4th Quarter Covers – NCAA Week 5
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 fifth big weekend of the college football season to close September. 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.
Memphis (-11) 35, Navy 23: Navy wound up a with a pronounced production edge Thursday night against Memphis and the Midshipmen led 20-7 about halfway through the second quarter. Memphis returned the next kickoff 99 yards to get within six by halftime and in the third quarter the Tigers added 14 points including a 73-yard strike to put Memphis up 28-20. Navy added a field goal early in the fourth to boost the chances for the underdog but Memphis answered quickly to reach its greatest lead of the game up by 12. Navy had two late possessions but wasn’t much of a threat to add points.
Air Force (-19½) 41, San Jose State 24: San Jose State scored on its opening drive looking to back up last week’s win over Arkansas. The Spartans were also stopped on downs in Air Force territory on the next two possessions as they had an opportunity for an even better start. Air Force scored touchdowns on three of its first four possessions but had a costly fumble in the red zone just before halftime to lead by only 11 on spread that climbed upward Friday evening. Air Force scored 13 points five minutes into the second half helped by what turned into an accidental wind-aided on-side kick recovery to take a commanding 34-10 edge. After both teams botched scoring opportunities late in the third quarter a lengthy Air Force drive ended in a touchdown to put the Falcons up by 31 about halfway through the fourth quarter. With backup quarterback Nick Nash in the game, the Spartans connected for a 30-yard touchdown pass with fewer than four minutes remaining. Air Force then wound up going for it on 4th-and-short from its own 22 with a 24-point lead and fell short. Handed great field position, Nash put the Spartans into the end zone inside of two minutes to steal the underdog cover.
Arizona State (+4½) 24, California 17: After losing quarterback Chase Garbers just before halftime California managed to take a three-point lead early in the fourth quarter taking advantage of great field position after Jayden Daniels fumbled on a sack. Leaning on the running game Arizona State responded with a lengthy drive to get in front 21-17 with about five minutes to go. Cal failed going for it on 4th down on its next possession but Arizona State only added three to keep the game in play. Devon Modster and the Bears were not able to put together much on a late chance to keep its perfect season going, ultimately winding up with only 245 yards for the game.
Wisconsin (-23) 24, Northwestern 15: The heavy underdog Wildcats hung around vs. Wisconsin but a 68-yard interception return in the fourth quarter suddenly put Wisconsin up by 21 despite the game being just 7-3 late in the third quarter. Northwestern had a 3-and-out to hand the Badgers the ball back with a chance to get past the favorite spread but the punt wasn’t handled as the Wildcats managed to recover the muff and with good field position found the end zone to secure the underdog cover. Northwestern actually adding another touchdown later in the fourth and had a two-point conversion attempt to get back within seven that came up short. It was another cover for the Wildcats in the series, while actually out-gaining Wisconsin and featuring a 21-13 edge in 1st downs but with two Wisconsin defensive scores allowed.
Wake Forest (-4½) 27, Boston College 24: Wake Forest and Boston College were knotted at 17-17 at the break but Wake Forest added a late third quarter field goal and an early fourth quarter touchdown to lead by 10. In that stretch the Demon Deacons survived an interception with a 4th down stop on defense. Boston College climbed back in the game with a touchdown completed from running back David Bailey throwing to get within three and within the underdog spread with just over six minutes to go. Wake Forest used up significant clock on a 12-play drive but couldn’t run it all out as Boston College had a late chance, eventually reaching the midfield on the final play.
Western Michigan (-15½) 31, Central Michigan 15: The spread on this game dipped from as high as -17½ to just -15½ at some outlets by kickoff. With a 24-0 edge through three quarters it didn’t appear to matter but Central Michigan put up a fourth quarter fight with nine early points. A Western Michigan touchdown with about five minutes to go put the Broncos back past the number but the Chippewas quickly answered with a 34-yard strike to score. Down 16 Central Michigan went for two and came up empty in a critical play for those that waited to play the Saturday prices.
Toledo (+2½) 28, BYU 21: BYU broke a 14-14 tie with a touchdown on a short field following a muffed punt to lead by seven as a slight road favorite. Toledo would answer less than a minute into the fourth quarter to tie the game before the teams traded punts and then empty possessions with BYU stopped on downs and Toledo having a fumble at the BYU 20-yard-line. The momentum swung back quickly as BYU quarterback Zach Wilson was intercepted on 1st down with a return all the way down to the 2-yard-line. Toledo punched in the touchdown on the next play and the defense was able to hold off a drive to the Toledo 32 in the final seconds behind BYU back-up quarterback Jaren Hall after Wilson injured his hand on the decisive interception.
Vanderbilt (-7½) 24, Northern Illinois 18: The Commodores jumped out to a 14-0 lead only about six minutes into the game and that score held through halftime. Northern Illinois managed a field goal and a touchdown early in the second half but Vanderbilt seemed to put the game away with a 38-yard touchdown pass late in third quarter. Another score was on the way early in the fourth but in settling for a short field goal, Vanderbilt kept the door open for the underdog. Northern Illinois would score just two minutes later and down eight opted to go for two, successfully trimming the margin to six points in an unexpected play with huge ramifications relative to the spread that was commonly at 6½ before rising to 7½. The six-point margin held with neither side offering much of a scoring threat in the final 10 minutes.
Oklahoma (-27½) 55, Texas Tech 16: Oklahoma’s victory was never in doubt, but the heavy underdog Red Raiders rushed for nearly 200 yards and were in position to cover with the ball back down 32. A fumble near midfield sealed their fate with about nine minutes to go and the Red Raiders came up empty in two late drives that reached well into Oklahoma territory while Oklahoma added one more touchdown to win by 39.
Notre Dame (-10½) 35, Virginia 20: Virginia led 17-14 at halftime and had a significant production edge at that point. In the third quarter the Irish ran 11 plays and the only 1st down they picked up was via a penalty but they wound up with an 11-point lead thanks to three Virginia fumbles, one of which was returned to the two-yard-line and another was brought to the end zone for a defensive score. That margin was right in-between a spread that hit as high as +13 but dropped on game day down to as low as +10. Virginia had two interceptions in the fourth quarter looking to climb back in the game while Notre Dame broke a 30-yard run for a touchdown. Down 18 Virginia opted for a 27-yard field goal with six minutes to go that was of no help to the underdog supporters.
Washington (-12) 28, USC 14: Washington led by 10 at the half and by 14 through three quarters after Michael Pittman had a 44 touchdown to bring USC back in the game. Washington fumbled near midfield to hand USC an opportunity in the fourth quarter but an exchange of punts followed. USC looked likely to earn the underdog cover late reaching 1st-and-goal from the Washington 5-yard-line but the Trojans weren’t able to get in. On its final possession Matt Fink brought USC across midfield and pass interference converted a 4th-and-10 play. The next throw was intercepted however as the Huskies escaped still up 14 after a scoreless final frame.
UCF (-42½) 56, Connecticut 21: The Knights nearly eclipsed this massive spread by halftime with a 42-0 advantage and with nearly six minutes left in the third quarter it was 56-0. The Huskies would score late in the third quarter for the first time and then again in the fourth to get the margin back to 42 and within the hefty underdog number. On its next possession UCF fumbled at the UConn 21-yard-line and then with two minutes remaining the Knights went for it on 4th-and-9 rather than attempting a long field goal. A sack on that play gave the Huskies good field position and Steven Krajewski fired away, getting the Huskies into the end zone with 19 seconds to go to secure the underdog win.
Stanford (-3½) 31, Oregon State 28: Davis Mills led Stanford to an early 21-0 edge but Oregon State made a late charge getting to 21-14 early in the fourth quarter. Stanford would answer to lead by 14 with nine minutes remaining but the Beavers kept the momentum on offense with a six-play touchdown drive to get back within seven with seven minutes to go. Oregon State’s defense forced a 3-and-out and the Beavers went 77 yards to tie the game with fewer than two minutes remaining. It was however enough time for Mills and the Stanford offense thanks to a 43-yard kickoff return as the Cardinal gained 29 more yards and connected from 39 yards for the game-winning field goal, though for many, the Beavers still collected.
Appalachian State (-14½) 56, Coastal Carolina 37: After the big win over North Carolina, Appalachian State found itself in a back-and-forth game with a 21-21 tie late in the second quarter. The Mountaineers managed two touchdowns in the final two minutes before the break to suddenly lead by 14 however. Appalachian State scored first in the second half but by the start of the fourth quarter the 21-point edge had been shrunk to 12. An interception return touchdown put Appalachian State up by 19 and they added another touchdown on a short field with about four minutes remaining. A late Coastal Carolina touchdown wasn’t enough to get back within the number in a game that was much closer in the box score than the scoreboard suggests.
Liberty (-7½) 17, New Mexico 10: Liberty led 17-3 through three quarters and had a significant yardage edge. With a common number of -7 the line did hit -7½ by kickoff and late Flames backers had reason for worry. An interception bailed out Liberty following a missed field goal and the defense again got a big stop as New Mexico went for it on 4th-and-8 early in the fourth quarter. The Lobos would not be denied on their final possession however, converting a big third down with 53 seconds to go and then hitting the end zone with 43 seconds to go to climb within seven for the final margin.
UL-Monroe (-14½) 30, South Alabama 17: The Warhawks led by just seven heading into the fourth quarter but back-to-back touchdown drives pushed the margin to 20 points with about seven minutes to go. South Alabama would go 75 yards in the next four minutes however to get back within the number and UL-Monroe did not make a push to add points late.