s the worst. It’s the worst. It’s like, ‘Why did we even play,’ is what you are thinking,” said Darrell Bevell, current Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator and Wisconsin starting quarterback in 1995.
Here’s a look at three memorable ties from the final season before they were vanquished for good by a rules change that now provides both teams with chances to win in overtime:
— Dec. 16, 1995. Central Washington 21, Findlay 21, NAIA Division II championship game
It’s inconceivable that a championship game could finish in a deadlock. But that’s what happened in the NAIA championship game.
“It was frustrating on both sides,” said then-Central Washington coach Jeff Zenisek, now a high school coach about an hour southeast of Seattle. “It was like, ‘It’s not supposed to end like this.’ It just felt like, ‘Let’s go out into the parking lot and finish this thing.'”
The teams were aware the game could finish tied and in reality likely should have been decided in regulation. Down 14-0, Central Washington rallied behind quarterback Jon Kitna. His 7-yard touchdown pass to Todd Murray early in the fourth quarter pulled the Wildcats even at 21-21. But Central Washington missed a pair of field goal attempts in the fourth quarter, the last coming with 6 seconds left. Findlay took a knee on the final play rather than make a final desperation effort to provide a winner.
“We realized it but you really don’t. The adrenaline is going and it’s like an automatic, ‘Let’s get ready for overtime.’ And then all of a sudden it was like, ‘Oh, this is it, it’s over,'” Zenisek said. “It was kind of a shock to both teams.”
Despite the unsatisfying result, the game was the catalyst for Kitna’s lengthy NFL career. Then-Seattle Seahawks coach Dennis Erickson was in attendance at the title game to watch his nephew who played for Central Washington. Kitna was later signed by the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent and eventually stuck around the NFL for parts of 14 seasons.
— Nov. 25, 1995. Wisconsin 3, Illinois 3.
The final Division I game to finish tied is a painful memory for Bevell. Not so much for the result.
“It was the last game of my career and I ended up in the hospital with lacerated kidney,” Bevell said.
Bevell was injured late in the first half, sandwiched by Illinois’ Simeon Rice and Kevin Hardy. He was thought to have bruised ribs and remained in the game. Bevell remembered aggravating the injury in the second half getting pulled down from behind. Unable to continue, Bevell left the game with 3 minutes remaining and the Badgers facing a third down. The Badgers fumbled on the next play and Illinois missed a long field goal in the final minute.
Once Bevell reached the locker room his condition was deemed more serious and was taken to a hospital where he was place in the intensive care unit. It wasn’t until he was visited by coach Barry Alvarez that he found out the game finished 3-3, the second tie of the season for Wisconsin.
“I thought we were going to win if we could have gotten one more first down,” Bevell said.
— Oct. 28, 1995. Washington 21, USC 21.
Washington was rolling toward at Pac-10 title. The Huskies were leading USC 21-0 headed to the fourth quarter and about to take complete control of the race for the Rose Bowl.
USC rallied with three touchdowns in the final 15 minutes, capped by Brad Otton’s 2-yard TD pass to Jimmy Williams with 33 seconds left. Because USC had a better non-conference record than Washington, the Trojans knew a tie was to their benefit and didn’t even think about going for the 2-point conversion.
There were still three conference games left for both teams, but Washington lost the following week to Oregon — meaning when USC later lost to UCLA, the Trojans were still Rose Bowl bound.
“I remember getting booed out of the stadium. … It was an awful feeling after that game,” then Washington QB Damon Huard said. “I had never tied before and looking back now it was one of the worst moments of my career in so many ways because we missed the opportunity to go to the Rose Bowl.”