“Glory to God!” Notre Dame’s Rex Plueger told a CBS reporter after his tip-in propelled the Irish past Stephen F. Austin on Sunday. Texas A&M coach later Billy Kennedy doubled down, not only giving God the glory for his team’s unprecedented comeback victory over Northern Iowa but also pointing out that God had given Northern Iowa some glory of its own when the Panthers stunned Texas with a halfcourt shot at the buzzer the game before. “They got blessed last game; we got blessed this game,” he matter-of-factly told a CBS reporter.
It has long been debated whether God actually takes an active interest in who wins sporting contests, if you define debate by some people simply asserting something is true without any evidence whatsoever and others thinking that’s kind of a stupid way to draw conclusions. The Texas A&M situation offers some tantalizing clues, however, that could help settle the matter once and for all. First, take a look at this clip:
Now this one:
OK, No. 3:
And, finally, No. 5:
What do you see? Notice any common denominators? Go ahead, watch ’em again. Here’s a hint: Gangly white guy, always around the action? Bingo, you got it: Northern Iowa’s Paul Jesperson stars in every one. Coincidence? We think not.
First, he hits a halfcourt shot to beat Texas. Two days later, during Texas A&M’s frantic comeback, he surrenders an uncontested layup (two points), commits a turnover that leads to another layup (four points), somehow commits a foul while also not contesting a layup (seven points), and inbounds the ball in a perfect spot for his teammate to get trapped, which is precisely what happens, which leads to another turnover, which leads to another layup Jesperson doesn’t contest (nine points).
The final sequence is particularly supernatural because, with 12 of what had been a 14-point advantage with 44 seconds left now gone, Jesperson’s physical form becomes a mere apparition on the most important defensive play of the game. A mortal man would have done anything humanly possible to prevent a layup and force two free throws, but instead the gimme bucket capped an amazing sequence in which Jesperson was directly responsible for giving up 64 percent of his team’s lead to spearhead a collapse the likes of which Division I college basketball has never seen.
What man could pull off even one such miracle, much less two in less than 48 hours? Answer: No man. Billy Kennedy was right: God blessed his team, just as He blessed Northern Iowa. God is Paul Jesperson.