In 2017, Western Michigan and Buffalo played a game that kicked off at 3:30 p.m. and didn’t finish until after 8 that night. The two teams needed seven overtimes to decide a winner, tying them for the longest game in FBS history.
The NCAA adopted an overtime rule in 1996. Since then, four teams have gone to seven overtimes, with the first coming in 2001, and the most recent (before Western Michigan vs. Buffalo) taking place in 2006.
For each of those games, the overtime rules have been virtually the same.
- An overtime period consists of each team getting one possession from its opponent’s 25-yard line.
- There is no game clock, only a play clock.
- Starting with the third overtime, teams must attempt a 2-point conversion after every touchdown.
Here's a recap of each of the four seven-overtime games in FBS history:
November 3, 2001 — Arkansas 58, Ole Miss 56
With five minutes left in regulation, Ole Miss quarterback Eli Manning — in his first year as a starter — connected with Jason Armstead for a four-yard touchdown, and the ensuing extra point tied the game at 17.
In the first overtime, faced with a fourth-and-one, Arkansas decided to go for the conversion, rather than kick a field goal, and Cedric Cobbs broke free for a 16-yard touchdown. Manning connected with Armstead again to equalize.
In the second overtime, Ole Miss got the ball first, but Arkansas forced and recovered a fumble, and they just needed to kick a field goal to win, but the try went wide right.
The teams traded touchdowns in the third, fourth, and fifth overtime periods, but neither could convert their two-point attempts. In the sixth, they each scored again, and managed to convert. Finally, in the seventh, Ole Miss’ two-point attempt to tie the game at 58 was stopped short of the goal line, and the game was over.
November 1, 2003 — Arkansas 71, Kentucky 63
The Razorbacks of the early 2000s had a nose for ridiculously long games. A year after their record-breaking seven-overtime game, Arkansas went to six overtimes against Tennessee in 2002, losing 41-38.
Then, in 2003, Arkansas faced Kentucky in a game that started on November 1, but ended on November 2.
In the first half, both teams returned blocked punts for touchdowns, but Arkansas led 21-7 at halftime. The Wildcats would tie the game up with 1:39 left to play.
The two teams combined for 86 points in overtime, but after four hours and 56 minutes of play, Kentucky quarterback Jared Lorenzen was hit hard and fumbled, and Arkansas won its second seven-overtime game.
October 7, 2006 — North Texas 25, FIU, 22
This game was slightly different than the seven-overtime thrillers that came before it.
Coming into the game, North Texas was the only Division I-A team that had not played an overtime game since the NCAA adopted an overtime in 1996.
In case that final score for a seven-overtime game wasn’t weird enough, North Texas led 5-0 at halftime, after a field goal and safety.
The Mean Green scored 11 points in the fourth quarter to take a 16-13 lead before Florida International kicked a 28-yard field goal with two seconds left to send the game to overtime.
Neither team could score a touchdown in overtime, and missed four field goals each in overtime, before a 34-yarder from Denis Hopovac — his fifth made field goal of the night on a record nine attempts — connected to give North Texas the win.
October 7, 2017 — Western Michigan 71, Buffalo 68
Field goals played a huge role in this game as well. With 34 seconds left in regulation, Buffalo’s Adam Mitcheson drilled a 34-yarder to tie the game 31-31. On the next drive, Western Michigan set up a buzzer-beating 52-yarder to take the lead, but it was blocked, and the game went to overtime.
There, both teams traded touchdowns in the first two overtimes before Western Michigan recovered a fumble to set up a 29-yard field goal attempt for the win. But after Buffalo iced the kicker, the potential game-winner sailed right.
Four overtimes later, Buffalo was forced to settle for a field goal, and Western Michigan’s Jarvion Franklin rushed for his third touchdown (on his 37th carry) to seal the win.