4th Quarter Covers – NCAA Week 3
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 third 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 (-3) 24, North Carolina 18: The Demon Deacons led 21-0 just a few minutes into the second quarter as little went right for the Tar Heels. North Carolina did get a 4th-and-1 stop inside the 10-yard-line to keep the margin at 21 into halftime however. Defense carried the third quarter as there were no points added until North Carolina hit a 49-yard field goal with 41 seconds remaining. After comeback wins in the first two games the Tar Heels made a great run at it again, getting to 21-10 and then 21-18 with about six minutes remaining after going 80 yards in five plays and hitting the two-point conversion. Wake Forest was able to pick up several first downs to exhaust North Carolina’s timeouts but the Deacons kept the game in play by settling for a field goal with a minute to go. North Carolina moved 33 yards before time ran out with officials later admitting one second should have been given to the Heels for a final play after picking up a late first down and getting out of bounds. It would have been a Hail Mary from there but the Tar Heels weren’t given a shot at a miracle finish as Wake Forest held on.
Washington State (-8) 31, Houston 24: Houston kept the prolific Washington State offense in check in the first half with a 14-7 lead at the break as those playing the mid-70s ‘over’ found trouble early with a scoreless first quarter. Washington State scored two touchdowns in the third quarter to get back in front and held Houston to a field goal early in the fourth quarter after a penalty handed off good field position. That four-point edge allowed Washington State to get past the favorite number with the following touchdown drive, leading 28-17 with fewer than seven minutes remaining. Washington State backers got a big break as Houston fumbled on its next offensive play but Washington State only got three points despite reaching 1st-and-goal from the 3-yard-line. A roughing the passer penalty got Houston’s final drive off to a promising start and with just over two minutes remaining a touchdown run from D’Eriq King put Houston within seven, where the final held for the narrow underdog cover.
Kansas State (+7) 31, Mississippi State 24: Kansas State was in control in the first quarter but a costly personal foul penalty allowed Mississippi State to extend a late drive and get to halftime down 17-14 instead of 17-7. The Bulldogs controlled the third quarter and took the lead with a touchdown, sitting even with the closing spread after an early fourth quarter field goal made it 24-17. The kickoff was returned 100 yards by Malik Knowles for a tying score for the Wildcats to shift the momentum back. The defenses held from there until a marginal punt put Kansas State in favorable field position and the Wildcats hit a pair of big passes on the way to the end zone for a seven-point advantage with about five minutes to go. Mississippi State would reach inside the Kansas State 30 on the next drive but went backwards and on 4th-and-16 wound up just a yard short.
Air Force (+3) 30, Colorado 23: The first meeting between these nearby schools featured some big swings as Colorado jumped out to a 10-0 lead and then trailed 20-10 by halftime. Neither team scored in the third quarter and Air Forced extended its lead with a field goal in the fourth while posting a big rushing edge as expected. Colorado would answer about four minutes later but the PAT was blocked as Air Force maintained a seven-point edge. Air Force had a pair of penalties on its next drive and had to punt quickly as Colorado had the ball back with a chance to tie. It took 13 plays but the Buffaloes were able get a touchdown in the final minute and the PAT was good to force overtime. Colorado didn’t keep the momentum long as in overtime Kadin Remsberg went 25 yards for the score on 1st down and Air Force then stopped the Buffaloes for the upset win.
Alabama (-27) 47, South Carolina 23: The box score reveals plenty of concerns for Alabama and South Carolina answered the early punches trailing only 14-10 after the first quarter. Alabama missed a field goal late in the second quarter after being handed good field position as the lead was just 24-10. South Carolina’s chance to truly get back in the game came up empty as in the final seconds before the break the Gamecocks couldn’t get into the end zone after reaching the 1-yard-line, eventually failing going for it on 4th-and-3. Alabama would pull away in the third quarter with a 21-point advantage, one touchdown short of covering the heavy road favorite spread. South Carolina would add a field goal in the fourth but Alabama quickly answered to lead by 24. A promising South Carolina drive ended in a Ryan Hilinski interception and despite limited rushing success the entire game, the Tide eventually worked its way into the end zone, converting on 4th-and-1. That appeared to be the spread-saving score for flocks of Tide backers but Will Muschamp and the Gamecocks had the last laugh, converting a 4th down with 15 seconds to go and hitting the end zone on the next play to narrowly take the underdog cover back.
Army (-14½) 31, Texas San Antonio 13: Army had a 17-7 lead through three quarters but extended the advantage to 24-7 early in the fourth. Following a nice kickoff return, the Roadrunners would add six but not the conversion to climb within the spread down 11. Army intended to run out the clock but they ran out of field and UTSA opted to use its timeouts. Army eventually rushed in from three yards out on 1st down with just over a minute remaining to get past the favorite spread despite being close to the range for taking a knee. UTSA was still a threat to steal the cover back late in the game reaching the Army 21 before an interception.
BYU (+5) 30, USC 27: These teams were knotted at 17-17 at halftime before the scoring went blank in the third quarter. BYU had a fumble and then failed to add points after a long drive trying to go for it on 4th-and-3 inside the 10. A 92-play USC touchdown drive followed to put the Trojans in front but BYU got back within the number with a field goal with about eight minutes remaining. BYU held the USC offense to a 3-and-out and the Cougars answered quickly with a three-play touchdown drive to take the lead. An 11-play USC drive followed but it stalled in deep field goal range. Chase McGrath would hit from 52 to tie the game with just under two minutes remaining. In overtime USC picked up a sack and forced BYU to kick a field goal but USC freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis was intercepted to end the game. The overtime points also were enough to push the total ‘over’ for many as BYU ‘under’ backers were burned for a second straight week by the extra-session, though this week’s total did climb to close at 57½ at many outlets for mixed possible results.
Oklahoma State (-12½) 40, Tulsa 21: Tulsa played a great first half to lead 21-20 in a huge home game for the program. That score held in the first 10 minutes of the third quarter before Oklahoma State put two quick touchdowns together, the second coming on a 90-yard pass play as the Cowboys suddenly led by 12. Oklahoma State went for two and came up empty in a critical spread result play heading into the fourth quarter. Tulsa was stopped on downs twice in the fourth quarter including inside the Oklahoma State 10-yard-line. The Cowboys hadn’t been past the favorite spread in the entire game but on 4th-and-1 with just over two minutes remaining Chuba Hubbard rushed for 33 yards to put the Cowboys up 19.
Arkansas (-9½) 55, Colorado State 34: After losing to Colorado State last season, Arkansas was again caught in a tough battle with the Rams, this season at home. Arkansas led 27-24 at halftime and the game was tied 34-34 through three quarters. Big plays followed for Arkansas with a 62-yard pass play for a second touchdown in the fourth quarter that put Arkansas past the favorite spread and a fumble return touchdown led to a lopsided final margin that the Razorbacks didn’t necessarily deserve.
Louisville (-10½) 38, Western Kentucky 21: Louisville quarterback Jawon Pass was a late scratch for this game but Louisville took a commanding 31-7 lead at halftime, helped by a defensive score just before the break. Both teams scored in the third as the 24-point edge held but Western Kentucky found the end zone early in the fourth to sit down 17 and one score away from the underdog cover. The Hilltoppers recovered the onside kick but failed going for it on 4th-and-15 just past midfield. Louisville helped the cause for the Hilltoppers by also going for it on 4th down near midfield instead of punting as Western Kentucky got the ball back in great field position. On the next drive the Hilltoppers reached the Louisville 6-yard-line but couldn’t get in and they also failed near midfield again on a late drive as Louisville held on for the favorite cover in Nashville.
Iowa (-1½) 18, Iowa State 17: This anticipated rivalry game had a nearly three-hour delay early in the game with lightning before the contest lived up to its billing with an exciting finish. Iowa State took a 14-6 lead on just two plays out of halftime after a fumble led to Iowa getting three points just before the break. Iowa added three more in the third quarter and then struck early in the fourth quarter with a seven-play touchdown drive to take the lead. Up one Iowa would miss on a critical two-point conversion try on a spread that was steady at -1½ with brief wavering up to -2 at times. Iowa State responded with a long drive but also settled for just a short field goal to lead by two halfway through the fourth quarter. Iowa again would lean on kicker Keith Duncan who a few minutes later struck from 39 to put the Hawkeyes back in front by one. Iowa State’s final drive was not without drama as Iowa declined an offensive penalty on 3rd-and-13 to force 4th down just outside of field goal range. On the first attempt of that play Iowa was called for clear pass interference but a second unseen flag whistled Iowa State for holding to offset the huge call that would have given the Cyclones a new set of downs. Iowa State was unable to convert the re-do but managed to force Iowa to a punt with the Hawkeyes surprisingly opting to pass on third down and getting out of bounds to keep well over a minute on the clock. On the punt disaster struck with a Cyclones blocker running into the returner with a slight push from an Iowa player on a short kick, ultimately contacting the ball and allowing Iowa to re-gain possession, where they took a knee to seal the narrow win but left the Cyclones with the cover.
Florida (-8½) 29, Kentucky 21: Kentucky snapped a long losing streak in this series last season but they didn’t seem ready to give the series right back to the favored Gators. Sawyer Smith led the Wildcats in his first start to a 14-7 halftime lead with the Gators having two turnovers and a missed field goal in the first half. Florida added a field goal in the third quarter after a long Kentucky drive ended in an interception but the Wildcats put the margin back to two scores quickly with a touchdown. Both teams were stopped on downs on the following possessions and with Kyle Trask replacing an injured Feleipe Franks the Gators had a quick touchdown drive in six plays to climb within five, missing on the two-point conversion. Later in the fourth Smith was intercepted near midfield but an unsportsmanlike penalty after the play pushed Florida into lesser field position. Florida was aided by two 15-yard penalties and managed to score in just four plays, taking a 22-21 lead after again failing going for the two-point conversion. The Wildcats were in position to answer but were seemingly more concerned with burning clock than getting the lead back and they wound up burned as Chance Poore narrowly missed a 35-yard kick for the lead. Looking for a first down to end the game Josh Hammond broke free and raced 76 yards for a touchdown in the final seconds and the extra-point put Florida up by eight to match the common spread on the game ahead of the weekend, though those that jumped on the Gators on Saturday mostly fell just short.
Washington (-22) 52, Hawai’i 20: Hopes for three Pac-12 wins for the Warriors went out the window quickly as Washington raced out to a 38-0 lead before Hawai’i managed a touchdown right before halftime. The Warriors didn’t fold in the second half however netting two touchdowns to climb within 18 and in position to cover the hefty underdog number. Washington would get back in front of the number early in the fourth and then added another score after an interception to seal the win and cover in a bounce back from last week’s loss to Cal.
San Diego State (-17) 31, New Mexico State 10: The Aggies made a late play to cover with 10 points in a five-minute span late in the third quarter after falling behind 24-0. San Diego State scored to get back past the number early in the fourth quarter and on the responding drive New Mexico State couldn’t convert after reaching the Aztecs 17-yard-line. New Mexico State also reached San Diego State territory late in the fourth but on 1st down a fumble handed the ball back to San Diego State.
Clemson (-27½) 41, Syracuse 6: Clemson led just 17-6 at halftime and was short of the favorite spread with a 27-6 edge through three quarters. Trevor Lawrence turned in a fourth-quarter touchdown drive as the Tigers led by 28 to slip by the spread and a late Syracuse threat was turned away in Clemson territory. For good measure Chez Mellusi broke a 57-yard rush in the final minute to pad the final score for the top ranked Tigers.
Virginia (-7) 31, Florida State 24: The Cavaliers were a -7½-point favorite much of the week but that didn’t seem relevant as Florida State led most of this game, up by seven through three quarter and well into the fourth quarter after answering an early fourth quarter tying score from Virginia. The Cavaliers looked set to tie the game with about six minutes to go with an efficient Bryce Perkins drive finding the end zone but a missed PAT left the Seminoles in front by one. The Virginia defense delivered the 3-and-out however and it took just five plays with the help of a penalty for Virginia to find the end zone again. Down five Perkins converted the two-point try and the Cavaliers led by seven to hit the number for some. James Blackman had a chance to deliver the tying score with a personal foul converting a late 4th down incompletion while pass interference added more yards for the Seminoles who received four 15-yard penalties on the drive. Florida State reached the Virginia 4-yard-line scrambling without timeouts and ran a final play that left Cam Akers just short of the end zone.