4th Quarter Covers – NCAA Week 8
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 eighth big weekend of the college football season in mid-October. 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.
Troy (-18) 37, South Alabama 13: This Wednesday Sun Belt game was a 10-10 tie just before halftime before Troy managed a pair of field goals in the final 68 seconds. The lead was just 10 through three quarters as the underdog was promising on a spread that trickled past the key number of 17 to 17½ and even a few closing lines hit 18. The game changed dramatically with a 29-yard interception return touchdown that suddenly put Troy up by exactly 17. South Alabama appeared in position to get a score to keep the underdog in position to cover in most scenarios but an intentional grounding call pushed the Jaguars out of scoring range on a fourth quarter drive and Troy burned more than eight minutes of clock and eventually added seven more to lead by 24. South Alabama would reach the Troy 36-yard-line in the final minutes looking to get back within 17 for a narrow cover but a fumble ended the threat.
UL-Lafayette (-5½) 37, Arkansas State 20: The spread on the road favorite dropped in the hours before kickoff Thursday night but Louisiana led by 14 at halftime. The Red Wolves added a third quarter field goal and an early fourth quarter touchdown to get within the number down by just four. The Ragin’ Cajuns responded with a nice kickoff return and added a touchdown five minutes later to lead by 10, actually missing on the PAT. Needing to go for it on fourth down near midfield Arkansas State fell short and gave Louisiana good field position and two plays later they hit the end zone for a 37-20 edge and for good measure got an interception to hold off a late scoring threat from Arkansas State.
Fresno State (-16½) 56, UNLV 27: Fresno State led by just eight late in the third quarter but a fumble return touchdown put the Bulldogs in range to cover the home favorite spread that fluctuated back and forth from extremes of -13½ up to -16½.The Bulldogs would then take over in the fourth quarter with three touchdowns in the span of fewer than three minutes of game clock thanks to more UNLV turnovers, with eventually a 5-0 edge in takeaways leading to the lopsided final margin for Fresno State.
Clemson (-24½) 45, Louisville 10: A touchdown just before halftime put Clemson up 17-3 after a tight first half. The highly ranked Tigers only added seven points in the third to lead by 17 but posted two quick touchdowns early in the fourth to pull away before the teams traded late scores. Clemson had two turnovers but also posted a 551-263 edge in yards.
[correction] Ohio (-9) 45, Kent State 38: This contest turned into a MAC shootout with a 24-24 tie at the half before the pace slowed with Kent State tying the game with 10 minutes to go at 31-31. Ohio would score two touchdowns in the span of just over three minutes late in the game to pull ahead by 14 but Kent State would get a late score to get back within the number with 31 seconds to go on a 3rd down play, after converting a 4th-and-7 on its own side of the 50 earlier in the drive, with a stop there ending the game and holding the favorite cover for the Bobcats.
Florida (-3½) 38, South Carolina 27: The Gamecocks looked poised for a second straight upset in the SEC East with a 20-17 lead into the fourth quarter. Florida scored to go up by four and the Gamecocks had a fumble on its next possession and then was stopped trying to convert a 4th-and-2 with the Gators responding with touchdowns, in both instances while getting away with potential penalties. The Gamecocks got back within 11 with about two minutes remaining and actually had the ball back across midfield in the final seconds but Florida escaped with an 11-point win despite an even contest that saw the Gamecocks post 33 more yards and a solid rushing edge but with the officials squarely in the spotlight.
Kansas State (+4½) 24, TCU 17: A blocked punt set-up an early Kansas State score and that proved to be the difference in this Big XII clash despite substantial production edges for TCU. Gary Patterson opted to punt in Kansas State territory several times in the game and his conservative game plan would bite in the end as Kansas State put together a 95-yard touchdown drive late in the game to break a 17-17 tie, a drive in which Kansas State more than doubled its rushing total for the game on one 61-yard scramble and wound up converting a big 4th down instead of a medium-range field goal try. TCU reached the Kansas State 36-yard line before a costly sack made the down-and-distance too much to overcome and Kansas State won despite a massive rushing deficit in a turnover free game.
Georgia Southern (-7) 30, Coastal Carolina 27: The box score doesn’t look like an overtime game but Coastal Carolina held Georgia Southern off the scoreboard in the second half and got a fourth quarter field goal to force extra time. After matching touchdowns Georgia Southern went first in overtime #2 and scored a touchdown in one play to give a glimmer of hope to those on the favorite spread commonly at -6½. It took a lengthy drive and a 4th down conversion but the Chanticleers were able to even up the score. In the third period they settled for three and Georgia Southern converted a big third down and got into the end zone on the next play.
Buffalo (-18) 21, Akron 0: To say offense was tough to come by would be quite the understatement in this MAC game as Buffalo scored a first quarter touchdown and then neither offense scored again with total yardage running at 254-196. Buffalo had two fumble return touchdowns including a fourth quarter recovery that was enough to get past the heavy road favorite spread.
Oregon (-2½) 35, Washington 31: These Pac-12 North powers provided another great game as Washington held a 31-21 lead late in the third quarter. Oregon connected for a touchdown as time expired on the third, still trailing by three as a slight road favorite with the spread coming down from -3 by kickoff. Washington was held to back-to-back 3-and-outs as a Ducks program not often known for defense has led on that side of the ball this season. That set-up a season-defining drive for Justin Herbert and the Ducks, going in front by four with five minutes to go. Washington was a serious threat late but a sack and a penalty pushed the Huskies to eventually face 3rd-and-23 and while they got a big chunk to make it a manageable 4th-and-3, Jacob Eason fell incomplete with Washington just outside of reasonable field goal range as Oregon escaped to keep the Pac-12 alive nationally while narrowly cashing the favorite tickets.
Minnesota (-29) 42, Rutgers 7: The Gophers are now the last team standing in the Big Ten West now with a 7-0 start with the past five wins coming primarily against backup quarterbacks. Rutgers wasn’t a threat to win this game but the heavy underdog cover was in play with only a 21-0 deficit heading into the fourth. Minnesota scored three times in fewer than three minutes in the fourth quarter including an interception return touchdown as a late Rutgers touchdown to eliminate the shutout wasn’t enough.
Utah (-16) 21, Arizona State 3: The Utes turned in a dominant defensive performance but covering a more than two touchdown spread requires points and Utah led just 14-3 through three quarters. A muffed punt with just over five minutes remaining handed the Utes the field position it needed and on first down Zack Moss rushed for a 32-yard score to slip past the number.
Louisiana Tech (+2½) 45, Southern Miss 30: The Golden Eagles led 27-17 late in the third quarter but Louisiana Tech went 90 yards in just over a minute to climb within three as a slight home underdog. The Bulldogs took over in the fourth quarter with back-to-back scores and added a late exclamation point with an interception return touchdown to create a misleading final result in Conference USA play.
Baylor (+6) 45, Oklahoma State 27: The Bears trailed by three in the fourth quarter of this game but scored 21 points in four minutes to storm past Oklahoma State in stunning fashion in Stillwater, moving to 4-0 in Big XII play.
Texas A&M (-6) 24, Mississippi 17: Ole Miss had a substantial yardage edge and a 14-10 third quarter lead but a 62-yard fumble return touchdown shifted the trajectory of the game putting the Aggies in front heading into the fourth quarter. Mississippi had a missed field goal and an interception on its next two possessions and on a short field Texas A&M added a fourth quarter touchdown to go up by 10. In the final minute the Rebels reached the red zone but opted to kick a field goal down two scores and did not come up with the on-side kick for a brutal narrow loss for anyone on the home underdog at +6 of +6½
Virginia Tech (+4) 43, North Carolina 41: North Carolina led early but the game was tied in the fourth quarter 24-24. Both teams traded touchdowns in the span of 40 seconds late in the fourth quarter before overtime was needed. Field goals were exchanged and then North Carolina went first in OT #2 getting seven to give the road favorite a great chance to escape. On 4th-and-3 the Hokies not only converted but got the tying score. The third and fourth overtimes featured four missed field goals and the new overtime rules went into place for the first time, trading two-point conversion attempts instead of full drives after the fourth session, effectively sealing the spread win for the underdog Hokies. Both teams failed in the conversions in OT #5. The Tar Heels came up empty again in the sixth session before the Hokies sealed the upset.
Penn State (-7½) 28, Michigan 21: A more fascinating statistical game will be tough to find as Penn State jumped out to a 21-0 lead halfway through the second quarter and then wound up held to 85 yards the rest of the game. Michigan drew within seven with a late third quarter score but Penn State would connect on one more big play that they needed with a 53-yard touchdown pass early in the final frame. Michigan answered quickly to get back within seven and within the underdog spread that was commonly +9 before falling back to +7½. Michigan’s defense got a 3-and-out, but the offense couldn’t convert reaching 1st-and-goal and eventually coming up short on 4th down at the 3-yard-line, despite posting a 417-283 total yardage edge and a 26-14 first down edge.