4th Quarter Covers – NCAA Week 1
Glancing at the scoreboard won’t tell you the whole story in most games. Here are some of the games that went down to the wire relative to the spread in the fourth quarter last week in the first big college football weekend. Each week there are several teams that cover despite not necessarily deserving it, as well as other teams that played much better than the final score shows.
Cincinnati (-2½) 24, UCLA 14: The Bearcats opened as a 4-point favorite and led by only three through three quarters, struggling to pull away from the Bruins with several missed scoring opportunities. On the first play of the fourth quarter Cincinnati struck for a 21-yard touchdown pass to lead by 10 and then watched UCLA have turnovers on its next two possessions.
Clemson (-36½) 52, Georgia Tech 14: The Tigers did not have trouble in this game but a 35-0 edge wasn’t enough to cover the spread. These teams exchanged touchdowns late in the third quarter and early in the fourth as the 35-point margin held on a spread that was commonly just past that number. With some reserves in the game Clemson added a 51-yard field goal with six minutes remaining for the top ranked Tigers to cover.
Texas A&M (-34) 41, Texas State 7: The Aggies scored twice late in the second quarter to take a commanding 28-0 lead into halftime but only added three points in the third quarter. Early in the fourth Texas A&M pushed past the spread completing a 94-yard touchdown drive and then forced two Texas State punts. The Aggies added another three points to lead 41-0 but Texas State would avoid the shutout, converting several 3rd downs on its way to the end zone in the final minute to spoil the cover for many on a spread that hovered right around 34, with winners and losers on both sides with 33½ and 34½ also common.
Arizona State (-24) 30, Kent State 7: The Sun Devils led 27-0 at halftime and wound up holding Kent State to only 200 total yards in the game. Kent State finally put a scoring drive together late in the game, finding the end zone on a 3rd-and-6 play into the fourth quarter to climb within the underdog spread. Arizona State was poised to answer but the offense stalled near the 20-yard-line and settled for a field goal halfway through the fourth quarter to only lead by 23. That would be the final with three uneventful possessions to finish out the contest.
Michigan State (-23½) 28, Tulsa 7: Everything went right for Michigan State in the second quarter with three turnovers, a safety, and a defensive touchdown to take a 25-0 lead but Tulsa was able to find the end zone just before halftime to trail by only 18. After exchanging punts, a pass interference call gave the Spartans a new set of downs in Tulsa territory but Michigan State had a touchdown called back for holding and had to settle for a field goal to push the margin to 21 points. There was only one first down on either side the rest of the game with a scoreless fourth quarter preserving the underdog cover.
Colorado (-11½) 52, Colorado State 31: The Rams scored early in the fourth quarter to get to within seven, eyeing a comeback upset in this rivalry game. Looking for a stop the defense pushed Colorado back with a holding call but Steven Montez hit several quick strikes to move the Buffaloes into the end zone and back past the favorite spread at 45-31. With about four minutes to go Colorado State fumbled deep in its own territory and Colorado ran it back for a score to put the game away with a 21-point win despite the Rams having more than 500 yards.
Nevada (+11) 34, Purdue 31: The Boilermakers appeared to be in complete control with a 31-14 edge late in the third quarter. Nevada managed a field goal to trim the deficit to 14 but despite battling turnovers Purdue still led by 14 halfway through the fourth quarter before Nevada scored with fewer than seven minutes remaining. Purdue picked up a few first downs but had to punt from midfield and Nevada put together an 87-yard scoring drive to tie the game in the final minute. Elijah Sindelar was intercepted on 2nd down and Nevada ran down the clock and despite getting pushed back with a penalty. The Wolf Pack would win on a 56-yard field goal from walk-on kicker Brandon Talton, while getting a 5-0 turnover edge in the game for the upset.
Ohio State (-27½) 45, Florida Atlantic 21: Those laying the points with Ohio State had to feel good with a 28-0 lead with still nearly seven minutes to go in the first quarter. The Owls managed two field goals in the middle quarters but Ohio State still took a 29-point lead into the final frame. In the fourth quarter Florida Atlantic would put together two long touchdown drives to eventually trim the deficit to just 21 points. Ohio State reached the Florida Atlantic 22-yard-line with a new set of downs in the final minutes but went backwards with a holding call and had to settle for a field goal even with Justin Fields and the first team offense still in the game. Ohio State would get a late interception to get the ball back but simply ran out the clock with backups on the final possession as the Owls snagged an improbable underdog cover.
Kentucky (-9) 38, Toledo 24: This contest smelled like a potential upset spot and an opening line near two touchdowns fell to below double-digits by kickoff. A competitive game was in store with Kentucky leading 24-17 into the fourth quarter before completing a 92-yard touchdown drive finished off with a 40-yard run from Kavosiey Smoke. An interception two plays later from Toledo backup quarterback Carter Bradley doomed the Rockets and a short-field score put the Wildcats up by 21 with just over five minutes to go. Kentucky would fumble to give the ball back to Toledo late in the game and the Rockets added a touchdown with about a minute remaining but didn’t quite reach the underdog spread. However for most that late touchdown pushed the total just ‘over’.
Mississippi State (-18½) 38, UL-Lafayette 28: In New Orleans the heavily favored Bulldogs moved the ball with ease on the ground but didn’t build a big lead with two first half fumbles including a punt return miscue that led to a huge field position swing, while also missing a short field goal. Despite keeping the Ragin’ Cajuns in the game, Mississippi State managed to lead by 21 early in the fourth quarter, even with the common spread that dipped before kickoff with the late announcement of suspensions for the Bulldogs. Louisiana-Lafayette would score two short-field touchdowns in the fourth quarter to make the yardage and scoring for the game much more respectable in a sloppy opening contest on both sides.
Memphis (-3½) 15, Mississippi 10: This spread on this game dropped from -6½ down to just -3½ by kickoff and a tight finish was in order even after a 13-0 lead at halftime for Memphis with a missed PAT potentially looming large. Ole Miss had minimal yardage in the game but climbed to within three early in the fourth quarter, getting touchdown after Memphis came up short going for it on 4th-and-1 just across midfield. Ultimately the difference on the scoreboard for many wound up being a safety on a sack with the Rebels pinned back to the two-yard-line, putting the margin from three to five. That was where the final ended up with Memphis being able to take a knee in the final seconds inside the Old Miss 20-yard-line.
Eastern Michigan (-4) 30, Coastal Carolina 23: The spread on this game fell from -6 to just -4 and those numbers were in play late in the game. Coastal Carolina led at halftime but Eastern Michigan took control from there and led 30-20 with about five minutes remaining. The Chanticleers were on the doorstep with 1st-and-goal but didn’t pick up yardage and wound up settling for a 26-yard field goal that was inexplicably missed. The defense forced a quick 3-and-out to get the ball back but again settled for a field goal instead of a spread-spoiling touchdown in the final minute. The Chanticleers actually got the on-side kick but wound up throwing an interception on 1st down.
North Carolina (+11½) 24, South Carolina 20: This spread climbed sharply during the week with an opener of 7½ skyrocketing to close at 11½. South Carolina would lead by 11 heading into the fourth quarter but the Tar Heels would put together two touchdown drives of more than 90 yards in the fourth quarter for a stunning finish. South Carolina would have four more possessions in the game but Jake Bentley was intercepted twice as the Tar Heels hung on to win narrowly despite massive production edges for the game.
Alabama (-33½) 42, Duke 3: Alabama didn’t score in the first quarter and had a modest 14-3 lead at halftime before scoring three touchdowns in the span of only about seven minutes late in the third quarter to pull away. With a 35-3 edge the Tide were just short of the common spreads on the game that reached as high as 34½. Duke had three second half turnovers but Alabama missed a field goal that could have put the margin at 35. Finally Tide backers got the breakthrough they needed as Jerome Ford ran for a 37-yard touchdown to put the favorite in position to cover for the first time with fewer than five minutes remaining. The defense intercepted Quentin Harris for a touchback in the final minute as Duke couldn’t get back within the number.
Stanford (-6½) 17, Northwestern 7: Stanford led 10-0 at halftime but would lose quarterback K.J. Costello. Northwestern appeared poised to score to start the second half but wound up fumbling at the Stanford 5-yard-line The Cardinal would give the ball back a few plays later but ultimately no points were added as Northwestern missed a field goal. Later in the third the roles reversed with a Northwestern interception and then Stanford missing a 29-yard kick. The Wildcats would convert a 4th down in the red zone and eventually added a touchdown to trail 10-7 and then got the ball back after a Stanford fumble. Punts followed and on a late desperation possession a strip sack led to a Stanford touchdown as the Cardinal escaped with the win and cover.
Syracuse (-19½) 24, Liberty 0: The Liberty defense did its job allowing just 17 points through three quarters vs. Syracuse and two of those drives were very short drives off good field position. The Flames wound up with four turnovers on offense however plus a missed field goal. Early in the fourth the quarter the Orange put together its best offensive drive of the game to take a 24-0 edge and the Flames botched two late opportunities to add points, failing going for it on 4th down once and then later fumbling near the red zone.
Boise State (+7) 36, Florida State 31: Boise State wound up playing a true road game to start the season and fell behind 24-6 early in the second quarter. By halftime the Broncos were able to get within 12 and in the second half the defense stepped up while freshman Hank Bachmeier made a name for himself. The second half started with five straight punts and then an exchange of fumbles before the Broncos got back within the spread late in the third quarter, down by five on a spread that was as low as -3½ in Jacksonville but climbed quickly to -6½ with the move to Tallahassee. Early in the fourth the Broncos again delivered an efficient touchdown drive to take the lead and the FSU offense remained quiet. Boise State would settle for a short field goal halfway through the fourth quarter to lead by six but then held Florida State to negative yards on the next drive and then in a final desperation possession the Seminoles went backwards with a holding penalty and ultimately fell short faced with a 4th-and-long.
SMU (+1) 37, Arkansas State 30: This contest featured some big momentum swings as an early Arkansas State lead disappeared by halftime and then back-to-back touchdowns put the Red Wolves up by seven halfway through the third quarter. A 98-yard kickoff return touchdown followed to shift the momentum back to the Mustangs who would add two more touchdowns to lead by 14 in the fourth quarter. Arkansas State scored with six minutes to go to get back within one score and overtime looked possible with a new set of downs on the SMU 25-yard-line in the final seconds. Ultimately a fourth-down sack ended the game for a narrow SMU win.
Iowa (-25½) 38, Miami, OH 14: Iowa led only 10-7 at halftime but took control in the third quarter with a pair of touchdowns to lead by 17 on a spread that climbed steadily from -21½ to -25½. Led by Brett Gabbert, Miami was able to get what appeared to be a spread-saving touchdown in the fourth quarter to put the margin at only 10 points. Iowa wound go for the touchdown on 4th down near the end zone and succeed to lead by 17 with about six minutes left. On its next offensive snap Miami threw an interception and a few plays later Iowa was back in the end zone and suddenly up by 24 to earn the favorite cover for most though shortly before kickoff the spread climbed further for the closing line of 25½ that calls Miami a winner.
Georgia (-22½) 30, Vanderbilt 6: Georgia commanded a lot of attention as a heavy road favorite in this SEC opener but a pair of field goals before halftime kept the Commodores in play. The Bulldogs added only three points in the entire third quarter to lead by just 18 and then fumbled in Vanderbilt territory early in the fourth quarter. The Commodores didn’t take advantage but managed to stay in position to cover by holding Georgia to another field goal. Near midfield Riley Neal fumbled to thwart a potential scoring chance for Vanderbilt and Georgia again kicked for three, this time to move pas the favorite spread with just over two minutes remaining. With Deuce Wallace at quarterback Vanderbilt was a threat to score late but from the Georgia 18-yard line four consecutive incomplete passes ended that chance.
Auburn (-4) 27, Oregon 21: In the showcase game Saturday night the first half featured missed field goals and turnovers on both sides as Oregon led 14-6. The Ducks used a strong punt return for good field position to set-up a touchdown drive to lead 21-6 early in the third quarter. Auburn would control the game from there with the Ducks punting three straight times while Auburn scored two touchdowns, to close to within one point down 21-20. Oregon wound up just across midfield with over five minutes remaining before getting a big scare with Justin Herbert injured. He had to sit out on a critical 4th-and-short play that was stuffed by Auburn. The Tigers went 3-and-out from there but the defense held to get the ball back with just over two minutes to go in good field position. Bo Nix scrambled to narrowly convert a 4th down and Auburn reached field goal range in the final seconds. Opting to take one shot down the field Nix hit Seth Williams just outside the end zone and he gathered the ball and dove in for the go-ahead score on both the scoreboard and the pointspread. Oregon did get a favorable Hail Mary position from past midfield but Herbert threw over the end zone for stunning collapse for the Ducks.
USC (-14) 31, Fresno State 23: The Bulldogs hung right with the Trojans on the scoreboard and the box score, trailing by just four after a field goal halfway through the third quarter. Their kickoff was returned 100 yards for a touchdown however and USC would add another quick touchdown later in the third quarter to suddenly lead by 18. While USC backup quarterback Kedon Slovis started hot, he threw a late third quarter interception taking a deep shot and Fresno State was able to go 80 yards for a field goal to trim the margin to 15 points, not quite enough on a spread that climbed substantially from the opening price. Fresno State’s defense held again and on the next drive the Bulldogs were within one score after a touchdown with about seven minutes to go. The overtime threat lingered after Fresno State converted a 4th down near midfield but on the next play Jorge Reyna was intercepted in the end zone as USC held on.
Oklahoma (-22) 49, Houston 31: Jalen Hurts certainly had a great Oklahoma debut and could very well continue the Heisman run for Sooners quarterbacks if he keeps up the pace. Oklahoma led by 25 through three quarters but Houston would get its offense going in the fourth quarter, ultimately getting nearly half of its game production in the final frame with two touchdowns bringing the margin briefly to only 11 points. Oklahoma ended any thoughts of a miracle comeback with a short-field score after Houston wasn’t able to bring in the on-side kick but the final 18-point margin kept the underdog cover in place.