4th Quarter Covers - Week 4
September 24, 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.
Boise State (-6) 7, BYU 6 (50½): The Thursday night game proved to be a defensive battle as it was a scoreless game at halftime. The first touchdown of the game came on defense as BYU quarterback Riley Nelson had an interception returned 36 yards early in the second half to put Boise State up 7-0. With a spread on the home favorite falling just below that mark, Boise State looked like they might sneak away with a cover, but backup quarterback Taysom Hill took over for the Cougars and led BYU into the end zone with just over three minutes to go. Despite playing great defensively the entire game, Bronco Mendenhall took a big risk going for the two-point conversion and the win, and the move backfired with a failed conversion. Boise State was able to get a first down on its final possession and BYU never got another shot. Those backing BYU were probably thrilled with the decision to go for two as overtime would have left the underdog cover still at risk.
Baylor (-8½) 47, UL-Monroe 42 (70): The Friday night game was an offensive showcase as advertised and the final minutes presented great pointspread drama. Baylor led by six entering the fourth quarter, and UL-Monroe got what looked like a spread-clinching touchdown with just over 10 minutes to go, taking the lead 35-34. Baylor answered to go back up by five and then the next drive for the Warhawks resulted in a fumble, giving the Bears the ball back. Baylor took advantage, connecting on a 22-yard pass play to go up by 12 with just over two minutes to go. While getting another big upset proved nearly impossible with the limited time remaining, UL-Monroe went down fighting against a soft Baylor prevent defense, eventually completing a 15-yard pass with six seconds left on a third down play to steal the late underdog cover.
Wake Forest (-7½) 49, Army 37 (55½): Five touchdowns filled the third quarter as Wake Forest took a 42-37 lead into the final frame, short of the spread. Both offenses posted over 500 yards in the game, but the scoring was quiet in the final quarter with Army failing on downs inside the Wake Forest 20-yard line as a field goal didn’t help down by five. Wake Forest put together a game sealing drive after that, breaking a long run with less than three minutes to go to move the margin to 12, and past the favorite spread. The run-happy offense for Army is not well-suited for the two-minute drill as the Knights did not threaten to take the cover back.
Florida State (-14½) 49, Clemson 37 (55½): The big top 10 showdown in the ACC was not the defensive battle that most expected as Clemson scored at will early with some creative play calling, taking a 14-point lead early in the second half. The Florida State defense eventually stepped up and the Seminoles took control of the game in the third quarter, leading 35-31 entering the fourth quarter. Taking advantage of a few Clemson miscues and continuing to score big plays on offense, Florida State eventually took an 18-point lead about halfway through the fourth quarter. With just over two minutes to go, Clemson faced a fourth down and goal play, and Tajh Boyd’s pass somehow eluded the Florida State defender who had read the play perfectly and tight end Brandon Ford made an awkward one-handed catch to get Clemson back within the spread. Florida State nearly delivered the miracle breakthrough run that favorite backers were praying for as on third down and needing only one first down to run out the game, quarterback E.J. Manuel found wide-open running space, going 28-yards before intentionally sliding down inbounds around the 10-yard line, despite a relatively clear path to the end zone.
Duke (-22) 38, Memphis 14 (61): Duke is not often a heavy favorite, but the Blue Devils were comfortable pouring on the points last week. Memphis led 14-7 at one point, but Duke rallied with big numbers in the air, eventually taking a 10-point lead into the fourth quarter, well short of the over three-touchdown spread. Duke would score twice in the fourth to get past the spread by a slim margin and Memphis was sacked twice after they got into Duke territory with a chance at stealing the cover late.
Wisconsin (-17½) 37, UTEP 26 (50½): The Badgers had another slow start, but hit a few big plays in the second quarter to take control of the game. Things still got dicey late as Wisconsin led by just seven entering the fourth quarter, an advantage that shrunk to just four points with less than eight minutes to go in the game. Wisconsin sealed the game with two touchdowns within the span of 15 seconds moving up by 18 and at or past the late week spread. UTEP stole a deserved cover back with less than a minute to go, breaking a 62-yard pass play on a late 3rd down heave. The late scoring flurry also pushed the game over the total, in a game that did not feature great offensive performances.
Utah State (-12½) 31, Colorado State 19 (54): This spread opened at -14 and fell throughout the week, even closing at -11½ at many outlets, making this final score pretty interesting for those on the game. Utah State led 24-6 entering the fourth quarter, but Colorado State scored to get to 24-12, missing on the two-point conversion. Utah State went back up by 19 with less than eight minutes to go, but Colorado State hit a big pass play with less than two minutes to go to cut the margin to 12. Utah State had three turnovers in the game as they were in control, opening with a 17-0 halftime lead.
Marshall (-3) 54, Rice 51 (71): This game featured over 1,200 yards and 65 first downs, yet there were no turnovers. Marshall led by seven entering the fourth quarter and then pushed that margin to 10 points with just over four minutes to go. Rice answered and then got the ball back, driving deep into Marshall territory, but the Owls had to settle for a chip shot field goal as time expired. Both teams scored touchdowns in the first overtime, but Rice had to settle for a field goal in the second overtime, allowing Marshall to win with a touchdown and the extra-point that would have earned the cover was not needed.
TCU (-19) 27, Virginia 7 (53½): TCU got a lot of late sharp action and the Frogs were just barely ahead of the number entering the fourth quarter despite pitching a shutout with a 20-0 lead. Virginia finally found the end zone with just over four minutes to go, but after an onside kick attempt TCU had a short field to work with and going for it on fourth down TCU hit a 17-yard touchdown pass to get past the spread. Virginia fumbled on its final possession to end any late threat to the spread and TCU held on in game that was fairly close yardage-wise.
USC (-16½) 27, California 9 (57): With both teams in letdown mode after big game losses the previous week, the offenses struggled to cash in with points. USC led just 17-9 entering the fourth quarter, but the defense held on a key spread-changing drive late in the game, stopping Cal on downs deep in USC territory. USC added 10 points in the fourth quarter to get barely past the number and probably could have added another score in the final minute had they been motivated.
Miami, FL (+14) 42, Georgia Tech 36 (61½): Georgia Tech scored five consecutive touchdowns in the middle of the game to lead 36-19 late in the third quarter, but Miami played a great fourth quarter, getting a tying touchdown with less than 30 seconds to go. Miami’s defense held in overtime, stuffing Georgia Tech three times from inside the three-yard line and Miami broke a second down rush to the end zone to win outright, with the underdog spread cover already in hand.
Wyoming (+2½) 40, Idaho 37 (52): Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith was a question mark all week, but he ended up playing and having a big day with five touchdown passes. The Cowboys needed every one of them, trailing 27-20 entering the 4th quarter. Wyoming took a 34-27 lead with just over three minutes to go, but on the final play of regulation Idaho delivered the tying score. Idaho kicked a field goal in overtime, but Wyoming was able to hit for the touchdown for a small underdog win.
San Jose State (+3) 38, San Diego State 34 (54): San Diego State led by seven entering the fourth quarter, but the game was quickly tied up. The Aztecs went up by a field goal with just over five minutes to go, but San Jose State quickly answered with a touchdown to take the lead by four with just over three minutes to go. With most lines at right at three although some late numbers closed at -2½, a push seemed likely as San Diego State hit a 40-yard pass play with just over two minutes to go to lead by three. San Jose State would not go away, however, going right down the field and taking the lead again with less than a minute to go. The Spartans also stuffed San Diego State’s last efforts and came away with the victory.