ScoreBoard’s Ten Greatest Sports Upsets
While the Longhorns upset of Oklahoma on Saturday was a surprise, it doesn’t come close to being an “all time shocker”. With that in mind here’s our list of the ten greatest upsets in sports history.
10 – Upset upsets Man o’War in upstate New York.
He is widely considered one of the greatest race horses of all time, but in the 1919 Sanford Memorial Stakes, Man o’War was upset by a 100-1 longshot thoroughbred named, ironically, Upset. Starting with his back to the gate and boxed in for most of the race due to jockey error, Man o’War was still able to make a late charge only to come up a half-length short. It was the only loss in Man o’War’s illustrious career.
9 – Duke runs over UNLV’s dream season
Coming off their first national championship and working on an undefeated season, UNLV was the national power in 1991. Led by Player of the Year Larry Johnson, the Runnin’ Rebels cruised into the Final Four to surely make short work of the Duke Blue Devils, who UNLV destroyed in the championship game the year before by 30 points. But this was 1991. Mike Krzyzewski’s squad held Johnson to 13 points and kept the Rebels, who beat all 34 teams that season by an average of 27.5 points, within striking distance. Christian Laettner hit two clutch free throws with seconds remaining, and the Blue Devils held off a late charge by UNLV to pull of the 79-77 upset, spoiling the Runnin’ Rebels’ bid for back-to-back NCAA Championships. Duke went on to beat Kansas in the championship game, and then, ironically, won the NCAA tournament again the next year to accomplish what UNLV failed to do.
8 – Y.E Yang tames Tiger at the PGA Championship
Tiger Woods had never lost a tournament after leading after 54 holes. Heading into the final round at the 2009 PGA Championship, Tiger’s 15th major championship was seen as simply a formality as Woods took a one stroke lead over defending champion Padraig Harrington and Dallas’ own Y.E. Yang. After Harrington fell out of contention with a quintuple-bogey 8th, it seemed a lock for Tiger to win his first major of the year. While an eagle chip on the par-4 14th gave Yang the advantage heading down the stretch, it was his 18th-hole approach from 210 yards out, stuck within 10 feet of the pin that sealed it for Y.E. Yang. Nearly 18 months later, Tiger Woods is still seeking his 15th major championship.
7 – Robin Soderling shakes up the tennis world at Roland Garros
Coming into the 2009 French Open, Soderling was considered a journeyman with powerful strokes, yet painfully too inconsistent to compete with the top ranked players. Just weeks before his Round of 16 matchup with the four-time defending French Open champion, Soderling was blown off the clay courts of Rome 6-1, 6-0 at the hands of Rafael Nadal. But in Paris, Rockin’ Robin had other ideas. Soderling beat up on the undisputed clay court master that day, sending shockwaves through the tennis world and opening the door for Federer to complete the career slam. It remains the only loss for Nadal at Roland Garros, as Rafa returned in 2010 to reclaim his trophy, beating Soderling in straight sets.
6 – Appalachian State shows Michigan the exit in the Big House
Coming into the 2007 college football season, #5 ranked Michigan was expected to do well, starting with a demolition of the Mountaineers. But the two-time defending FCS (1-AA) champions had other ideas en route to sprinting out to an early 28-17 halftime lead. The Wolverines, who were 27-point favorites entering the contest, fought back to take a 32-31 lead with just over four minutes left in the game. But Appalachian State, as they had done all day, wouldn’t go away. Julian Rauch booted a 24-yard field goal with 27 seconds remaining to put the Mountaineers up by two. Michigan would respond as Chad Henne hit Mario Manningham for the 46 yard gain that put the Wolverines in field goal position. But with six seconds left on the clock, the Mountaineers blocked the 37 yard potential game winner as time expired, making Appalachian State the first team from a lower division to beat a “ranked” school.
5 – Near Perfect Villanova shocks Georgetown for the NCAA Title
In the first year of an expanded 64 team bracket, 8th seeded Villanova stormed through the first five rounds and into the 1985 NCAA Championship game to face conference foe and top seeded Georgetown. Using a deliberate stall tactic, since the shot clock was not incorporated into college basketball yet, the Wildcats slowed down the game taking the Hoyas out of their comfort zone. It didn’t hurt that Villanova made 79% of its shots, including 90% in the second half…only to win by a single basket, 66-64. Villanova remains the lowest seed to win the national title.
4 – Miracle Mets amaze the baseball world in 1969
Coming into the franchise’s 7th season of existence, the New York Mets had never finished above .500. In fact, in five of those seven seasons, the Mets finished with 100 losses. So, few were surprised to see the Mets start the ’69 campaign with an uninspired record of 18-23. But then the Mets started winning–then the Mets started winning some more. But even with their newly found winning ways, the Mets found themselves nine and a half games back by mid-August. It was then that New York’s National League team became…well…Amazing. The Mets finished the season winning 39 of their last 50 games to finish 100-62 and took over first place in the NL East by eight games – a 17 ½ game turnaround. In the playoffs, the Mets dispatched the Atlanta Braves in three games and then rolled past the Baltimore Orioles, who many considered one of the best teams of all-time, in five to become the first expansion team to win the World Series.
3 – Buster Douglas delivers the knockout to Iron Mike
Just seven months before this showdown in Tokyo, Mike Tyson defending his unified title with a thunderous 93 second knockout of Carl “the Truth” Williams. It was Tyson’s 33rd professional knockout and propelled the 23-year old champion to an undefeated 37-0 record. James Douglas was seen as simply a warm-up fight for the “real” mega-battle with Evander Holyfield. Coming in as a 42-1 underdog, Douglas used his jab to effectively keep Iron Mike’s lethal uppercut and left hook at bay. But it wouldn’t matter as in the 8th round, Tyson sent Douglas to the canvas. Buster shook off the knockdown and survived the round only to come back with a flurry in the 10th. Already worn down by nine rounds of punishment, Douglas sent Tyson reeling with a series of jabs and a devastating uppercut that would have knocked most men out. Tyson stayed on his feet but the end was near…four punches to be exact. While Tyson fumbled for his mouthpiece, promoter Don King jumped to the ring apron in protest but it didn’t matter, referee Octavio Meyran counted the champion out, giving James Buster Douglas the greatest upset in the history of boxing.
2 – Namath makes good on “guarantee” in Super Bowl III
It was the game that single handedly made Joe Namath a legend. Despite throwing for more interceptions (17) than touchdowns (15) that season, Namath boldly predicted the New York Jets would defeat the Baltimore Colts for the Super Bowl. To say that the Jets were underdogs would be a vast understatement. The AFL was generally regarded as having inferior talent and as witnessed by the crushing defeats in the first two AFL-NFL Championship Games, were not respected by most. The Colts, by contrast, entered the game with a 13-1 record – their only loss to the Cleveland Browns being avenged 34-0 in the NFL Championship Game. Aided by five Baltimore turnovers, four deep in New York territory, Namath led the Jets to a 16-0 fourth quarter lead and held on for the 16-7 upset over the Colts. Despite not throwing a touchdown in the contest, or even a single pass in the fourth quarter, Namath was named MVP.
1 – United States Hockey miraculously defeats Soviet Union
They were the best hockey team on the planet. The Soviet Union had captured four straight Olympic gold medals and even held an impressive 5-3-1 record against NHL teams the year before, including a 6-0 dismantling of a team comprised of NHL All-Stars. On the other side, Herb Brooks’ squad of rag-tag collegiate stars, some who had not played hockey in years, was hoping to just make an impressive showing on their home soil. In an exhibition held just days before the start of the 1980 Winter Games, the Americans were demolished by the Soviets 10-3 at New York’s Madison Square Garden. But on a cold February afternoon in the Adirondack Mountains, things would be different. After falling behind 2-1 early in the contest, a Mark Johnson goal with literally a second remaining in the opening period tied the game after one. It was that goal that resulted in quite possibly the most shocking coaching decision in the history of hockey – benching Vladislav Tretiak, the greatest goaltender in the world. Despite being outshot 12-2 in the second period, goaltender Jim Craig kept the Americans within striking distance, trailing 3-2 heading to the final frame. After Johnson tied the game midway through the third, Mike Eruzione’s slapshot 81 seconds later gave Team USA their first lead of the game. Craig held off a late Soviet rally to finish with 36 saves as the Americans completed the greatest upset in the history of sports, 4-3. Do you believe in miracles? We sure do.