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Stan Becton | NCAA.com | September 10, 2022

The longest overtime games in FCS college football history

Cooper Kupp’s top FCS playoff highlights at Eastern Washington

In 2021, Harvard and Princeton almost made history with Princeton's 18-16 win in a five-overtime thriller on Oct. 23. The game fell one overtime short of the record, finished off by a Cole Smith two-point conversion pass to Jacob Birmelin that gave the Tigers sole possession of first place in the Ivy League.

The game remained low-scoring despite the abundance of overtimes because teams exchanged field goals and later missed or made two-point conversion attempts. It was 13-13 through four quarters and 16-16 after the first OT. In the new rule instituted before the 2021 season, teams must alternate two-point conversion attempts starting with the third extra period.

Both the Crimson and Tigers failed on their attempts in the second, third and fourth overtime periods. Princeton finally converted in the fifth, before a Tiger stop on Harvard's ensuing possession ended the game.

Twenty-three years before Harvard and Princeton's multiple-overtime battle, the record for most overtime periods played by an FCS team was set by Bethune-Cookman on Sept. 26, 1998. Bethune-Cookman defeated Virginia State — a Division II opponent — in eight overtimes 63-57.

The second-most overtimes played by an FCS team came on Sept. 10, 2022. Eastern Kentucky pulled off an FCS-over-FBS upset, knocking off Bowling Green 59-57 in seven overtimes.

Among two FCS opponents, the record for most overtimes in a game is six, happening on three different occasions since overtime entered the NCAA.

RELATED: How overtime works in college football

The NCAA adopted an overtime rule in 1996 and for most 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.

However, in 2019, the overtime rules were changed.

  • Starting with the fifth overtime, teams will begin to run alternating two-point conversion plays instead of offensive possessions that start at the 25-yard line.

In 2021, the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved a change to overtime rules again.

  • Teams will be required to run a 2-point conversion play after a touchdown when a game reaches a second overtime period. Previously, a 2-point attempt was required after the third overtime period.
  • Also established in 2021, if the game reaches the third overtime, teams will run alternating 2-point plays, instead of starting another drive at the opponent's 25-yard line. This is a change from the previous rule, which started to use 2-point plays in the fifth overtime period.

MORE: Highest scoring college football games across FBS, FCS, DII, and DIII

Here's a recap of some of the longest games between FCS opponents in history:

Oct. 23, 2021 | 5 OT | No. 16 Harvard 18, No. 17 Princeton 16

Harvard and Princeton each entered their 2021 meeting as undefeated teams with top-10 defenses in the FCS. Thanks to new overtime rules, this game lasted over four hours, with Princeton emerging victorious. 

However, this overtime game should've been decided in the third overtime instead of the fifth. An officiating error should've given Harvard the win in the third extra period.

Sept. 18, 1982 | 6 OT | Rhode Island 58, Maine 55

The first four-plus hour thriller in FCS football came in 1982 when Rhode Island defeated Maine 58-55 in six overtimes. According to school officials, the game was thought to be the longest modern-era college football game at the time.

How were Rhode Island and Maine able to play so long even though the NCAA had yet to establish an overtime rule? Well, individual conferences were able to establish their own rules for what happened in the case of a tie after regulation. 

Rhode Island and Maine's Yankee Conference passed rules during the prior season in which teams began overtime periods when a regulation game ended in a 21-21 tie. Per the overtime rules, each team would get one possession from the opponent's 15 to score, continuing until a winner was decided.

Rhode Island and Maine were tied 21-21 at the end of regulation after Maine scored two touchdowns in the final seven minutes of regulation.

In overtime, the teams matched scores across the first five overtimes, scoring four touchdowns and one field goal.

In the sixth overtime, Maine scored first on a field goal to lead 55-52. Rhode Island then got the opportunity to answer, getting to the ball to the two-yard line for a 4th-and-goal play.

The Rams were at a crossroads; should they tie the game and go to a seventh overtime or go for the win?

Rhode Island decided on the latter as T.J. Del Santo scored the game-winning touchdown on a two-yard end-around run.

Just how great was this game? It has its own exhibit in the College Football Hall of Fame. 

Oct. 7, 1989 | 6 OT | Villanova 41, UConn 35

In 1989, the Yankee Conference struck again with another six overtime game, this time featuring Villanova and UConn.

The Wildcats and Huskies battled in a back-and-forth affair with Villanova ultimately ending up on top in a 41-35 victory.

Oct. 5, 1996 | 6 OT | Florida A&M 59, Hampton 58

For the final six overtime FCS game, we go to the 13th Annual Circle City Classic between Florida A&M and Hampton.

The MEAC rivals met in a nationally televised game on BET in front of a huge crowd of 62,037 fans at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. And what a game it was! It lasted an unbelievable five hours and 10 minutes.

Fast-forwarding to the sixth overtime, Hampton scored a touchdown after possessing the ball first, but missed the extra-point attempt. On Florida A&M's following possession, the Pirates stopped the Rattlers on the goal line. Helmets flew in the air as Hampton stormed the field in celebration.

But the Pirates celebrated too soon. A quick look around found a penalty flag on the field as Hampton cornerback Cordell Taylor was flagged for holding in the end zone.

Florida A&M was still alive. Two plays after the chaotic penalty, Rattler running back Ken Williams crossed into the end zone on a one-yard game-tying touchdown run. Kicker Juan Toro made his extra point to win the game 59-58. It was Florida A&M's turn to celebrate.

''Every time I thought the game was over, it just kept going and going and going,''  said Florida A&M defensive end Jomo Cousins. ''At one point I was willing to take any outcome. I just wanted to get out of there.''

Unfortunately, after the lengthy game, several Rattler players were taken to the hospital and Pirate Marvin Adams even broke his arm. On the bright side that year, with a great overtime win under its belt, Florida A&M would go on to play in the FCS playoffs as the MEAC champion.

The very next season, the NCAA adopted overtime rules across the sport (see above).

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