4th Quarter Covers – NCAA Week 12
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 12th weekend of the college football. 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.
Western Michigan (PK) 37, Ohio 34: Western Michigan led 10-0 at halftime but Ohio took a 14-10 lead eight minutes into the third quarter. A back-and-forth finish followed with the game eventually knotted 24-24 with 10 minutes to go. Western Michigan put together a touchdown drive to lead by seven and then stopped Ohio inside the 10-yard-line to seemingly wrap up the game. The Bobcats still had all three timeouts however and got the ball back with 47 seconds to work with. Nathan Rourke delivered four straight completions to find the end zone with nine seconds to go and the Bobcats opted to kick to play overtime. Ohio had to settle for a field goal going first in the extra session and in just three plays the Broncos got the win with a touchdown.
Northern Illinois (+1½) 31, Toledo 28: The Huskies were in command with a 28-7 edge through three quarters but Toledo put a scoring drive together to cut the margin to 14 points. A botched punt attempt provided the break the Rockets needed to get back in the game, inheriting great field position and closing the margin to seven points two plays later. Toledo would force another punt on defense and went 91 yards to tie the game with about five minutes remaining. The slight underdog Huskies were able to milk most of the clock and come away with the go-ahead field goal in the final minute and the Rockets ran out of time despite eventually reaching the 26-yard-line.
Kent State (+6½) 30, Buffalo 27: The Bulls had a commanding 27-6 edge in the fourth quarter before Kent State turned in perhaps the comeback of the season. The Flashes scored two touchdowns in the span of 27 seconds of game clock in the middle of the fourth quarter thanks to an onside kick recovery. The Flashes were set to get the ball back quickly after forcing a 3-and-out and did even better, blocking the punt to start at the 4-yard-line. Despite the field position it came down to 4th-and-goal but Dustin Crum got the completion for the tying score. Buffalo again was held to a punt and now with a chance to win Kent State had possession with about two minutes remaining, getting the 44-yard field goal as time expired after consecutive timeouts.
Pittsburgh (-4½) 34, North Carolina 27: The Panthers had a 24-10 edge into the fourth quarter but the Tar Heels hit a few big plays to quickly tie the game. Slowing down the pace Pittsburgh drained nearly seven minutes off the clock before kicking a field goal that wasn’t going to be enough against the home favorite spread. The Tar Heels reached the red zone late in the game but went backwards and facing 4th-and-12, kicked for overtime. Pittsburgh was backed up but converted on 3rd-and-14 and eventually scored seven going first in overtime, allowing for the favorite to have a shot to still cover. North Carolina converted 4th-and-4 on its overtime possession but took a sack and was left with 4th-and-16 and the final throw fell incomplete.
Northwestern (-38) 45, Massachusetts 6: This game got a bit more coverage than it deserved based on the oddity of the line with the low-scoring Wildcats a massive favorite. The line climbed as high as -41½ on a Northwestern team that had scored 100 total points over the first nine games. The first touchdown came on a field goal block as the Wildcats didn’t score on offense until 22 minutes into the game and stayed well short of the spread through three quarters with a 24-6 edge. Northwestern would take over in the fourth quarter however with three consecutive touchdowns incredibly giving the Wildcats as a 39-point edge with just over five minutes remaining to slip past the opening and closing numbers though there were plenty of successful UMass tickets in the middle. The Minutemen were a threat to spoil it but only could reach the Northwestern 6-yard-line on the final play as time expired.
UAB (-14) 37, UTEP 10: The Blazers took a 23-0 lead in this game but UTEP got on the board just before halftime and by the early fourth quarter had closed to within 20 points, or a touchdown short of covering. The Miners reached UAB territory on its next drive but opted to go for it on 4th-and-7 and fell incomplete. UAB didn’t look like a threat to add points but on 3rd-and-long connected for a 40-yard touchdown to make a late UTEP drive inside the UAB 5-yard-line meaningless.
Oklahoma State (-18) 31, Kansas 13: The Cowboys cruised to a comfortable win over Kansas and led 31-0 through three quarters. The Jayhawks didn’t go away however with a touchdown halfway through the fourth quarter after an Oklahoma State field goal miss, but an unsuccessful 2-point try kept Kansas down by 25. Oklahoma State went 51 yards on its next drive but still wound up punting and Kansas was able to put another touchdown in with just over a minute to go, bringing the margin to 19. The Jayhawks kicked this time and the 18-point final matched the closing spread though -17 or -17½ remained common numbers that still cashed.
TCU (-4) 33, Texas Tech 31: An early 17-0 edge for TCU disappeared with a 27-16 margin at halftime and Texas Tech leading 28-27 through three quarters. The spread consistently climbed higher for the road team throughout the week after opening with the Red Raiders as a one-point favorite at some outlets. Field goals were exchanged early in the fourth quarter, then TCU burned a significant amount of clock and reached the Texas Tech 4-yard-line before offensive pass interference pushed the Frogs back. Ultimately TCU had to settle for a short go-ahead field goal rather than a touchdown that could have cleared the favorite spread. After a pair of punts Texas Tech would get the ball back with two minutes to work with but fumbled away its opportunity on 1st down.
Wisconsin (-14) 37, Nebraska 21: The Cornhuskers came to play in this game but had a few tough breaks, allowing a kickoff return touchdown while also giving up a short field score after an interception as Wisconsin led 27-14 at halftime and 34-14 late in the third quarter despite Nebraska winding up with more yardage in the game and having little trouble moving the ball against the highly regarded Wisconsin defense. Nebraska snuck within the spread with a touchdown late in the third quarter to trail by 13 after missing a field goal earlier in the quarter but in the fourth quarter the Huskers had drives of 81 and 74 yards that both come up empty on 4th-and-goal failures. In-between those long scoreless efforts for Nebraska, Wisconsin added a field goal to win by 16.
Iowa (-3) 23, Minnesota 19: Iowa was in command in the first half with a 20-3 edge but Minnesota managed a field goal just before halftime and going first after the break the Gophers looked the part of a comeback threat with a quick touchdown to close to within seven. A long scoring drought on both sides followed and included what will be an infamous moment for P.J. Fleck as he was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct call for running on to the field to check on injured player after a 4th down incompletion, eliminating leaving Iowa back inside its own 10-yard-line. Iowa eventually converted a short field goal to lead by 10 nearly midway through the fourth quarter. Minnesota answered with a touchdown to seemingly climb even with the underdog spread but the PAT was missed in a monumental play relative to the spread. The Gophers were able to get the ball back but Tanner Morgan took a second down sack and had to leave the game with an injury. Backup quarterback Cole Kramer stepped into a tough spot with a 3rd-and-21 incompletion and a 4th-and-21 interception as Iowa held on.
Central Michigan (+1) 45, Ball State 44: The Cardinals led 27-11 at halftime and still led by 10 entering the fourth quarter. Central Michigan proved up to the task however with an early touchdown in the fourth quarter offset only by a field goal for a six-point deficit for the Chippewas. Getting the ball back with about five minutes to go, Quinten Dormady didn’t face great resistance leading a drive 72 yards in 10 plays before cashing in with a minute to go for the one-point edge. Drew Plitt wound up intercepted on 4th down for Ball State’s final opportunity as the slight underdog delivered the comeback win.
Utah State (-5) 26, Wyoming 21: The Aggies opened at -6½ but dipped to -4½ and even -3 by Saturday before a late rise to close back at -5 at some outlets. The timing wound up mattering as a 23-14 Utah State lead through three quarters was threatened. The Aggies went up by 12 with a field goal following an interception after just missing a field goal on their last drive. Wyoming answered with one of its best drives of the game to climb within five with fewer than seven minutes remaining. Utah State didn’t offer much of a threat to add points late while Wyoming’s final drive across midfield ended in an interception, the third of the day for a Cowboys team not accustomed to passing that often.
Georgia (-3) 21, Auburn 14: Auburn was kept off the board in the first half despite three drives into Georgia territory with a missed field goal, getting stopped on downs just outside of field goal range, and a fumble. Up 7-0 Georgia managed another score right before halftime to lead 14-0 and that became 21-0 with the help of a big personal foul call late in the third quarter. Auburn flipped a switch from there with two quick touchdowns and two 3-and-outs on defense and had the ball back across midfield with a chance to tie the game. A surprising replay overturn took a 1st down catch away from the Tigers and then two plays later Bo Nix missed a wide-open Harold Joiner in what would have been an easy 4th down conversion and likely a big gain. Auburn had timeouts and got the ball back with another chance in worse field position with nearly two minutes remaining but a facemask on Nix was ignored on the series and Auburn was eventually sacked on 4th down to seal the win for Georgia, who clinched the SEC East despite being held to only 251 total yards.
Iowa State (-7) 23, Texas 21: The Cyclones controlled this game but a 20-7 lead through three quarters was erased with two Texas touchdowns to suddenly put the Longhorns in the lead by one with about five minutes to go. Sam Ehlinger would get the ball back with about four minutes left after the Texas defense held but the Longhorns didn’t gain a yard before punting. Texas got hit with back-to-back pass interference calls as Iowa State looked to go back in front for 30 free yards early in the drive and then defensive offsides converted 4th-and-5 for the Cyclones. Eventually Iowa State burned the remaining clock and Connor Assalley hit the 36-yard field goal for the win but the late rally was enough for Longhorns backers.
Hawai’i (-6½) 21, UNLV 7: These teams were tied 7-7 until late in the third quarter and Cortez Davis gave the Warriors the lead with a 43-yard interception return touchdown. The Hawai’i offense added a score a few minutes later and then the defense got another interception to thwart a long UNLV drive. The Warriors then soaked up all the remaining clock with an 11-play drive to seal the win.
Washington State (-11) 49, Stanford 22: Washington State led 19-0 early in this game but Stanford remained competitive trailing 25-22 late in the third quarter. Both teams had big production totals his game but Washington State kept the scoring going, closing the game on a 24-0 run to boost the numbers and create a misleading final result with Stanford suffering two late interceptions.
Air Force (-10) 38, Colorado State 21: The Rams led 14-0 led by a defensive touchdown in the first quarter. Air Force would score 10 in the second quarter but the underdog Rams still led into the fourth quarter with a spread that reached +10½ at some outlets. Air Force took over in the final frame with a pair of scores to match the common spread with a 10-point advantage before Colorado State went 75 yards in two plays to stay in the game. Air Force scored with 2:32 to go to again make the margin 10 points and then as the Rams were poised to seal the underdog cover with a red zone opportunity, the Falcons got a 99-yard pick-six for the improbable road favorite cover.
Oregon State (+1) 35, Arizona State 34: A slight favorite all week Arizona state found itself down two scores in the second half after a short-field touchdown for the Beavers made it 35-21 late in the third quarter. It took fewer than two minutes for the Sun Devils to respond closing the margin to seven heading into the fourth. Scoring stalled from there with fumbles costing both teams scoring chances before Jayden Daniels led a 90-yard drive into the end zone. With 1:40 on the clock the Sun Devils opted to go for two but couldn’t convert as Oregon State narrowly held on.
Southern Miss (-17) 36, UTSA 17: Southern Miss allowed 422 yards to the Roadrunners in this game and led by only six late in the third quarter. A long run put the Golden Eagles up 12 heading into the fourth before five punts were traded between these teams. On a short field Southern Miss added a late touchdown to slip past the favorite spread and then had to hold off four UTSA plays from the 10-yard line with a late Roadrunners threat ending up empty.
LSU (-21½) 58, Mississippi 37: LSU continues to tantalize with its offense posting big numbers again but a now 4-7 Mississippi team put 614 yards up against allegedly the #1 team in the nation as the championship trophy shouldn’t be shipped to Baton Rouge just yet. LSU led 28-0 early in this game but Ole Miss made several charges back into the contest including trimming the margin down to 11 points late in the third quarter. The Tigers would push the margin back to 21 with about five minutes to go in the game but the Rebels would answer with another big play. LSU ran for a 49-yard score on the first play after recovering the onside kick and the game ultimately would end with Ole Miss barely hanging on to the heavy underdog cover as LSU took a knee at the 10-yard-line.
Oregon (-27) 34, Arizona 6: Arizona trailed by 22 heading into the fourth quarter as the defense kept Oregon in check respectably but the offense wasn’t able to take advantage of a Justin Herbert interception to add points in the fourth quarter. The Ducks connected for a 33-yard touchdown with about 10 minutes remaining to slip past the spread with a 28-point edge, even with a missed PAT. Arizona reached the red zone on the next possession but after converting a 4th down via penalty earlier in the drive, the Wildcats failed to come through on 4th down from the Oregon 13-yard-line. The Wildcats had another late drive into Oregon territory but couldn’t add points as Oregon managed to cover the nearly four-touchdown spread despite scoring only five touchdowns.