4th Quarter Covers - Week 12
November 20, 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 fourth quarter last week in college football games. Each week there are several games where the money changes hands late based on a few critical late plays, whether the outcome of the game is in doubt or not. Get the details of those close calls in this weekly column.
Ball State (-6) 52, Ohio 27 (60½): This was a much closer game than the final score indicated as Ball State led by four at halftime and then by just seven entering the fourth quarter. The Bobcats had to settle for a short field goal early in the fourth, getting back within the spread, but the Cardinals were set up in great field position after a strong kickoff return that was boosted with a personal foul penalty. It only took one play for Ball State to hit the end zone, going up by double-digits for the first time in the game. Down 11 points, Ohio seemed out of gas and Ball State added two more late touchdowns to create the impression of a blowout.
Northern Illinois (-10) 31, Toledo 24 (69½): This Tuesday night game did not feature the expected high-scoring early as Toledo led 14-7 at halftime. Northern Illinois took control in the third quarter, hitting big plays and holding Toledo without points despite the Rockets getting deep into Huskies territory on three separate possessions. Northern Illinois led by 14 at the start of the fourth and a field goal made it 31-13. Toledo answered quickly with a touchdown to get back within 10, right at the common spread on this game. On the next Northern Illinois drive, a fumble gave Toledo good field position and the Rockets added a field goal to trim the margin to seven points. Toledo would not get another chance as Northern Illinois burned nearly six minutes of clock with a 10-play drive, able to take a knee inside the Toledo 15 and depriving favorite backers of the cover.
Georgia Tech (-12) 42, Duke 24 (68): The Blue Devils trailed by just four points entering the fourth quarter as these teams alternated scores through three frames. The Yellow Jackets extended the lead to 11 points with an impressive 18-play drive that sustained over 8½ minutes. After trading punts, Duke was forced to go for it on fourth down in their own territory and after failing, Georgia Tech punched in another touchdown late to get past the spread for the first time in the game with just over three minutes to go. Duke made a run at the backdoor cover, but an interception ended those hopes.
Purdue (-6½) 20, Illinois 17 (49): Still with a shot at a bowl game and playing perhaps for Coach Hope, Purdue pulled out to a 20-10 lead after two touchdowns in the third quarter in a game that started very slowly with only nine points in the first half. Four consecutive punts led off the fourth quarter before Illinois put together a 95-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown, cutting the margin to three and putting Illinois in position for the underdog cover with just over three minutes to go. Purdue got the ball in great field position after the failed onside kick attempt, but the Boilermakers eventually opted to go for it on fourth down instead of kicking a field goal with 33 seconds to go. Purdue converted for a new set of downs and the chance for a push for many was lost.
Marshall (-3½) 44, Houston 41 (75½): Marshall appeared to be in command in this game, leading 31-10 at halftime and still up 38-24 going into the fourth quarter. Just over four minutes into the final frame, the score was tied with Houston hitting a couple of big plays and setting up a dramatic finish. With just over five minutes to go, Marshall settled for a short field goal to take the lead by three, still short of the spread for most as the opening number of three climbed to 3 ½ later in the week. Houston also had to settle for a kick, tying the game with just over a minute to go. The ensuing kickoff by Houston went out of bounds for a critical mistake that helped Marshall drive down for a shot at the win and Justin Haig hit the 45-yard kick in the closing seconds to give Marshall the win, but not the cover.
Florida State (-31½) 41, Maryland 14 (46): The Seminoles were on cruise control up 27-0 at the half and 34-7 entering the fourth quarter, but they did not get past the huge favorite spread until late, scoring with less than six minutes to go on a long run to go up 41-7. Florida State looked like they might add to that lead with the ball inside the Maryland 30, but a fumble was recovered by Maryland and brought inside Seminoles territory. Kevin Dorsey would score on a 42-yard touchdown pass with just 25 seconds left on the clock to give Maryland the late backdoor cover.
Clemson (-15½) 62, N.C. State 48 (66): Clemson put up huge numbers in this game and the Tigers turned a 24-13 deficit into a 55-24 lead with six consecutive touchdowns that went unanswered until N.C. State stopped the bleeding late in the third quarter. The Tigers would lead by 24 entering the fourth quarter, but N.C. State trimmed that lead to 17 very early in the final frame. After Clemson stalled in good field position and eventually punted, N.C. State went down the field for the spread-changing field goal about halfway through the fourth quarter, making 110 total points combined and plenty of time still on the clock. There would be no more scoring as Clemson burned the entire remaining clock on a 14-play drive and had no need to put more points on the board, leaving the underdog with the narrow cover.
Boise State (-30) 42, Colorado State 14 (49½): This was a classic "call off the dogs" situation as Boise State led 35-0 at the half and then put together a successful first drive of the second half to go up 42-0. Late in the third quarter, Colorado State found the scoreboard for the first time after breaking a 72-yard run for a touchdown. Boise State punted on three straight possessions, as Colorado State spoiled the spread on the final drive with the backdoor cover, hitting a 30-yard touchdown pass on fourth and 12 with just four minutes to go.
Navy (-13) 21, Texas State 10 (56½): Navy led just 7-0 at halftime in a defensive struggle, but the Midshipmen moved to a 21-3 edge and past the home favorite spread early in the fourth quarter. Texas State responded immediately hitting a 62-yard pass play for the only touchdown of the game from the Bobcats to cut into the favorite spread with just an 11-point margin. Navy would miss a late field goal that would have put the margin to 14 and was the second missed Navy field goal in the second half. Texas State also missed a late scoring opportunity as well, as a 77-yard drive came up empty near the end of the game.
East Carolina (-10) 28, Tulane 23 (66): East Carolina led by just one at halftime and by just five entering the fourth quarter, but the Pirates moved past the spread with a touchdown with just over four minutes to go to lead by 12. Tulane was able to go 73 yards on its next possession, cashing in for a spread changing touchdown with just over a minute remaining to deliver an underdog win for the Wave.
Tulsa (-1) 23, Central Florida 21 (54½): A small middle opportunity was available in this game as Tulsa opened the week as three-point favorite, but saw the line drop down to -1 by game-time on Saturday morning. The Golden Hurricane was able to lock up a Conference USA title game spot and a possible rematch of this game by grabbing a 23-14 lead going into the fourth quarter, but Central Florida punched in a touchdown in the final frame to cut the margin to just two points. Tulsa missed a field goal late in this game as well, as the two-point margin stuck despite Tulsa featuring a nearly 2:1 yardage advantage in the game.
Texas-San Antonio (-5) 34, Idaho 27 (56½): UTSA led 20-3 at halftime on the road, but Idaho battled back, trailing by just three entering the fourth quarter and tying the game with a short field goal early in the fourth quarter. The Roadrunners would answer to take the lead back and get past the spread with a touchdown and then a blocked punt set up UTSA for another score. Idaho added a touchdown late, but the Roadrunners held on for the victory and the narrow cover as a road favorite.
Arizona (+3) 34, Utah 24 (63): The lines were very late to come out on this game with Arizona quarterback Matt Scott questionable. He did play, but Arizona trailed 24-17 entering the fourth quarter. The game was tied quickly into the fourth, but momentum shifted with Utah getting stopped going for it on fourth down short of midfield with a fake punt call. Arizona took advantage with a touchdown to take the lead shortly thereafter and then added a late field goal for good measure.
Syracuse (+6) 31, Missouri 27 (54½): Mizzou led 17-3 at one point and after a scoreless third quarter, the Tigers were still ahead of the spread with a 17-10 lead. The fourth quarter provided a shootout as these teams traded scores and as Missouri had to settle for a field goal with less than two minutes to go, the underdog cover looked safe for Syracuse. The Orange did one better with a game-winning touchdown with 20 seconds to go, clinching bowl eligibility.
Utah State (-3) 48, Louisiana Tech 41 (73½): Utah State took control in this game early, but it was only a matter of time before the Louisiana Tech offense stopped making mistakes and started cashing in points. A 41-17 lead in the third quarter slowly dissolved as Louisiana Tech dominated the fourth quarter. A touchdown with less than two minutes to go cut the Utah State lead to 41-38 and put many Louisiana Tech backers in position to win as +3 ½ was common on this game before a late line move. Utah State was not able to run out the clock as Louisiana Tech still had two timeouts and the Bulldogs got the ball back with just over a minute to go. With a couple of big completions, including a successful fourth and four conversion, Louisiana Tech was down to the Utah State 15-yard line. They had one shot at the end zone and then settled for overtime with a 32-yard kick, putting the spread result back in play. In overtime, Utah State got the ball first and only needed three plays to find the end zone and the Aggies stepped up on defense, stuffing a fourth and three play as the Bulldogs were neither able to extend the game nor complete the comeback, leaving the underdog backers with a tough finish.
Ohio State (PK) 21, Wisconsin 14 (52): The Buckeyes led 14-0 early in this game with a punt return touchdown being a key play. After failing to tie the game with a golden opportunity once with a goal line fumble, Wisconsin did convert on its next possession with eight seconds left to force overtime. Wisconsin was favored most of the week before a late pull to a pick-'em, but in overtime, Ohio State scored first and the Badgers could not get it done, failing to pick up a first down and suffering a home loss despite substantial yardage edges in the game.
UTEP (-3) 34, Southern Miss 33 (49): This game was tied entering the fourth quarter and it appeared overtime might be in play as these teams traded scores. Southern Miss tied the game with just over six minutes to go on an 81-yard pass play, but the ensuing kickoff was returned 98 yards for a UTEP touchdown, putting the Miners up by seven. Seeking its first win of the season, Southern Miss opted to go for two after a touchdown with less than three minutes to go. The attempt failed but Southern Miss still claimed the winning tickets with the underdog cover.
Middle Tennessee State (-7) 20, South Alabama 12 (56): Middle Tennessee State led nearly the entire game, but despite a big edge in turnovers, the Blue Raiders were not able to pull away in this game. MTSU led 17-12 entering the fourth quarter after South Alabama went for two down five points after a late third quarter score. That failed conversion proved to be a critical play as Middle Tennessee's late short field goal produced an eight point margin, just past the late week spread. The line did open at 10 but quickly shot down to -7 early in the week and did climb back to -7½ late at some spots.