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10 Worst Calls in Sports History


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Fifth and Goal
Wide receiver Mike Pritchard of the University of Colorado at Boulder carries the ball against the University of Tennessee in 1990; in another game that year, Colorado managed a rare fifth down which the referees didn't notice. Bernstein Associates/Getty Image
Wide receiver Mike Pritchard of the University of Colorado at Boulder carries the ball against the University of Tennessee in 1990; in another game that year, Colorado managed a rare fifth down which the referees didn't notice. Bernstein Associates/Getty Image

Nothing gets people fired up quite like a game-ending blown call. That's exactly what happened in 1990 when a motley squad of college football referees accidentally gave Colorado five downs to score a game-winning (and soul-crushing) touchdown in front of thousands of livid Missouri fans.

The circumstances of the infamous "fifth and goal" moment are too complicated to describe here. For the full story, read this in-depth ESPN article. To sum up, the refs had never worked together before, Colorado confused everyone by spiking the ball on second down (the college rules had been recently amended to allow it), and the guy holding the downs marker was distracted by a man dying of a heart attack a few rows behind him [source: Friend].

A series of confusing plays later — including yet another intentional spike — it became clear to the screaming wall of Missouri fans that Colorado was about to attempt a fifth down. The refs remained oblivious. Colorado squeaked in a quarterback sneak and rushed off the field before the surging crowd of incensed Missouri fans could eat them alive.

In a bizarre twist, the head referee called both teams back onto the field to attempt an extra point. At this point, the Colorado staff had realized they scored on a rare fifth down, but the refs were still unconvinced. Fearing for their players' safety, Colorado fielded only 11 players, who were escorted off the field by police.