4th Quarter Covers – NCAA Week 2
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 second big weekend of the college football season. 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.
Wake Forest (-20) 41, Rice 21: This Friday night spread eventually hit -20 for the Demon Deacons who were caught in a 14-14 tie after the first quarter. Rice wouldn’t score again until the final two minutes of the game, but that score cut the margin from 27 to 20 to give the Owls a push for many on the closing number.
Boise State (-14) 14, Marshall 7: While the Broncos were never past this spread Friday night as Marshall scored first, they were a serious threat to beat the number in the closing seconds. Boise State had a dominant yardage edge in the game but Marshall had the ball with a chance to tie halfway through the fourth. An interception quickly gave the Broncos the ball back and Boise State led a 15-play drive to run the rest of the remaining clock, with those on the favorite not getting the breakthrough rush they needed with Boise State eventually taking a knee inside the 10-yard-line.
Georgia Tech (-4½) 14, South Florida 10: After a disastrous showing in the opener vs. Wisconsin, South Florida did find the scoreboard first in this game with an early field goal. Georgia Tech would take over from there with two second quarter scores to lead by 11. Both teams had productive drives that came up empty in the third quarter and as Georgia Tech looked to put the game away South Florida picked up an interception to stay in the game. The Bulls slipped within the spread with an early fourth quarter score and appeared poised to take the lead after getting the ball back off another turnover. Facing 3rd-and-goal at the 1-yard-line South Florida fumbled away its chance to go-ahead as the Yellow Jackets got the win but didn’t add points to get past the spread.
Colorado (+4) 34, Nebraska 31: A close call didn’t seem likely for Nebraska is this old Big 8 rivalry with a 17-0 halftime lead. Colorado didn’t score until late in the third quarter but struck again with a 96-yard pass play to climb within three early in the fourth quarter. It was back-and-forth from there with 38 combined fourth quarter points including Colorado tying the game with a 26-yard touchdown pass in the final minute. The Buffaloes went first in overtime and settled for a field goal while Nebraska lost seven yards on a 3rd down sack and wound up missing from 48 for a second straight difficult loss in this series.
Clemson (-14½) 24, Texas A&M 10: The defending national champions didn’t score until nearly 20 minutes into this game but wound up leading by 14 at halftime. The third quarter featured more defense until the Tigers completed a quick 83-yard touchdown drive to lead by 21. Texas A&M had a golden opportunity to score in the fourth quarter but wound up intercepted at the 1-yard-line. It looked like Clemson would add another score to seal the favorite cover but Trevor Lawrence was also picked off near the end zone to halt a productive drive. Down three touchdowns the Aggies only had five minutes to work with but they put together a quality drive and eventually the spread result boiled down to a 4th-and-goal play at the Clemson 2-yard-line with 10 seconds on the clock. Kellen Mond hit Jalen Wydermyer for the score, meaningless to the outcome and the national picture but a huge swing play for many in one of the marquee non-conference games of the season.
Alabama (-55) 62, New Mexico State: A 55-point spread seems outrageous regardless of the competition but Alabama wound up leading 38-0 at the half and had the margin to the 55-point mark through three quarters after answering a New Mexico State touchdown with 17 points in the final four minutes of the third quarter. Both teams had 3-and-out possessions to start the fourth before the Aggies broke through with a few decent gains after starting in good field position and nailed a 43-yard field goal that proved to be the difference in the game.
Wyoming (-7½) 23, Texas State 14: Home underdog Texas State led 14-3 early and dominated the box score in this game. Wyoming managed to climb to within a point in the third quarter and then disaster struck for the Bobcats on a potential scoring drive with interception returned the other way for a 72-yard touchdown, suddenly putting Wyoming in front. Down six the Texas State defense stepped up to hold Wyoming to a 19-yard field goal from 1st-and-goal from the 2-yard-line but that kick put Wyoming past the road favorite spread with about 10 minutes to go. After an exchange of punts Texas State appeared to give itself a shot at the comeback but a field goal was missed with three minutes remaining. Down nine in the final seconds the outcome was set but Texas State would get a final play from the Wyoming 6-yard-line with the spread result on the line but the Cowboys got the stop and turned in a second straight win despite losing badly in total yardage for a second straight week.
BYU (+3½) 29, Tennessee 26: The Volunteers program has had plenty of low moments in the last decade but the start of the 2019 season is certain to join that growing list. The Volunteers led 13-3 at the half, settling for a pair of second quarter field goals. BYU would score in the third but Tennessee still led 16-10 early in the fourth and then 16-13 much later in the game. The game appeared over as BYU was pinned at its own 8-yard-line facing 2nd-and-18 in the final minute but incredibly struck for a 65-yard completion and managed to spike the ball to stop the clock in time to get off and make the tying field goal. The Volunteers would have pushed or lost on most spreads as the real losers in overtime proved to be those on the ‘under’ as both teams scored touchdowns in the first session. Tennessee settled for three in round two and BYU needed only three plays to hand Tennessee a second straight home loss with a stunning comeback win.
Kentucky (-15) 38, Eastern Michigan 17: Kentucky was in control most of the way against Eastern Michigan but led by 14 through three quarters in a game where they had only a 76 yard edge in total production. Early in the fourth Kentucky connected for a 54-yard touchdown pass from Sawyer Smith on his first throw after Terry Wilson was injured on a vicious horse collar tackle. Mark Stoops didn’t forget that play with his offense passing three times on a late Kentucky drive including on 1st down in the final minute when the Wildcats could have taken a knee to end the game. That throw resulted in a spread swinging touchdown, though Stoops is fortunate he didn’t lose another player to a senseless injury on an unnecessary play. Spread result justice was nearly served as Mike Glass drove the Eagles down to the Kentucky 10 in the final seconds but couldn’t connect in the end zone.
North Carolina (+4) 28, Miami, FL 25: The Tar Heels had a hot start with a few big plays to lead 17-3 early but Miami proved to be the stronger squad posting 99 more yards in the game. The Hurricanes went up 25-20 in the fourth quarter but failed on the two-point conversion try. The Miami defense seemed ready to wrap up the game and but North Carolina converted a 4th-and-17 and eventually went ahead with a touchdown with a minute remaining. The two-point conversion put the Heels up three but Miami quickly went down the field as overtime looked likely if not a win in regulation for Miami. The drive stalled and kicker Bubba Baxa had his third missed kick of the day leaving seven points on the field in addition to Miami failing on a 4th-and-1 in the red zone in the third quarter for a tough luck 0-2 start for the Hurricanes.
LSU (-6½) 45, Texas 38: The Saturday night showcase game lived up its billing with an exciting display of offense. Texas trimmed LSU’s lead to 23-21 entering the fourth quarter but it didn’t take long for LSU to climb back up by nine The teams exchanged scores again in quick order before Texas stalled and settled for a field goal to cut the margin to six points with four minutes to go, a significant figure with a spread that hovered near that margin all week. Texas had a chance to get the stop it needed for a shot at the upset but on 3rd-and-17 Joe Burrow hit Justin Jefferson for 61 yards and LSU added the two-point conversion, ending hopes for the underdog with a 14-point margin. Texas would score in the final seconds but the road favorite escaped with the win and cover.
Auburn (-16) 24, Tulane 6: Tulane was a popular underdog with a spread that was as high as +18½ upon its release. Auburn led by eight late in the third quarter before completing a long drive to lead 21-6. The Tigers added a field goal in the fourth quarter before a Tulane opportunity near midfield fell short. Auburn would fumble two plays later to give Green Wave backers a miracle opportunity with the ball at the Auburn 36 but Tulane only advanced a few more yards and again fell short on 4th down.
Texas Tech (-35) 38, UTEP 3: The Red Raiders led 21-0 at halftime and 31-0 through three quarters. Adding a touchdown early in the fourth Texas Tech was past the number at 38-0. UTEP was intercepted on the second play of its next drive but offsides gave the ball back and Miners wound up nearly doubling its game production by getting in position for a shutout-spoiling field goal with about five minutes to go, while also spoiling the big favorite cover for many as well.
Penn State (-31½) 45, Buffalo 13: You’ll do a double-take when pulling up the box score on this game as despite slipping by the heavy favorite spread with a 32-point win, Penn State was out-gained 429-357 and had only 14 first downs. A pick-six in the third quarter put the Lions in front after actually trailing 10-7 at the half while a big punt return aided by a penalty helped Penn State quickly score again to suddenly lead 21-10. Buffalo added a field goal in the third to sit down by eight and seemingly well within a safe range for the underdog cover but Penn State scored two more touchdowns in the final seven minutes of the third and added an early fourth quarter field goal to lead by 25. Buffalo then reached the Penn State 25-yard-line but failed on 4th-and-2 and with three minutes to go and a significant lead James Franklin called back-to-back pass plays, the second of which resulted in a 56-yard touchdown that put Penn State ahead by 32 and was actually the longest scoring drive of the game for the Lions. Buffalo reached the Penn State 35-yard-line on its final possession but again couldn’t convert on 4th-and-short as Bulls backers had a puzzling loss given a nearly 3:1 time of possession edge for the heavy underdog.
Minnesota (-3) 38, Fresno State 35: These teams have had exciting games the past two years with nearly identical results. Minnesota trailed 21-14 through three quarters and still 28-21 as the fourth quarter clock ticked down. On 4th-and-13 Tanner Morgan hit Chris Autman-Bell in the corner of the end zone, and he barely snuck a toe in for the tying score. In overtime Fresno State benefitted from a 3rd down roughing the passer call and found the end zone on the next play but Minnesota needed only three plays to answer. Going first in round two Minnesota had to settle for a field goal to sit even with the common road favorite spread. Jorge Reyna took a shot at the end zone for the win on first down and he was intercepted by Austin Winfield, who sealed last season’s win for the Gophers with an interception in the end zone as well.