4th Quarter Covers - Week 3
September 18, 2012
By Joe Nelson
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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.
Washington State (-9½) 35, UNLV 27 (56): Washington State led 28-10 late in the 2nd quarter but UNLV immediately responded, connecting on a 75-yard pass play to get within 11 and then adding a field goal as the first half expired to put the margin at eight, right at or near a line that bounced around all week, ranging from -8 after opening at -11½, and eventually closing back at -9½. Washington State struck early to go up by 15 in the 4th quarter but UNLV fought back with a touchdown with under two minutes to go to take the cover back. The total was also eclipsed with that late touchdown as well.
Michigan (-45) 63, Massachusetts 13 (55): Scoring was not going to be the problem for Michigan covering this massive spread but a suspect defense would likely need to hold the Minutemen to a very low number for a chance at the cover. These teams played in 2010 with Michigan winning by just five but it was a much different story this time. Michigan raced out to a big lead, leading 42-13 at halftime but still well short of the spread. The Wolverines kept its starters in for much of the 3rd quarter and added two more touchdowns but they were still short of the spread with a 43-point margin heading into the 4th. Following a missed Massachusetts field goal, Michigan put together a long drive that resulted in the covering score.
Northwestern (-4) 22, Boston College 13 (55): The Wildcats continue to have a knack for the dramatic as they led just 15-10 entering the 4th quarter, just past the small spread. Boston College added a field goal early in the final frame to cut the margin to just two. Neither team was able to do much on the next two possessions each as there were four consecutive punts but the Wildcats took advantage of great field position to punch in a touchdown with less than two minutes to go to seal the game and create the final nine-point margin. Although a final touchdown from Boston College wouldn't have changed the result on the field, the spread was still in doubt late as the Eagles went deep into Northwestern territory against soft defensive coverage, ending the game with three straight incomplete passes as time expired from the Northwestern 20-yard line.
Northern Illinois (-3) 41, Army 40 (49½): Northern Illinois led 28-13 at one point in the 2nd quarter but Army rallied to take a 34-28 lead into the 4th quarter, making the underdog cover look rather safe in a game that Army rushed for nearly 500 yards. After trading touchdowns early in the final quarter Army opted to go for two, sitting with a 40-35 lead. They failed which allowed Northern Illinois to take the lead by one when they scored with just over four minutes to go. The Huskies went for two in critical play for those involved on the spread but the pass attempt failed. Army got into the NIU territory on its final possession but couldn't get close enough for a field goal attempt and the ball turned over on downs and the Huskies got a first down to seal the game.
Connecticut (-2½) 24, Maryland 21 (39½): In a game with minimal offensive production Connecticut led 17-7 as slight road favorites entering the 4th quarter. The line closed -2½ but was solidly at -3 much of the week and Maryland tied the spread with a 29-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter. Connecticut answered back to go back up by 10 but Maryland put together another touchdown drive to earn the push for many backers late in the game. Maryland had punted or turned the ball over in 10 of the previous 11 possessions so getting back-to-back scores late in the game was a bit of a surprise. The Maryland defense got the ball back for the offense in the final minutes and the Terrapins got the ball down to the Connecticut 32 but they went backwards from there. The very low total on this game was also passed with Maryland's final touchdown with just over four minutes to go in the game.
Ohio State (-17) 35, California 28 (55½): Ohio State looked like they might be able to pull away in the first half of this game but in the second half it was pretty clear the underdog was going to be able to cover in this Pac-12/Big Ten tile. The total however looked on pace to stay under most of the way as Ohio State led 20-14 entering the 4th quarter, still more than three touchdowns short of the number. The Bears took the lead early in the 4th and then there was exchange of touchdowns plus a 2-point conversion in the span of 21 seconds in the middle of the final quarter, leaving a 28-28 tie, and assuring a victory for the 'over'. The Buckeyes broke a 72-yard pass play with just over three minutes to go and then needed a big defensive play with an interception to hold off overtime.
Missouri (-4) 24, Arizona State 20 (60½): This line opened at -7½ and then fell to -6 for most of the week. When it was announced that Missouri quarterback James Franklin would sit out the line crashed to -3½ Saturday morning before settling back at -4. Timing proved critical for the result with the game ending right on four with the middle opportunity there. Missouri looked like they would cruise to an easy cover; leading 24-7 entering the 4th quarter but the Sun Devils rallied getting two touchdowns in less than three minutes earlier in the final quarter. Down four Arizona State fumbled the snap on the extra-point attempt of the second score in what proved to be a critical play, as a successful extra-point would have cut the margin to just three. Missouri missed a field goal on its next possession and Arizona State drove down to the Missouri one-yard line but needing a touchdown instead of a tying field goal, they had to go for it and they failed. Arizona State got another opportunity within the final two minutes but they were intercepted deep in Missouri territory as the Sun Devils missed a golden opportunity to move to 3-0 with another big non-conference win.
Utah (+3½) 24, BYU 21 (45½): Utah led 24-7 entering the 4th quarter, looking like a sure thing for an underdog cover at worst but things got quite interesting in the final minutes of this rivalry game. BYU scored twice in the 4th quarter to cut the margin to just three points with less than four minutes to go in the game. Utah got down to the BYU 33 but eventually had to punt the ball back, giving BYU another opportunity. After what looked like a final play incompletion, the Cougars got another shot as the officials put one second back on the clock. A long field goal attempt was blocked but then after players and fans stormed the field Utah was assessed a 15-yard penalty. The much more manageable tying field goal attempt banged off the upright and Utah finally sealed the win and those on the 'under' also gave a huge sigh of relief as the total just barely stayed 'under' in all the late drama.
Louisville (-3½) 39, North Carolina 34 (56): Playing without its best offensive player Giovani Bernard for the second straight week in an unexpected late scratch, North Carolina was getting blown out early, trailing 29-0 at one point and down 36-7 at the half. The Tar Heels made it very interesting late as they nearly delivered an improbable comeback, scoring three consecutive touchdowns in the 4th quarter to trail by just five at 39-34. Had North Carolina been successful on the final score's two-point conversion they would have had the cover and a much better shot at tying the game on its final possession, as they got the ball back after a fumble on the kickoff, eventually being stopped at the Louisville four-yard line on downs.
Louisiana Tech (-21) 56, Rice 37 (67): Louisiana Tech led by 19 entering the 4th quarter but twice pushed the lead to 26 points, past the spread in the final frame. The last score for the Bulldogs came with less than four minutes to go but there was enough time for Rice to steal the backdoor cover, getting a touchdown pass with less than two minutes to go in a game that featured nearly 1,100 yards of offense.
South Carolina (-33) 49, UAB 6 (54): South Carolina was in a bit of a battle early in this game, leading just 14-6 late in the 2nd quarter but the Gamecocks would pull away. South Carolina was still short of the spread entering the 4th quarter but added two touchdowns late in the game get past the large spread and push the total just barely 'over'.
San Jose State (-11½) 40, Colorado State 20, (48): San Jose State led by just four at halftime and was short of the closing spread entering the 4th quarter with a 24-13 lead. The Spartans led by just seven at one point in the final quarter but they scored the final two touchdowns to create a bit of a misleading final score.
LSU (-42) 63, Idaho 14 (52½): LSU only led by seven late in the first half in this match-up but a big 3rd quarter put the game away. LSU was still well short of the spread with a 49-14 lead entering the final quarter but they added two late touchdowns including the covering score with just over four minutes to go.
UTEP (-14) 41, New Mexico State 28 (59): The Miners led 27-0 at one point and still led by 20 entering the 4th quarter. They added to that lead to go up 41-14 early in the 4th quarter. New Mexico State would rally to the margin back to 20 with a touchdown drive and then with under a minute to go the Aggies stole the backdoor cover with another touchdown pass. While UTEP had a big lead the yardage in the game was pretty even as New Mexico State was able move the ball with ease after getting behind.
Nebraska (-23½) 42, Arkansas State 13 (66½): Arkansas State was a front door cover victim last week for a change as the Red Wolves were hanging tight with Nebraska, down just 15 entering the 4th quarter. The defense could not hold as Nebraska added two touchdowns in the final frame and Arkansas State had a fumble on one of its last possessions.
NC State (-29½) 31, South Alabama 7 (50½): NC State had a 31-0 shutout going into the 4th quarter in a game that was much closer in terms of yardage than the scoreboard suggested. South Alabama did not score until just five minutes remaining in the game but it was enough to steal the cover. The Jaguars actually threatened to score again in the final two minutes before an interception but NC State did nothing on offense in the 4th quarter, content to let the game run out.