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Glancing at the scoreboard won’t tell you the whole story in most games. Here are the games that went down to the wire relative to the spread in the 4th quarter last week in college football. Each week there are several teams that cover despite not necessarily deserving it, as well as other teams that played much better than the final score shows, get the details in this weekly column.
Ohio (-21½) 51, New Mexico State 24 (59): The Bobcats led by exactly 21 entering the 4th quarter after a 91-yard kickoff return touchdown for New Mexico State late in the 3rd quarter. Ohio had two long drives in the 4th quarter that stalled inside the 10-yard line and eventually the Bobcats had to settle for field goals, moving up by 27 but leaving a window of opportunity for the Aggies to steal the backdoor cover. On its final possession New Mexico State was able to pick up two 1st downs and move the ball to midfield but the favorite cover was saved as the Aggies conceded and punted after two sacks and an incompletion.
Ohio State (-16) 31, Central Florida 16 (50): UCF scored late in the 3rd quarter to get back within the spread, trailing 31-16 in a game that was much closer statistically than the scoring suggests. On the 1st UCF drive of the 4th quarter the Knights moved near field goal range but ended up with an interception. Those looking for the Buckeyes to get past the spread were left empty-handed as the Buckeyes stalled at midfield on two 4th quarter possessions and then would fumble late in the game but UCF did not add any more points as the game ended deep in Buckeyes territory. Those on the total certainly had to sweat out the final seconds as the Knights ended the game inside the 10-yard line as time expired.
Clemson (-27½) 52, Ball State 27 (67): The Tigers dominated this game early and took a commanding lead into halftime at 45-10. Clearly relaxed and playing with some reserves in the game, Clemson allowed Ball State back under the number as the Cardinals posted 10 points in the 3rd quarter to cut the lead to 25 entering the final frame. With the 2nd team offense playing, Clemson would put together a touchdown drive early in the 4th to get past the spread again but Ball State took the cover back with a touchdown with just over three minutes to go in the game and Clemson went 3-and-out on its final possession.
South Florida (+1) 32, Nevada 31 (57½): Nevada appeared to halt the South Florida rally as they scored a touchdown as the 3rd quarter expired to go up 28-20 after South Florida had rallied from being down 21-6 early. Nevada added a field goal halfway through the final frame but the Bulls were not done, connecting on two huge pass plays in the final three minutes. After stopping Nevada near mid-field the Bulls eventually connected on a 52-yard pass to cut the lead to five. They went for two and failed and then went for the onside kick and failed but got a huge 3rd-and-short stop to force Nevada to punt again with less than two minutes to go. South Florida again hit a huge pass play with a 56-yard reception, going up by one. The Bulls were the one-point chalk early in the week but that line quickly flipped to the home team, leaving South Florida with a miraculous narrow cover after they stopped a threatening final Nevada drive that went into Bulls territory.
Texas (-39) 45, New Mexico 0 (53½): It often takes all four quarters to cover a massive spread like this and the Longhorns were no exception last week. Texas was dominant defensively but only had nine possessions in the game not counting the final possession where they just took a knee. New Mexico’s longest drive was a 50-yarder to open the game but the underdog Lobos were within the spread at 31-0 entering the 4th quarter. Texas needed a touchdown with just over three minutes to go to finally get past the number despite the shutout.
Florida (-1) 20, Texas A&M 17 (49): With its great home field edge the Aggies had some momentum early in their SEC debut, leading 17-7 at one point in the 2nd quarter. Florida trimmed that lead down to 17-13 entering the 4th quarter with two field goals. The Aggies were pinned deep to start the final quarter and left Florida in good field position on the 1st possession of the 4th for the Gators and a big 39-yard passing play set up Florida for the go-ahead touchdown. Florida’s defense impressed with two 3-and-outs on the next two Texas A&M possessions but the Aggies would pick up two 1st downs on its final possession but ultimately had to send the ball back to Florida with over three minutes still on the clock. A facemask penalty proved critical on that possession and the Gators were able to pick up two more 1st downs to close out the game.
N.C. State (-3) 10, Connecticut 7 (48): In a defensive battle NC State led 10-0 going into the 4th quarter as turnovers plagued the Huskies. Right off the bat in the 4th the Huskies were intercepted on 1st down with good field position. The Huskies got the ball right back and moved into NC State territory but then had to punt again after falling into a 4th-and-22 hole. Another 3-and-out ensued and Connecticut finally broke the big play it needed, setting up a touchdown with just over seven minutes to go. The closing spread on this game was right at three but Connecticut was an underdog of more than three all week, leaving the final minutes critical for everyone involved. NC State put together a one of its better drives of the day going from its own 25 to the Connecticut 27 but opted to go for it on 4th-and-two and falling short. The Huskies then had their chance, moving close to midfield but eventually failed on 4th and 4, leaving great field position for NC State to possibly tack on more points but they were able to melt the clock as Connecticut had just one timeout left.
Northwestern (+3) 23, Vanderbilt 13 (54½): The Commodores saw another late lead blown with a 10-6 lead entering the 4th quarter but Northwestern took over with 17 points in the final frame. Northwestern’s 1st touchdown came with just over nine minutes to go in the game and then they saw Vanderbilt settle for a tying field goal on the next possession despite getting deep into Wildcats territory. Northwestern benefited from a controversial call that eventually led to a field goal, going up 16-13 with just two minutes to go and then after a Vanderbilt fumble the Wildcats put the game away with a late touchdown to create a misleading final score.