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4Q Covers Week 8

4th Quarter Covers – NCAA Week 8

10/20/2019

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.

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NFL Wk5 Close Calls

NFL Close Calls – Week 5

10/07/2019

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 or total in the fourth quarter last week in Week 5 of the NFL regular season.

Seattle Seahawks (-1½) 30, Los Angeles Rams 29 (48½): The Thursday night NFC West clash lived up to its billing with a back-and-forth contest. The Seahawks led by one at halftime, briefly opening as a slight underdog but listed commonly a slight favorite at -1½ most of the week. The Rams had two 75-yard touchdown drives in the third quarter surrounding a short-field Seattle score but Los Angeles missed on a two-point conversion attempt to lead by just five. Early in the fourth quarter field goals were exchanged before Russell Wilson led a lengthy drive for the Seahawks and found the end zone on 4th-and-goal with 2:28 to go. The two-point conversion try loomed large on the spread result but DK Metcalf was unable to haul it in, leaving Seattle up by just one. The Rams had plenty of time to get into field goal range but Seattle challenged an incomplete pass and it was ruled that it was narrowly a wild interception from Tedric Thompson, a deflected pass that was juggled several times but was kept off the turf. Seattle was not able to pick up a first down to finish off the game however and it appeared that the Rams would sneak away with the win, reaching field goal range only to have Greg Zuerlein miss from 44 yards.

Baltimore Ravens (-3) 26, Pittsburgh Steelers 23 (44): The Ravens jumped out to an early 10-point lead but Pittsburgh took advantage of two interceptions to add a six points before the break to trail by four, getting close to the home underdog spread that mostly fluctuated between +3 and +3½. Pittsburgh scored first after halftime after another Lamar Jackson interception but Baltimore quickly answered with a field goal to knot the game at 20-20. Mason Rudolph was injured in the third quarter as the Steelers were down to undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges at quarterback. He did enough to lead Pittsburgh to another field goal with 2:37 remaining but Baltimore answered as Justin Tucker was good from 48 to force overtime, a kick that also sealed the ‘over’. The Ravens were forced to punt starting the extra session and Pittsburgh appeared to be on the move but JuJu Smith-Schuster lost the ball after a solid gain, with Baltimore narrowly recovering the fumble in bounds, effectively already in field goal range. A conservative approach followed as the Ravens picked up only six yards and Tucker hit from 46 for the win, though for many on the Ravens it wasn’t quite enough.

Oakland Raiders (+7) 24, Chicago Bears 21 (40): After a scoreless opening quarter in London the Raiders delivered 17 points in the second quarter for a commanding underdog edge on a line that climbed back up dramatically by Sunday, opening at -6 before falling as low as -4½ and rising all the back to -6½ and -7 by kickoff. The Bears suddenly also climbed back into the game in the third quarter taking advantage of good field position to score three touchdowns, going in front 21-17. The Raiders were on the doorstep to go back in front but Chicago got a fumble recovery near the goal line and the Bears were able to work their way out of danger into Oakland territory. Points weren’t added however but then it was the Raiders who were then pinned deep. A running into the kicker penalty gave Oakland a retry on a punt that would have left the Bears near midfield. Now facing 4th-and-1, the fake punt was on and Eddie Harris picked up the first down but appeared to fumble. On review the Raiders kept the ball and Derek Carr would go on to complete the 97-yard scoring drive to put Oakland back in front. Chicago crossed midfield on a late possession, but Chase Daniel wound up intercepted as Oakland moved to 3-2.

Arizona Cardinals (+3) 26, Cincinnati Bengals 23 (46½): These winless squads kicked a lot of field goals early on as Arizona held a 13-9 lead through three quarters and the ‘under’ sat in good shape. The Cardinals added three more to lead by seven and seemed to put the game away with a 37-yard touchdown run with about seven minutes remaining for a 14-point lead. Andy Dalton led a 79-yard scoring drive around the four-minute mark to get the Bengals back within seven and the Cardinals weren’t able to gain a first down while only running off 27 seconds. Dalton hit Tajh Boyd for two big plays and suddenly Cincinnati was in the end zone. The Bengals opted to kick for the tie rather than go for the win with the touchdown right at the two-minute warning, a score that was also extremely relevant for those on a total that hovered in-between 46 and 47. There was too much time left for the Cardinals as Kyler Murray led his first NFL game-winning drive using his arm and his legs to set-up Zane Gonzalez for another field goal for the win.

Carolina Panthers (-3) 34, Jacksonville Jaguars 27 (41): The Panthers took a 28-17 lead early in the third quarter but the Jaguars would fight back adding a touchdown to trail by just four heading into the final frame on a spread that was commonly +3 or +3½. The Panthers weren’t able to put the game away despite two chances to add points, missing a field goal and then getting stopped on 4th-and-1 at the 5-yard-line. Jacksonville settled for a field goal to trail by one with about six minutes remaining but the Panthers seemed to close the door with a 59-yard touchdown run. Incredibly the extra-point went right however as the margin stayed at seven. Jacksonville fumbled near midfield ahead of the two-minute warning but still wound up getting another shot, eventually reaching the Carolina 24-yard-line before running out of time.

Buffalo Bills (+3½) 14, Tennessee Titans 7 (39): Tied 7-7 through three the Bills turned in a 77-yard touchdown drive early in the fourth quarter surrounded by the third and fourth missed field goals of the day from Titans kicker Cairo Santos. The Titans would get a late possession but punted with about four minutes to go and didn’t get another chance as the Bills escaped with a win in a matchup that could loom large late in the season in the AFC wild card picture.

Denver Broncos (+4½) 20, Los Angeles Chargers 13 (46): A 14-0 first quarter lead offered great promise for the underdog Broncos and that edge was pushed to 17-0 with a field goal following up a missed field goal from the Chargers. Los Angeles also fumbled for a touchback on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard-line in the final play before halftime. Most of the third quarter went by harmlessly but winless teams often find ways to give their opponents a shot. Joe Flacco wound up intercepted at his own 7-yard-line to seemingly put the Chargers right back in the game but Philip Rivers returned the favor with another red zone turnover. Denver’s defense wouldn’t get a shot to prevent the next score however with Desmond King returning a punt 68 yards for a Chargers touchdown near the end of the third quarter. Joe Flacco took a costly 3rd down sack on the next Broncos drive to push the field goal attempt back and Brandon McManus would miss. A few plays later the Chargers added three to wind up within one score. The Broncos were eventually able to hit a field goal late in the fourth to finally put the game away for win #1.

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4Q Covers Week 6

4th Quarter Covers – NCAA Week 6

10/06/2019

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 sixth big weekend of the college football season to open the month of 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.

Temple (-12) 27, East Carolina 17: The Owls pulled away in the second half going up 27-10 with a field goal early in the fourth quarter. The defense got a stop after East Carolina moved past midfield but Temple had to punt back to East Carolina shortly after a delay due to the lights going out with just under four minutes remaining. It appeared that the game would effectively end with East Carolina stopped on 4th-and-2 but an offsides call gave the Pirates a new set of downs. A 37-yard gain put East Carolina into scoring range and a defensive holding penalty eventually gave the Pirates 1st-and-goal. With 29 seconds remaining Holton Ahlers hit C.J. Johnson for the spread-spoiling touchdown. Temple failed to recover the onside kick but appeared to score late on defense with time expired to miraculously save those on the favorite and the ‘over’, scooping up a desperate lateral attempt and returning it to the end zone. Officials would eventually controversially rule that the ECU player that made the lateral attempt already had his forward progress stopped as the points were not added.

Louisville (-4) 41, Boston College 39: Louisville was in control most of this game and pushed the lead to nine points early in the fourth quarter. A big run put BC within two early in the fourth however and the Eagles got a big defensive stop to get the ball back midway through the fourth quarter still in range. Boston College spent 13 plays to advance only 52 yards before kicking a go-ahead field goal with just over three minutes to go, leading by one as a slight underdog. Louisville reached a new set of downs from the BC 22-yard-line looking to strike for the win but with just over a minute remaining settled for the go-ahead field goal which was enough to hold the win but kept the Eagles winning against the number.

North Carolina (-9½) 38, Georgia Tech 22: North Carolina led 17-0 at halftime but just 17-7 through three quarters before an explosion of points in the final frame. Georgia Tech trimmed the margin to nine points with a critical two-point conversion success, but the underdog cover disappeared as the Tar Heels scored consecutive touchdowns in the fourth quarter to pull away.

Texas (-10½) 42, West Virginia 31: The Mountaineers led early and trailed by just four through three quarters in this Big XII clash, eventually out-gaining Texas with 463 total yards but also with four turnovers. A pair of interceptions handed Texas a pair of touchdowns on short fields early in the fourth quarter as suddenly the Longhorns were up by 18. West Virginia scored two touchdowns in the final four minutes but Texas also added a third short-field score in the final frame to escape with an 11-point win that was enough for many that supported the road favorite for an undeserved win and cover.

Minnesota (-14) 40, Illinois 17: The Gophers had a 20-point edge but a fumble return touchdown put Illinois back in the game, down just 13 heading into the fourth quarter. Minnesota added an early fourth quarter touchdown to get back past the favorite number, eventually adding a late field goal after getting a pair of defensive stops to avenge an ugly loss vs. the Illini from last season.

Navy (+3) 34, Air Force 25: Navy led 21-9 heading into the fourth quarter for a comfortable edge for the underdog but things went sour in the final frame as Air Force scored 16 consecutive points to lead by four with just over three minutes remaining with a missed field goal and a fumble mixed in for the Midshipmen. Navy regrouped to put together an 11-play touchdown drive to go back in front with just 23 seconds remaining and then with Air Force in desperation mode, the Midshipmen picked up a fumble for a late touchdown as time expired to pad the final scoring margin.

Oklahoma (-32) 45, Kansas 20: Oklahoma allowed 360 yards and didn’t seem likely to cover in this contest with only a 14-point edge at halftime. For just over a minute of game clock the Sooners pushed the margin to 35 points in the fourth quarter but Kansas quickly answered and eventually added a second fourth quarter touchdown to stay within the number.

Memphis (-15) 52, UL-Monroe 33: Memphis pushed the lead to 19 points in the third quarter but UL-Monroe hit a few big plays for back-to-back scores and climbed within six late in the fourth. A 68-yard touchdown run from Memphis ended the upset threat and then an interception return touchdown for the Tigers put Memphis back in front of the road favorite price with about six minutes to go.

Pittsburgh (+3½) 33, Duke 30: In a turnover-filled contest Pittsburgh made the most of its early opportunities taking a 26-3 edge early in the third quarter with several short field scoring drives. On an underdog spread that dipped down to +4 or even +3½, Duke would prove to be a late threat scoring four consecutive touchdowns including a go-ahead score with 1:29 to go. Duke hit one two-point conversion and failed on two others as the lead was exactly four. It wound up not mattering as Kenny Pickett was able to lead a late scoring drive to deliver the win for the Panthers, scoring with 38 seconds remaining.

Liberty (-4) 20, New Mexico State 13: The Aggies managed to tie this game halfway through the fourth quarter but the opportunity for New Mexico State to breakthrough with a win proved short-lived as Liberty answered quickly going 75 yards in only four plays as the Flames escaped Las Cruces with a narrow win and cover.

Georgia (-24) 43, Tennessee 14: Georgia led only 29-14 through three quarters but completed a lengthy scoring drive to go up by 22 and then a few minutes later delivered a 60-yard fumble return for a defensive score to get past the heavy road favorite number. Tennessee looked likely to climb back to cover in the final minute reaching 1st-and-goal but wound up with four consecutive incomplete passes.

Ohio State (-20) 34, Michigan State 10: The Spartans scored 10 points in the final 2:24 of the first half to turn a seven-point edge into a 17-point lead. That margin remained through an empty third quarter that included a missed field goal for the Spartans out of the break. Eventually Michigan State’s underdog cover was erased as Ohio State cashed in with just over 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to lead by 24. Michigan State caught a break with an Ohio State fumble later in the fourth to earn good field position, but Brian Lewerke was intercepted on the very next play.

Boise State (-24) 38, UNLV 13: The Broncos were in control with a 24-0 edge but late in the third quarter UNLV got on the board. Boise State would seal the game with a two-play drive going 70 yards for a touchdown with just over five minutes remaining to lead by exactly 24 where the spread commonly landed. With just over a minute remaining UNLV appeared to spoil that result with a touchdown, though they missed the PAT. The on-side kick attempt went quite wrong as Boise State returned it 39 yards to the six-yard-line and the Broncos went ahead and rushed in for the score with just a minute to go to get in front of the number by a point.

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4Q Covers Week 5

4th Quarter Covers – NCAA Week 5

09/29/2018

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.

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NFL Close Calls Week 3

NFL Close Calls – Week 3

09/24/2019

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 or total in the fourth quarter last week in Week 3 of the NFL regular season.

Green Bay Packers (-7) 27, Denver Broncos 16 (41½): Denver looked poised to go into halftime tied 10-10 in Green Bay with the ball back just ahead of the two-minute-warning. Joe Flacco was sacked however, and his fumble was recovered at the 5-yard-line. The Packers scored two plays later to take a 17-10 edge into the break, even with the closing spread that was a half-point higher earlier in the week. The second half also started with a Denver fumble and Green Bay scored quickly on the short field to suddenly lead 24-10. Denver would eventually answer in the third quarter, but the extra-point attempt hit the upright as Bronco backers could not catch a break in a game that was even statistically. Later in the third a 59-yard drive for the Broncos ended in an interception that was granted on replay review. Green Bay eventually added a field goal halfway through the fourth to seal win as well as getting the total just ‘over’.

Kansas City Chiefs (-4) 33, Baltimore Ravens 28 (52): Results wound up varying on the big AFC showdown between 2-0 squads as a line that was as high as -7 eventually landed at -4 with numbers in-between certainly possibilities depending on the timing and location. The Chiefs dominated the first half with a 23-6 edge and the margin didn’t change in the third quarter with both teams adding touchdowns. Baltimore made a run in the fourth however adding 10 points in succession to climb within a single score, down by eight. The Chiefs were able to add a field goal with about four minutes remaining, but Baltimore was able to add a late touchdown just ahead of the two-minute warning to get within five. The two-point conversion try loomed large for many and Baltimore was not able to convert.

Buffalo Bills (-6) 21, Cincinnati Bengals 17 (43½): The Bills dominated the turnover-prone Bengals early in this game getting to 14-0 unconventionally with eight points on an early touchdown and on short field drives Cincinnati stayed in the game by holding the Bills to two second quarter field goals (plus another missed field goal try). The Bengals finally got on the board with about six minutes to go in the third quarter after swapping interceptions, suddenly only down seven despite a big disparity in production. The Bengals forced a punt and turned in their best drive of the day going 82 yards in 11 plays to tie the game early in the fourth quarter. Another defensive stop and a field goal put the Bengals in the lead for an improbable comeback, but Buffalo was able to respond with a Frank Gore touchdown inside of the two-minute warning. Cincinnati was a threat for the outright win on its last drive, reaching the Buffalo 28 in the final seconds before an Andy Dalton interception.

Indianapolis Colts (-1) 27, Atlanta Falcons 24 (48): The Colts were in charge up 20-3 at halftime but Atlanta scored two touchdowns consecutively around only one Colts possession to climb within three early in the fourth quarter, with the second score on a 16-play drive that took nearly 10 minutes of game clock. The Colts converted several drives to get back on the board halfway through the fourth with a 10-point edge. Atlanta would add a late touchdown to get within three, a touchdown that cleared the ‘over’ in the final five minutes, but the Colts wouldn’t surrender the ball back and held on for the narrow win.

New England Patriots (-20½) 30, New York Jets 14 (43): Those brave enough to lay three touchdowns with the defending Super Bowl champions were rewarded with a dominant showing that led to a 30-0 lead late in the third quarter. A muffed punt would put the Jets on the board late in the third quarter and then in the fourth quarter with rookie Jarrett Stidham in the game, a pick-six put the Jets back within the spread, hitting the ‘over’ in the process as well. The Jets defense posted 14 points while the offense had only 105 yards but the 16-point margin left the underdog with a win despite the mismatch.

Dallas Cowboys (-22½) 31, Miami Dolphins 6 (46½): With a 10-0 early lead a Dallas rout seemed to be underway, but Miami would manage a pair of field goals and turned in a few defensive stops as a respectable 10-6 deficit was the halftime score. Dallas scored a touchdown coming out of halftime to regain control of the game and added another seven late in the third to lead by 18. One more touchdown would put Dallas ahead of the historic spread, but Dallas had to settle for a field goal attempt which they missed. Miami was able to cross midfield on a late drive but failed on 4th down and with fewer than four minutes remaining Dallas added the critical touchdown for those on the heavy favorite. Miami reached the Dallas 40-yard-line looking to play spoiler but only got a yard on a 4th-and-2 rush.

New York Giants (+5) 32, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31 (48): The Buccaneers took a commanding 28-10 lead with 16 points in the final eight minutes of the second quarter but in settling for three field goals on those four scores they kept the door open for the Giants. On the first play from scrimmage in the second half the Giants connected for 75 yards on the first touchdown pass for Daniel Jones, who earlier in the game ran in for a score in his first NFL start. The New York defense was ignited and turned in three straight punts and an interception with New York able to climb within three with another touchdown drive. A Jones fumble with about 10-minutes to go seemed to halt the momentum but Tampa Bay only got another field goal to lead by six, where the spread was commonly sitting before falling to -5. After swapping punts, the Giants had the ball back with just over three minutes to go and quickly reached the red zone. The drive stalled from there facing 4th-and-5 from the 7-yard-line with Jones eventually calling his own number for the tying score, with the extra-point putting New York in position for win #1. Tampa Bay went 59 yards in the final minute but kicker Matt Gay, who had made four field goals but also missed two extra-points in an eventful day, missed the game-winner from only 34 yards.

Houston Texans (+3) 27, Los Angeles Chargers 20 (49): The Chargers led 17-7 at halftime but Houston scored a pair of touchdowns around a Philip Rivers fumble to take a 21-17 lead. The Texans extended that advantage to 27-17 in the fourth quarter before a Chargers field goal brought the margin back to seven. Overtime looked like a possibility as Rivers led the Chargers down to the Houston 24-yard-line in the final minute before a penalty and a pair of incomplete passes ended the threat.

San Francisco 49ers (-6) 24, Pittsburgh Steelers 20 (44½): The 49ers did their best not to go 3-0 with turnovers on four of their first five possessions but Pittsburgh managed only two field goals behind Mason Rudolph despite the extra chance and good field position. San Francisco was able to get on the board with a field goal before halftime to trail only 6-3 in what ordinarily would be much worse circumstances given that many mistakes. Fortunes changed after halftime and San Francisco scored a short field touchdown after a Rudolph interception. Both teams added touchdowns to keep the 49ers up by four on a spread that was commonly -6½ after Ben Roethlisberger was ruled out. A mostly stagnant Pittsburgh offense was able to go 81 yards in just a minute early in the fourth with a 32-yard pass interference call a big factor. Next a promising San Francisco response ended in another fumble in the red zone as Pittsburgh appeared poised to get its first win. The Steelers would fumble just three plays into the next drive on a 1st down rush and needing only 24 yards the 49ers went back in front, though they didn’t get past the spread despite an edge of nearly 200 yards in the game. The final touchdown put the scoring at 44, past early week totals around 43 though by Sunday most books had the price at 44 or higher.

Los Angeles Rams (-4) 20, Cleveland Browns 13 (48½): The underdog Browns led 6-3 at halftime Sunday night with the Rams missing a field goal and having a fumble in the first half. Both teams scored on their opening possessions of the second half and Cleveland was granted a golden opportunity to pull further in front with a Jared Goff interception near midfield. Cleveland managed two yards and punted and then the Rams scored a touchdown to take the lead a few minutes into the fourth quarter. That touchdown put Los Angeles up by four to match the closing spread though the Rams were commonly -3 before a late rise. The infamous 4th-and-9 draw from Freddie Kitchens followed as the Browns came up empty on the next possession and the Rams were able to add three more to lead by seven. On 3rd-and-3 with fewer than three minutes to go Goff inexplicably threw deep into coverage for an interception to give the Browns an unexpected late opportunity. Baker Mayfield led an uneven drive down to the Los Angeles 4-yard-line, aided greatly by a roughing the passer call and an earlier illegal contact call that wiped out a sack. Three incomplete passes followed before a game-ending interception in the endzone on 4th down.

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4Q Covers NCAA Week 4

4th Quarter Covers – NCAA Week 4

09/22/2018

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 fourth 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.

Tulane (-4½) 38, Houston 31: The Thursday night underdog certainly looked promising in AAC action as D’Eriq King sparked Houston to a 28-7 edge just a few minutes into the second quarter. Tulane answered to get within 14 where the margin held past halftime. Tulane hit a 48-yard pass play to close to within seven early in the third quarter and then early in the fourth the Green Wave tied the game by completing a 93-yard drive while Houston had a pair of punts and the team’s second missed field goal of the game to start the second half. Tulane added three with about six minutes remaining to take the lead while Houston put together a lengthy drive looking for the win in regulation. The Cougars reached the Tulane 4-yard-line with 30 seconds remaining but ultimately had to settle for a short tying field goal with 21 seconds remaining. A fake kneel-down from Tulane led to an 18-yard gain to give the Wave a chance for a late score and Jalen McClesky made a catch in traffic around the 25-yard-line and scampered into the end zone in the final seconds as Tulane improbably won the game and slid past the favorite spread in a dramatic finish.

Louisiana Tech (-7) 43, Florida International 31: With James Morgan back in action Florida International’s offense finally clicked and this game turned into a shootout in the second half after a 13-10 Bulldogs lead at the break. Louisiana Tech still led by just three heading into the fourth quarter after these squads traded leads in the third quarter. Florida International’s defense held Louisiana Tech to three consecutive field goals to fall behind by 12 but they didn’t add points of its own until the final minute, scoring what looked like the underdog covering score with 51 seconds to go for a five-point margin. The ensuing on-side kick attempt went array however as it was caught and returned for a short kickoff return touchdown for the Bulldogs to give the favorite the cover right back.

Syracuse (-3½) 52, Western Michigan 33: The production in this game wound up nearly even and the score was close to that as well late in third quarter as back-to-back Western Michigan scores turned a 38-19 Orange edge into a 38-33 margin heading into the fourth quarter. The Broncos forced an early fourth quarter punt and had the ball approaching midfield before a huge swing as they were stopped going for it on 4th-and-1 from the their own 41. Syracuse needed only a few plays to find the end zone inheriting great field position, pushing the lead to 12. The Broncos reached Syracuse territory on the next possession but failed on 4th-and-10 from the Syracuse 28. Syracuse added another touchdown with about three minutes remaining in the game to pad the final score.

New Mexico (-4) 55, New Mexico State 52: These rivals were tied at 31-31 at halftime but New Mexico took charge in the third quarter with three scoring drives to lead by 10 heading into the final frame, a lead the Lobos extended to 17 early in the fourth quarter. The Aggies didn’t mail it in however scoring a touchdown halfway through the fourth and then getting back in the game with an interception. New Mexico State added a quick touchdown to trail by only three in the final minutes, a score that shifted the spread outcome. New Mexico had to covert a 4th down to close out the game before eventually taking knee inside the New Mexico State 10-yard-line.

California (+3) 28, Mississippi 20: Pac-12 officials added another chapter to their infamous legacy in this non-conference game at Ole Miss. The Bears were in control and had a 28-13 edge well into the fourth quarter despite a big yardage edge for the Rebels. Mississippi made a late charge with an 88-yard touchdown drive to get within a single score with 4:29 remaining. Cal opted to punt on 4th-and-1 near midfield as the Rebels had the ball back with an opportunity to tie. Without timeouts John Rhys Plumlee engineered a great drive and the pivotal play occurred on 3rd-and-goal from the Cal 3-yard-line. Plumlee hit Elijah Moore who turned to the ball with his feet in the end zone before being tackled. The official spotted the ball short of the end zone and there was not a stoppage for a review on what certainly looked like a potential touchdown. With only seconds on the clock Mississippi scrambled to the line to run a play and a disorganized 4th down sneak was stuffed as time expired and the Bears held on the for the win, avoiding the possibility of overtime.

Alabama (-36½) 49, Southern Miss 7: If Nick Saban wants fans to stay all four quarters of Alabama games, he just needs to make sure they have action on the spread as another Tide game featured a very late spread-result shifting score. Southern Miss trailed just 28-7 at the half but Alabama pushed the margin to 42-7 by the fourth quarter, not quite enough on the heavy favorite number. Southern Miss burned substantial clock on a fourth quarter drive but facing 4th-and-14 near midfield they simply opted to punt. Alabama didn’t seem likely to go the length of the field in that situation, but Jaylen Waddle returned the punt 41 yards to put the Tide in great field position with still seven minutes remaining. Alabama opted to go for it on 4th-and-5 and Taulia (not Tua) Tagovailoa hit a 20-yard pass for the first down and a few plays later Jerome Ford rushed into the end zone to flip the spread result inside of two minutes.

West Virginia (-5) 29, Kansas 24: The Mountaineers led by only three heading into the fourth quarter but managed to pull away with a pair of long drives, though resulting in only nine points with a short field goal and a touchdown but with a missed two-point try. That 12-point margin loomed large on the potential spread outcome on a line that landed right at -5. Kansas would indeed get a touchdown with about two minutes remaining to hit that five-point margin and the Jayhawks defense forced a punt to at least get the ball back though with only 32 seconds and no timeouts. Kansas picked up two modest gains and on the final play delivered a lateral play that for a moment had a chance, ultimately reaching the West Virginia 12-yard-line before the Mountaineers were able to clinch the win.

Florida State (-6½) 35, Louisville 24: Florida State jumped out to a 21-0 lead in this contest, but early leads have consistently melted away for the Seminoles this season. Louisville would score the next 24 points to lead by three as an underdog early in the fourth quarter. With Wisconsin-transfer Alex Hornibrook in the game the Seminoles struck a 60-yard pass play for the go-ahead score halfway through the final frame. The Florida State defenses steeped up with a three-and-out and a 15-yard penalty helped the cause to give Florida State great field position. Florida State eventually opted to kick a field goal from 4th-and-1 but a roughing the kicker call gave the Seminoles 1st-and-goal at the one and a potential 6-point lead became an 11-point margin. On its last possession, Louisville’s offense reached the Florida State 39 before running out of time.

Clemson (-41) 52, Charlotte 10: Charlotte’s numbers vs. Clemson were certainly better than some have posted vs. the Tigers but the 49ers still trailed 31-0 before the halfway point of the second quarter Down 45-3 in the third Charlotte got a muffed punt to get the ball at the Clemson 12 and they cashed in, bringing the margin to 35 points. Clemson backup quarterback Taisum Phommachanh was picked off on the next drive to end a scoring threat as the 49ers had a chance to hold on to the cover but late in the game a Phommachanh pass got 15-yards added to it with a penalty and Michel Dukes broke free for a 24-yard touchdown run to inch past the spread.

Texas State (-3) 37, Georgia State 34: Texas State broke a 17-17 tie with a field goal late in the third quarter before an exciting finish in this Sun Belt opener. Georgia State had a 13-play touchdown drive to take the lead with about eight minutes to go but Texas State answered with a touchdown drive completed on a 20-yard rush to go back up by three. Georgia State had a shot to win in regulation reaching 1st-and-goal form the 2-yard-line but an untimely false start pushed the team back. Pass interference on Texas State gave that yardage back but cost time and ultimately that proved to be the issue as the Panthers had to settle for the tying kick. After matching touchdowns in the first overtime, both teams would miss mid-40s field goals in the second overtime and Georgia State would do it again to start the third round. Despite a combined -20 yards from both teams in the second and third overtimes, Texas State kicker Joshua Rowland finally nailed the fourth field goal attempt of overtime from 35-yards as Texas State got its first win and the game finished on the number.

Oregon (-12½) 21, Stanford 6: Oregon’s high scoring offense was held in check in this game, but they took a 14-3 lead into halftime after getting a touchdown on a drive with two 3rd-and-long conversions while a Stanford drive into Oregon territory ended empty before halftime. The Ducks went ahead 21-3 in the fourth quarter following an interception while Stanford only answered with a field goal to trail by 15, not quite enough on the double-digit underdog spread. The Ducks had a bad snap on a field goal attempt to cost the team three points but on two late possessions Stanford was unable to spoil the cover despite holding Ducks to minimal production and having a nearly 2-to-1 edge on the ground.

Texas (-7) 36, Oklahoma State 30: Texas appeared to have a 21-13 edge heading into halftime but the Longhorns muffed a punt return with 45 seconds to go ultimately handing the Cowboys a touchdown to get within one. The lead for Texas was five through three quarters but early in the fourth the Longhorns took control with a touchdown drive and a successful two-point conversion for a 13-point edge. That should have been the final margin but again Texas fumbled on a punt reception and with fewer than four minutes remaining Oklahoma State was handed great field position. Oklahoma State converted a 3rd-and-10 for 33 yards on a scramble from freshman quarterback Spencer Sanders and the Cowboys got the spread-stealing score with 1:37 remaining. Texas was in danger of having to give the ball back after barely recovering the on-side kick attempt and needed a Sam Ehlinger bootleg scramble to pick up the win-sealing 3rd down.

Nevada (-13½) 37, UTEP 21: Nevada and UTEP were tied 21-21 late in the third quarter before a field goal put the Wolf Pack ahead by three heading into the fourth quarter. Nevada added two fourth quarter scores to slip past the hefty road favorite number with the first score coming on a short field off an interception.

Toledo (-5½) 41, Colorado State 35: Following a missed Colorado State field goal, Toledo extended an eight-point lead to 11 points with a fourth quarter field goal with only about six minutes remaining in the game. Colorado State answered going 71 yards in fewer than two minutes and with a successful two-point conversion the Rams only trailed by three. Facing 4th-and-1 from its own 45-yard-line Toledo broke a 35-yard-run and a penalty was tacked on to hand the Rockets 1st-and-goal. Colorado State still had a timeout as Toledo wasn’t able to drain all of the remaining time and ultimately wound up kicking a short field goal to lead by six with 31 seconds to go. On 1st down Colorado State went 29 yards and spiked the ball to give themselves a shot, on the final play of the game Rams receiver EJ Scott was stopped at the 2-yard-line as Toledo held on.

UCLA (+18) 67, Washington State 63: Only a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown hallway through the second quarter slowed the bleeding for UCLA trailing 35-17 at halftime and then watching the Cougars score a pair of touchdowns to lead by 32 with fewer than 22 minutes remaining in the game. Headed for a 0-4 start the Bruins didn’t fold and took advantage of a fumble to add back-to-back touchdowns to bring the margin back to 18. After holding Washington State to its first of only two punts on the night, UCLA went 94 yards on 1st down to trim the deficit to 11 points. Washington State fumbled again and Bruins scored in four plays to close to within three. After trading touchdowns, the second punt of Washington State’s night went 69 yards for a return touchdown as the Bruins had the lead. Washington State quarterback Anthony Gordon then connected for his ninth touchdown of the game to put the Cougars back in front and the Washington State defense got a stop on 4th down in the red zone with just over two minutes remaining. Incredibly on 1st down a 14-yard gain for Washington State resulted in another fumble and UCLA used the short field to take the lead back with just over a minute remaining. A sack on 1st down led to another Cougars fumble for the sixth turnover of the day helping to propel the astonishing Bruins comeback.

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NFL Close Calls Week 2

NFL Close Calls – Week 2

09/16/2019

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 Week 2 of the NFL regular season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+6½) 20, Carolina Panthers 14 (48): The Thursday night game featured a weather delay and a slow early scoring pace as Joey Slye hit four field goals to give the Panthers a brief 12-10 lead halfway through the third quarter. Tampa Bay answered with a 75-yard touchdown drive as the road underdog took a 17-12 lead heading into the fourth quarter on a Peyton Barber score. After a Carolina fumble and a missed Tampa Bay field goal, Barber would be the victim of a safety early in the fourth as the Panthers climbed within three points to keep overtime in the range of possibility. Getting good field position after the defensive score the Panthers were stopped on 4th-and-short just past midfield but a pair of punts followed before the Buccaneers extended the lead to six points. Cam Newton and the Panthers got the ball back with just over two minutes remaining needing a touchdown drive and they eventually reached the Tampa Bay 11-yard-line with a new set of downs. Short gains and a penalty left the Panthers facing 4th-and-1 from the 2-yard-line and a direct snap to Christian McCaffrey was sniffed out as the Buccaneers were the NFC South squad to avoid the 0-2 start.

Indianapolis Colts (+3) 19, Tennessee Titans 17 (43½): The Colts had two first half touchdowns but led only 13-7 with another missed PAT from Adam Vinatieri. The Titans scored on a short field after the break to lead 14-13 and then after a Jacoby Brissett fumble, Tennessee added a field goal despite only picking up 14 yards. The Titans forced a punt and had the momentum to put the game away after pass interference call converted a big 3rd down. A few plays later Marcus Mariota was sacked on the subsequent 3rd down and the Titans settled for a kick to go up seven, only this time Cairo Santos missed. The Colts didn’t take advantage on its next possession but getting the ball back with just under seven minutes remaining the Colts were able to hit a big play with a 55-yard-run and got the eventual touchdown to take the lead. Vinatieri would again miss the PAT however to leave the lead in jeopardy. The Titans had an opportunity crossing midfield in the final minute but ultimately couldn’t get the job done as the Colts played a second-straight down-to-the-wire game, this time winning.

Detroit Lions (+1) 13, Los Angeles Chargers 10 (47): The Lions missed a field goal six minutes before halftime and allowed the Chargers to add three before the break to trail 10-6. Matthew Stafford had an interception on the first drive of the second half but the Lions were bailed out with the defense forcing a fumble of Austin Ekeler on 1st-and-goal. More mistakes followed as the Chargers missed two field goals surrounding another Stafford interception before Detroit broke through in the fourth quarter with a big play to Kenny Golladay, leading 13-10. The Chargers reached the red zone late in the fourth quarter but went backwards and Philip Rivers wound up intercepted on 3rd-and-19 before the Chargers had a chance to struggle with the decision to try for the tying field goal from punter Ty Long who was serving as the kicker with Michael Badgley injured.

Dallas Cowboys (-6) 31, Washington Redskins 21 (46): After a scoreless first quarter Washington took a 7-0 lead in the second quarter that held until Dallas hit a 51-yard touchdown with about six minutes remaining. Dallas also managed to find the end zone just before halftime to suddenly take a 14-7 lead. The Cowboys kept the momentum with another touchdown out of the break to lead 21-7 but Washington answered to sit a point short of the underdog number down 21-14. Dallas had a touchdown brought back on a penalty and Washington’s defense was able to hold for a field goal, sitting just one touchdown away from covering the number into the fourth quarter. A promising drive stalled just past midfield and with still more than 11 minutes on the clock Washington went for it on 4th-and-3 and came up empty. Dallas put the game away with another touchdown on the short field. Washington would climb back within 10 with a touchdown just ahead of the two-minute warning to clear the ‘over’ but they couldn’t get a stop to get the ball back.

Houston Texans (-7) 13, Jacksonville Jaguars 12 (43½): Houston led just 6-3 through three quarters after a scoreless third quarter but the first touchdown of the game came from Deshaun Watson with just over 11 minutes remaining. That touchdown put the Texans past the favorite spread for the first time in the game. Gardner Minshew led the Jaguars down the field for a field goal to trim the margin to seven, with a spread that closed right at +7 from as high as +9½. The Jaguars held on defense to get the ball back and Jacksonville converted two fourth downs on the way to the red zone. With 30 seconds left Minshew connected with DJ Clark and down by one the Jaguars opted to go for the win but came up short on a Leonard Fournette rush attempt.

Green Bay Packers (-3) 21, Minnesota Vikings 16 (43): After a win in Week 1 but limited offensive production for the Packers in Matt Lafleur’s debut, Green Bay came out firing in the home opener. The Packers scored just over two minutes into the game and eventually went up 21-0 early in the second quarter. Dalvin Cook broke a 75-yard run to break the momentum for the Packers and after missing an early field goal Dan Bailey added three before halftime to put the Vikings back in the game down 21-10 after the Packers opted not to kick on 4th-and-1 from the Minnesota 25. The Vikings thought they added seven on that drive with a three-yard score to Stefon Diggs questionably overturned via replay to call offensive pass interference under the new challengeable rules. Green Bay would fumble on its first possession of the second half and the Vikings added a short field touchdown to climb within five, with Bailey’s PAT blocked. Five straight punts followed as neither offense could get anything going and ‘over’ backers moaned after supposedly sitting pretty with the hot scoring start. The Vikings were poised to take the lead with about five minutes remaining reaching the Green Bay 8-yard-line with a new set of downs but Kirk Cousins made an ill-advised throw to the corner of the end zone that was intercepted on 1st down. Green Bay was able to run out most of the remaining clock to hold on despite the offense disappearing, while the ‘under’ also held on.

Chicago Bears (-3) 16, Denver Broncos 14 (40½): The spread on this game fluctuated a lot after quickly rising from even to the Bears as a slight favorite. A common number was -2 for the Bears much of the weekend but on Sunday afternoon the Bears hit -2½ and eventually -3. Chicago didn’t impress early in the game but managed a 13-3 edge through three quarter to sit comfortably ahead of the number. In the fourth the Broncos completed a lengthy drive to add three points and were poised to tie the game with 1st-and-goal from the 4-yard-line. Joe Flacco eventually was intercepted but pinned deep Chicago punted a few plays later to give the Broncos another shot. This time Flacco delivered including two 4th down conversions and after the touchdown with 31 seconds left Flacco delivered what looked like the game-winning two-point conversion in a huge bold play from Vic Fangio against his old team. It was not to be as a borderline 1st down roughing the passer call gave the Bears a big boost and Mitchell Trubisky struck for 25 yards on 4th-and-15 in the final seconds. Chicago still had a timeout and new kicker Eddy Pineiro became a hero hitting from 53 yards.

Atlanta Falcons (+1) 24, Philadelphia Eagles 20 (53½): The Falcons had a 17-6 edge in the third quarter of this game but Matt Ryan had an interception deep in his own territory to get the Eagles back in the game. Philadelphia appeared to add the two-point conversion as well but Carson Wentz was ruled down just short of the line as Atlanta held a five-point lead. Ryan would be intercepted in the end zone on the next possession when a field goal could have put the margin to eight points. After swapping punts Philadelphia delivered a tremendous 13-play drive to burn well over eight minutes to take the lead. Up by one the two-point conversion try loomed large on a spread that was commonly +2 before sliding to +1 and the Eagles hit Zach Ertz to lead by three. Atlanta stalled near midfield facing 4th-and-3 at its own 46 when a short pass to Julio Jones to get past the sticks turned into a 54-yard score. Up four Atlanta’s defense still had a lot of work ahead with the Eagles converting an epic 4th-and-14 for 43 yards and getting a free timeout as an Atlanta player was injured on the play. With still a minute to go, an Eagles score seemed inevitable but the Eagles picked up just two yards in the next three plays and faced 4th-and-8. Wentz hit Ertz again incredibly close to the line but he was ruled just short with that spot holding on review as Atlanta escaped with the win.

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NFL Close Calls Week 1

NFL Close Calls – Week 1

09/10/2018

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 Week 1 of the NFL regular season.

Philadelphia Eagles (-10) 32, Washington Redskins 27 (44): Case Keenum hit several big plays early in his Washington debut as the Redskins stunned the Eagles with a 17-0 lead 20 minutes into the game and held on to a 20-7 edge at halftime. Philadelphia erased that lead in a three-minute span in the third quarter with back-to-back scores to lead by one heading into the fourth. The Eagles kept the momentum with an early fourth quarter touchdown and then a field goal with about three minutes remaining put the Eagles past the heavy home favorite spread for the first time in the game leading by 12. Having punted on its first three possessions of the second half with a total of five yards gained, Washington put together a 16-play, 75-yard drive that ended with an underdog cover saving touchdown with six seconds on the clock.

Buffalo Bills (+2½) 17, New York Jets 16 (41): The Jets took the lead early on an interception return touchdown but missed the PAT and that was the only scoring of the first half with Josh Allen having four turnovers for the Bills. The Jets led 8-0 after a safety on Buffalo’s first offensive snap of the third quarter and with good field position they added a touchdown to lead 16-0. Buffalo finally answered with a field goal and then in the fourth quarter produced an impressive touchdown drive to trail by only six with about 10 minutes to go. The Jets picked up a first down but opted to punt short of midfield rather than risk going for it on 4th-and-2. Allen led an 8-play, 80-yard touchdown in just three minutes as the Bills took a 17-16 lead with about three minutes to go. The Jets got close to midfield on its next drive but couldn’t convert for a one-point loss in a game where new kicker Kaare Vedvik missed two kicks.

Tennessee Titan (+5½) 43, Cleveland Browns 13 (44): The Browns crept back in this game with a touchdown to trail by only two late in the third quarter but a 75-yard touchdown followed to put the Titans in commanding position leading 22-13 through three quarters. Those on the ‘under’ still had some room to work with but back-to-back Baker Mayfield interceptions handed the Titans short fields and Tennessee scored quickly on drives of only 35 and 34 yards to push the total ‘over’, eventually adding a Malcolm Butler pick-6 later in the game for good measure to create the blowout 30-point final margin.

Arizona Cardinals (+3) 27, Detroit Lions 27 (48½): Laying just a few points against 2018’s worst NFL team seemed too good to be true but the Lions got out to a 17-0 edge in the second quarter and after the defense held Arizona to a pair of field goals, wound up in front 24-6 early in the fourth quarter. Zane Gonzalez added a field goal to trim the margin to 15 points and Detroit had a 3-and-out. Kyler Murray then led his first NFL touchdown drive with David Johnson going in from 27 yards and the Cardinals were within a single score with six minutes to go. Detroit should have been able to put the game away, but Arizona exhausted its timeouts and ultimately the Lions had to punt from midfield, with a poor effort going only 11 yards. With a short field Arizona was able to work its way down the field and Murray again delivered a touchdown as well as a two-point conversion to tie the game. Arizona went first in overtime and reached the Detroit 8-yard-line but had to settle for a short field goal. The Lions likewise couldn’t get through to the end zone and tied the game at 27-27. Arizona faced a dilemma on 4th-and-7 from the Detroit 46 with the risky options to try an extremely long field goal or go for the 1st down both likely to hand the game to the Lions if they failed. The Cardinals played for the tie and punted to the Detroit 5-yard-line where the Lions didn’t offer much of a threat to deliver a miracle late score.  

Los Angeles Chargers (-6½) 30, Indianapolis Colts 24 (44½): Side and total results faced a dramatic finish in the battle of 2018 AFC playoff teams. The Chargers had a 17-6 lead at halftime after Adam Vinatieri missed a PAT and a field goal to cost the Colts. He hit for three on the first drive of the third quarter, but the Chargers answered with a touchdown to lead by 15. In two plays the Colts answered back to get back within a single score down eight, just short of a spread that bounced between 7 and 6½ before even sliding to just 6 at some outlets by kickoff. The Colts got the break they needed late in the third quarter with a muffed punt return catch but Vinatieri would miss again from just 29 yards early in the fourth to keep the margin at eight. The Chargers moved to 1st-and-goal with a chance to put the game away but an interception in the end zone gave the Colts new life. 16 plays later the Colts found the end zone while converting a 4th down along the way. The two-point conversion with less than a minute on the clock could have ended the spread uncertainty but Marlon Mack got through and tied the game to force overtime. The Chargers got the ball first and hit a big early play that withstood review. On 3rd-and-1 the Colts needed a stop to stay in the game but the Chargers converted and ran into the end zone on the next play. With no PAT needed in OT most on the Colts still covered while the late Indianapolis touchdown secured the ‘over’ as well.

New Orleans Saints (-6½) 30, Houston Texans 28 (51½): With a 14-3 halftime lead the Texans underdog cover appeared on track on a line that dipped from +7 to +6½. New Orleans scored quickly out of halftime, but the Texans were able to answer to maintain an 11-point lead. A late third quarter touchdown put the Saints down by four and a few plays later Deshaun Watson was intercepted giving the Saints the ball back near midfield. On the first play of the fourth quarter the Saints took their first lead by three. Both teams had to punt before Houston appeared to climb into scoring range reaching the New Orleans 44. Watson took an 11-yard sack and Houston had to punt. Pinned deep the Saints got 41 yards on a huge 3rd-and-2 play and eventually had a new set of downs on the 33-yard-line of Houston, with those on the Saints and the ‘over’ eagerly awaiting a score. Houston’s defense held leaving the Saints to kick a field goal with 50 seconds left, leading by only six. Watson needed only two plays to find the end zone with completions for 48 and 37 yards as the Texans stunned the Superdome crowd. The game was tied ahead of the PAT which Ka’imi Fairbarin incredibly missed right, a controversial flag came out as Fairbairn was contacted well after his kicking leg came back down and on the retry Houston went up by one to take overtime out of the picture and confirm the underdog cover. New Orleans would use the final 37 seconds to go 35 yards and Will Lutz came through with a 58-yard field goal for a dramatic win for the Saints.

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4th Quarter Covers NCAA 1

4th Quarter Covers – NCAA Week 1

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 first big college football weekend. 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.

Cincinnati (-2½) 24, UCLA 14: The Bearcats opened as a 4-point favorite and led by only three through three quarters, struggling to pull away from the Bruins with several missed scoring opportunities. On the first play of the fourth quarter Cincinnati struck for a 21-yard touchdown pass to lead by 10 and then watched UCLA have turnovers on its next two possessions.

Clemson (-36½) 52, Georgia Tech 14: The Tigers did not have trouble in this game but a 35-0 edge wasn’t enough to cover the spread. These teams exchanged touchdowns late in the third quarter and early in the fourth as the 35-point margin held on a spread that was commonly just past that number. With some reserves in the game Clemson added a 51-yard field goal with six minutes remaining for the top ranked Tigers to cover.

Texas A&M (-34) 41, Texas State 7: The Aggies scored twice late in the second quarter to take a commanding 28-0 lead into halftime but only added three points in the third quarter. Early in the fourth Texas A&M pushed past the spread completing a 94-yard touchdown drive and then forced two Texas State punts. The Aggies added another three points to lead 41-0 but Texas State would avoid the shutout, converting several 3rd downs on its way to the end zone in the final minute to spoil the cover for many on a spread that hovered right around 34, with winners and losers on both sides with 33½ and 34½ also common.

Arizona State (-24) 30, Kent State 7: The Sun Devils led 27-0 at halftime and wound up holding Kent State to only 200 total yards in the game. Kent State finally put a scoring drive together late in the game, finding the end zone on a 3rd-and-6 play into the fourth quarter to climb within the underdog spread. Arizona State was poised to answer but the offense stalled near the 20-yard-line and settled for a field goal halfway through the fourth quarter to only lead by 23. That would be the final with three uneventful possessions to finish out the contest.

Michigan State (-23½) 28, Tulsa 7: Everything went right for Michigan State in the second quarter with three turnovers, a safety, and a defensive touchdown to take a 25-0 lead but Tulsa was able to find the end zone just before halftime to trail by only 18. After exchanging punts, a pass interference call gave the Spartans a new set of downs in Tulsa territory but Michigan State had a touchdown called back for holding and had to settle for a field goal to push the margin to 21 points. There was only one first down on either side the rest of the game with a scoreless fourth quarter preserving the underdog cover.

Colorado (-11½) 52, Colorado State 31: The Rams scored early in the fourth quarter to get to within seven, eyeing a comeback upset in this rivalry game. Looking for a stop the defense pushed Colorado back with a holding call but Steven Montez hit several quick strikes to move the Buffaloes into the end zone and back past the favorite spread at 45-31. With about four minutes to go Colorado State fumbled deep in its own territory and Colorado ran it back for a score to put the game away with a 21-point win despite the Rams having more than 500 yards.

Nevada (+11) 34, Purdue 31: The Boilermakers appeared to be in complete control with a 31-14 edge late in the third quarter. Nevada managed a field goal to trim the deficit to 14 but despite battling turnovers Purdue still led by 14 halfway through the fourth quarter before Nevada scored with fewer than seven minutes remaining. Purdue picked up a few first downs but had to punt from midfield and Nevada put together an 87-yard scoring drive to tie the game in the final minute. Elijah Sindelar was intercepted on 2nd down and Nevada ran down the clock and despite getting pushed back with a penalty. The Wolf Pack would win on a 56-yard field goal from walk-on kicker Brandon Talton, while getting a 5-0 turnover edge in the game for the upset.

Ohio State (-27½) 45, Florida Atlantic 21: Those laying the points with Ohio State had to feel good with a 28-0 lead with still nearly seven minutes to go in the first quarter. The Owls managed two field goals in the middle quarters but Ohio State still took a 29-point lead into the final frame. In the fourth quarter Florida Atlantic would put together two long touchdown drives to eventually trim the deficit to just 21 points. Ohio State reached the Florida Atlantic 22-yard-line with a new set of downs in the final minutes but went backwards with a holding call and had to settle for a field goal even with Justin Fields and the first team offense still in the game. Ohio State would get a late interception to get the ball back but simply ran out the clock with backups on the final possession as the Owls snagged an improbable underdog cover.

Kentucky (-9) 38, Toledo 24: This contest smelled like a potential upset spot and an opening line near two touchdowns fell to below double-digits by kickoff. A competitive game was in store with Kentucky leading 24-17 into the fourth quarter before completing a 92-yard touchdown drive finished off with a 40-yard run from Kavosiey Smoke. An interception two plays later from Toledo backup quarterback Carter Bradley doomed the Rockets and a short-field score put the Wildcats up by 21 with just over five minutes to go. Kentucky would fumble to give the ball back to Toledo late in the game and the Rockets added a touchdown with about a minute remaining but didn’t quite reach the underdog spread. However for most that late touchdown pushed the total just ‘over’.

Mississippi State (-18½) 38, UL-Lafayette 28: In New Orleans the heavily favored Bulldogs moved the ball with ease on the ground but didn’t build a big lead with two first half fumbles including a punt return miscue that led to a huge field position swing, while also missing a short field goal. Despite keeping the Ragin’ Cajuns in the game, Mississippi State managed to lead by 21 early in the fourth quarter, even with the common spread that dipped before kickoff with the late announcement of suspensions for the Bulldogs. Louisiana-Lafayette would score two short-field touchdowns in the fourth quarter to make the yardage and scoring for the game much more respectable in a sloppy opening contest on both sides.

Memphis (-3½) 15, Mississippi 10: This spread on this game dropped from -6½ down to just -3½ by kickoff and a tight finish was in order even after a 13-0 lead at halftime for Memphis with a missed PAT potentially looming large. Ole Miss had minimal yardage in the game but climbed to within three early in the fourth quarter, getting touchdown after Memphis came up short going for it on 4th-and-1 just across midfield. Ultimately the difference on the scoreboard for many wound up being a safety on a sack with the Rebels pinned back to the two-yard-line, putting the margin from three to five. That was where the final ended up with Memphis being able to take a knee in the final seconds inside the Old Miss 20-yard-line.

Eastern Michigan (-4) 30, Coastal Carolina 23: The spread on this game fell from -6 to just -4 and those numbers were in play late in the game. Coastal Carolina led at halftime but Eastern Michigan took control from there and led 30-20 with about five minutes remaining. The Chanticleers were on the doorstep with 1st-and-goal but didn’t pick up yardage and wound up settling for a 26-yard field goal that was inexplicably missed. The defense forced a quick 3-and-out to get the ball back but again settled for a field goal instead of a spread-spoiling touchdown in the final minute. The Chanticleers actually got the on-side kick but wound up throwing an interception on 1st down.

North Carolina (+11½) 24, South Carolina 20: This spread climbed sharply during the week with an opener of 7½ skyrocketing to close at 11½. South Carolina would lead by 11 heading into the fourth quarter but the Tar Heels would put together two touchdown drives of more than 90 yards in the fourth quarter for a stunning finish. South Carolina would have four more possessions in the game but Jake Bentley was intercepted twice as the Tar Heels hung on to win narrowly despite massive production edges for the game.

Alabama (-33½) 42, Duke 3: Alabama didn’t score in the first quarter and had a modest 14-3 lead at halftime before scoring three touchdowns in the span of only about seven minutes late in the third quarter to pull away. With a 35-3 edge the Tide were just short of the common spreads on the game that reached as high as 34½. Duke had three second half turnovers but Alabama missed a field goal that could have put the margin at 35. Finally Tide backers got the breakthrough they needed as Jerome Ford ran for a 37-yard touchdown to put the favorite in position to cover for the first time with fewer than five minutes remaining. The defense intercepted Quentin Harris for a touchback in the final minute as Duke couldn’t get back within the number.

Stanford (-6½) 17, Northwestern 7: Stanford led 10-0 at halftime but would lose quarterback K.J. Costello. Northwestern appeared poised to score to start the second half but wound up fumbling at the Stanford 5-yard-line The Cardinal would give the ball back a few plays later but ultimately no points were added as Northwestern missed a field goal. Later in the third the roles reversed with a Northwestern interception and then Stanford missing a 29-yard kick. The Wildcats would convert a 4th down in the red zone and eventually added a touchdown to trail 10-7 and then got the ball back after a Stanford fumble. Punts followed and on a late desperation possession a strip sack led to a Stanford touchdown as the Cardinal escaped with the win and cover.

Syracuse (-19½) 24, Liberty 0: The Liberty defense did its job allowing just 17 points through three quarters vs. Syracuse and two of those drives were very short drives off good field position. The Flames wound up with four turnovers on offense however plus a missed field goal. Early in the fourth the quarter the Orange put together its best offensive drive of the game to take a 24-0 edge and the Flames botched two late opportunities to add points, failing going for it on 4th down once and then later fumbling near the red zone.

Boise State (+7) 36, Florida State 31: Boise State wound up playing a true road game to start the season and fell behind 24-6 early in the second quarter. By halftime the Broncos were able to get within 12 and in the second half the defense stepped up while freshman Hank Bachmeier made a name for himself. The second half started with five straight punts and then an exchange of fumbles before the Broncos got back within the spread late in the third quarter, down by five on a spread that was as low as -3½ in Jacksonville but climbed quickly to -6½ with the move to Tallahassee. Early in the fourth the Broncos again delivered an efficient touchdown drive to take the lead and the FSU offense remained quiet. Boise State would settle for a short field goal halfway through the fourth quarter to lead by six but then held Florida State to negative yards on the next drive and then in a final desperation possession the Seminoles went backwards with a holding penalty and ultimately fell short faced with a 4th-and-long.

SMU (+1) 37, Arkansas State 30: This contest featured some big momentum swings as an early Arkansas State lead disappeared by halftime and then back-to-back touchdowns put the Red Wolves up by seven halfway through the third quarter. A 98-yard kickoff return touchdown followed to shift the momentum back to the Mustangs who would add two more touchdowns to lead by 14 in the fourth quarter. Arkansas State scored with six minutes to go to get back within one score and overtime looked possible with a new set of downs on the SMU 25-yard-line in the final seconds. Ultimately a fourth-down sack ended the game for a narrow SMU win.

Iowa (-25½) 38, Miami, OH 14: Iowa led only 10-7 at halftime but took control in the third quarter with a pair of touchdowns to lead by 17 on a spread that climbed steadily from -21½ to -25½. Led by Brett Gabbert, Miami was able to get what appeared to be a spread-saving touchdown in the fourth quarter to put the margin at only 10 points. Iowa wound go for the touchdown on 4th down near the end zone and succeed to lead by 17 with about six minutes left. On its next offensive snap Miami threw an interception and a few plays later Iowa was back in the end zone and suddenly up by 24 to earn the favorite cover for most though shortly before kickoff the spread climbed further for the closing line of 25½ that calls Miami a winner.

Georgia (-22½) 30, Vanderbilt 6: Georgia commanded a lot of attention as a heavy road favorite in this SEC opener but a pair of field goals before halftime kept the Commodores in play. The Bulldogs added only three points in the entire third quarter to lead by just 18 and then fumbled in Vanderbilt territory early in the fourth quarter. The Commodores didn’t take advantage but managed to stay in position to cover by holding Georgia to another field goal. Near midfield Riley Neal fumbled to thwart a potential scoring chance for Vanderbilt and Georgia again kicked for three, this time to move pas the favorite spread with just over two minutes remaining. With Deuce Wallace at quarterback Vanderbilt was a threat to score late but from the Georgia 18-yard line four consecutive incomplete passes ended that chance.

Auburn (-4) 27, Oregon 21: In the showcase game Saturday night the first half featured missed field goals and turnovers on both sides as Oregon led 14-6. The Ducks used a strong punt return for good field position to set-up a touchdown drive to lead 21-6 early in the third quarter. Auburn would control the game from there with the Ducks punting three straight times while Auburn scored two touchdowns, to close to within one point down 21-20. Oregon wound up just across midfield with over five minutes remaining before getting a big scare with Justin Herbert injured. He had to sit out on a critical 4th-and-short play that was stuffed by Auburn. The Tigers went 3-and-out from there but the defense held to get the ball back with just over two minutes to go in good field position. Bo Nix scrambled to narrowly convert a 4th down and Auburn reached field goal range in the final seconds. Opting to take one shot down the field Nix hit Seth Williams just outside the end zone and he gathered the ball and dove in for the go-ahead score on both the scoreboard and the pointspread. Oregon did get a favorable Hail Mary position from past midfield but Herbert threw over the end zone for stunning collapse for the Ducks.

USC (-14) 31, Fresno State 23: The Bulldogs hung right with the Trojans on the scoreboard and the box score, trailing by just four after a field goal halfway through the third quarter. Their kickoff was returned 100 yards for a touchdown however and USC would add another quick touchdown later in the third quarter to suddenly lead by 18. While USC backup quarterback Kedon Slovis started hot, he threw a late third quarter interception taking a deep shot and Fresno State was able to go 80 yards for a field goal to trim the margin to 15 points, not quite enough on a spread that climbed substantially from the opening price. Fresno State’s defense held again and on the next drive the Bulldogs were within one score after a touchdown with about seven minutes to go. The overtime threat lingered after Fresno State converted a 4th down near midfield but on the next play Jorge Reyna was intercepted in the end zone as USC held on.

Oklahoma (-22) 49, Houston 31: Jalen Hurts certainly had a great Oklahoma debut and could very well continue the Heisman run for Sooners quarterbacks if he keeps up the pace. Oklahoma led by 25 through three quarters but Houston would get its offense going in the fourth quarter, ultimately getting nearly half of its game production in the final frame with two touchdowns bringing the margin briefly to only 11 points. Oklahoma ended any thoughts of a miracle comeback with a short-field score after Houston wasn’t able to bring in the on-side kick but the final 18-point margin kept the underdog cover in place.

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NFL Close Calls – Week 14

NFL Close Calls – Week 14

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 and total in the fourth quarter in Week 14 of the NFL regular season with one of the wilder NFL Sundays in recent memory.

Kansas City Chiefs (-6½) 27, Baltimore Ravens 24 (49): The AFC-leading Chiefs led by seven at halftime with a spread that slipped from -7½ to -6 or -6½ by kickoff. Baltimore tied the game late in the third quarter following a Patrick Mahomes interception. A big punt return put the Ravens in position for the upset and with just over four minutes to go Lamar Jackson found John Brown to give the underdog Ravens a seven-point edge. Mahomes cemented his MVP case with a great drive that included a pair of 4th down conversions, the second of which resulted in the game-tying touchdown in the final minute. That score also put the scoring at 48 on a total that reached as high as 53 before settling at 51 and dropping to 49 by kickoff. The Ravens had some time on the clock but disaster struck as a sack led to a fumble and the Chiefs had the ball in field goal range. Harrison Butker would miss from 43 yards at time expired however. Kansas City had the ball first and survived a fumble inside the red zone, ultimately giving Butker another opportunity and he was good from 35 yards. Baltimore crossed midfield but went backwards with a penalty and a sack that saw Jackson exit the game. Robert Griffin III entered and made a good throw on 4th-and-22 but Willie Snead couldn’t come up with it to extend the game. Baltimore still cashed underdog tickets and there were likely mixed results on the total.

Cleveland Browns (+1) 26, Carolina Panthers 20 (48): The scoring pace in this game was hot early with a 17-17 halftime score as the Panthers and Browns traded scores. Cleveland fumbled on its first play of the second half but Carolina didn’t take advantage of the field position to add points and only later in the frame added a field goal to lead by three as slight road favorite entering the fourth quarter. Early in the fourth Nick Chubb put the Browns in front but the PAT was missed for just a three-point edge. Cleveland added a field goal a few minutes later but up by just six, all results were still in play. Carolina reached 1st-and-goal with about four minutes remaining but Cam Newton’s eventual 4th down throw sailed high. The Panthers would get another shot but Newton threw an interception on 1st down with a minute to go as the Browns and the ‘under’ held on.

Green Bay Packers (-4) 34, Atlanta Falcons 20 (50½): Despite only managing 300 total yards in the game the Packers pulled away with a 34-7 lead late in the third quarter. Atlanta scored early in the fourth to put the total scoring at 48, just below the closing total. The Falcons reached the Green Bay 8-yard-line with about seven minutes remaining but a fumble kept points off the board. In the final minutes Atlanta kept a meaningless drive going with a 4th down conversion and then with 14 seconds to go hit a 19-yard touchdown pass on another 4th down play to bail out those on the ‘over’.

New Orleans Saints (-9½) 28, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14 (55½): The Buccaneers led 14-3 at the half as they looked to sweep the season series with the Saints. The game seemed to swing on a blocked punt late in the third quarter as New Orleans got back in the game with a short-field touchdown. Early in the fourth New Orleans scored on 4th-and-goal with a Drew Brees reach to put New Orleans up by four and suddenly the hefty underdog cover was in danger for the home team. Another 3-and-out gave the Saints the ball back in good field position and New Orleans again scored to make the margin 11 points. The Buccaneers again had to punt and the Saints added a field goal to lead by 14 with just over a minute to go. A touchdown would still put the Buccaneers in position to cover however and Tampa Bay reached the New Orleans 26-yard-line in the final seconds before a holding call and an eventual interception in the end zone.

New York Jets (+4½) 27, Buffalo Bills 23 (37): The Bills led 20-13 early in the third quarter after a short field goal after the Jets fumbled on the halftime kickoff. The Bills didn’t add points after another Jets turnover and then early in the fourth New York managed to tie the game. Buffalo missed a field goal on its next possession but after forcing a quick punt managed three points after a 62-yard drive, leading by three with just over two minutes to go on a spread that sat at -3½ before reaching -4 or -4½. Sam Darnold led a great late drive with the Jets rushing into the end zone on 4th-and-goal to take the lead for the first time in the game. Josh Allen would get intercepted to end the game for the Bills.

Miami Dolphins (+9) 34, New England Patriots 33 (50½): The Patriots led 30-28 late in the fourth quarter but couldn’t quite burn off the remaining clock and didn’t find the end zone, ultimately kicking a 22-yard field goal with 16 seconds remaining to lead by five when a touchdown could have put New England by nine on a spread that bounced around between -7 and -9. The Dolphins returned the kickoff to the 31 and had one play left, it turned out to be a play that will be remembered for a long time as a two laterals after a Ryan Tannehill completion left Kenyan Drake with room to maneuver, eventually going the distance for a 69-yard game-winning score.

Los Angeles Chargers (-16½) 26, Cincinnati Bengals 21 (48): The Bengals were never out of position to cover the massive underdog spread in this game but their late bid to tie the game had a huge impact on the total. The ‘under’ felt safe with just 32 points into the fourth quarter and matching field goals didn’t change that trajectory. Cincinnati would complete a touchdown drive just after the two-minute warning and lined up for a two-point conversion that would have tied the game. The attempt was not a success as the Chargers led 23-21 and the total sat just ‘under’. After holding the on-side kick attempt the Chargers added a late field goal to secure the win and put the scoring at 46, just below the closing figure of 48 after an opener at 47.

Dallas Cowboys (-3) 29, Philadelphia Eagles 23 (45): Eagles backers had a right to be fuming early in Sunday’s big afternoon showcase game in the NFC East with a Dallas fumble on the opening kickoff handed back to the Cowboys on a simply unimaginable replay review decision. From there just 15 points were scored through three quarters and the underdog Eagles tied the game at just 9-9 early in the fourth quarter. These rivals scored four touchdowns in the final eight minutes for a 23-23 tie to incredibly hit the ‘over’ when the ‘under’ appeared to be in a very safe position most of the way. Dallas was in position to have a game-winning field goal attempt at the end of regulation but had a fumble and then a sack to cost the team 15 yards. In overtime Dallas again appeared to stall in field goal range but opted to go for it on 4th-and-1 from the 19-yard-line rather than kicking a relatively sure field goal. The Cowboys got the conversion and then on 3rd-and-8 connected for a game-winning and spread-covering touchdown on a lucky bounce as a deflected pass wound up in Amari Cooper’s hands.

Oakland Raiders (+10) 24, Pittsburgh Steelers 21 (51): The heavy underdog Raiders came to play in this old rivalry as the double-digit underdog was in position to cover the entire way. The ‘under’ also seemed safe with a 14-10 score through three quarters which held until the Raiders took the lead 17-14 with a touchdown with just over five minutes remaining in the game. Both teams would score again for a 24-21 Oakland edge in the final seconds. The Steelers picked up a huge gain on a lateral play to set-up a game-tying field goal that would have put those on the ‘over’ miraculously back in play but Chris Boswell’s plant foot slipped and his 40-yard attempt failed as the ‘under’ held on.

Seattle Seahawks (-3) 21, Minnesota Vikings 7 (45½): Both defenses were tough in this Monday NFC showdown with a 3-0 lead for Seattle through three quarters after Minnesota failed going for it on 4th-and-1 across midfield. In good field position Seattle got the biggest play of the game to that point with a 31-yard pass interference call on the first play of the 4th quarter, a play with minimal contact on a debatably catchable pass. That put Seattle at 1st-and-goal and Seattle got past the home favorite spread with a field goal to lead 6-0. Minnesota would go right down the field on its next possession but stalled inside the 2-yard-line and threw incomplete on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard-line. Minnesota’s defense forced a 3-and-out and returned to Seattle territory, opting for a 47-yard field goal try. Bobby Wagner blocked the kick but was flagged for pushing off teammates to leap over a gap, a new rule emphasized this season. Without explanation the flag was picked up as for the second time in the game a clear 15-yard penalty on Wagner was missed after he got away with a facemask in the 1st quarter. With the block Seattle took over downs near midfield when the penalty would have given Minnesota 1st down at the Seattle 14-yard-line in an egregious officiating mistake that created a huge swing in the potential result of the game. A big Russell Wilson scramble put the game away for the Seahawks who would also add a late score on defense before Minnesota avoided the shutout with a garbage-time touchdown for a very misleading final score.