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 the final regular season week of college football. 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.
Northern Illinois (-7) 44, Kent State 37 (60½): Northern Illinois appeared in charge of this MAC title game that had serious BCS implications. Most felt only a Kent State win would prove to be a BCS buster but as we found out Sunday, the cards all fell right for Northern Illinois. The Huskies took a 27-13 lead into the 4th quarter and after a scoreless first 10 minutes in the final frame but Kent State got back within seven with a short touchdown run after a long drive. There was less than five minutes to go in the game as Northern Illinois attempted to run the clock out but a fumble was picked up and returned by Kent State for a touchdown to tie the game. Northern Illinois wasted no time with a quick answer to get back on top but Kent State was able to force overtime. Both teams had to settle for field goals in the first overtime but Northern Illinois found the end zone in the second session, going first and kicking the critical extra-point. Kent State got down to the nine yard-line but was ultimately intercepted on a 4th down play. This line opened at -5 and climbed as high as -7½ to leave a sweet middle available as many pushed on the game.
Cincinnati (-3½) 34, Connecticut 17 (41): The line on this game dropped substantially before kickoff, closing at 3½ despite being at -6 or -5 much of the week. Those numbers looked critical as Cincinnati led 21-17 entering the 4th quarter. Connecticut would turn the ball over on each of its first three 4th quarter possessions with two interceptions and a fumble, setting up easy points for Cincinnati, with the Bearcats getting 13 points off just 95 yards of production to put the game away.
Oklahoma (-6½) 24, TCU 17 (54½): Oklahoma led 24-14 entering the 4th quarter but TCU had a great early drive in the final frame only to come up empty with a missed kick. TCU would eventually add a successful field goal with seven minutes to go to place right near the spread, with some holding early week tickets right at seven. Oklahoma delivered a nine play clock burning drive to seemingly put the game away but the Sooners also missed a kick and it was a still a one score game. With less than three minutes to go TCU was able to drive deep into Oklahoma territory and on 3rd and 10 from the Oklahoma 12 Trevone Boykin scampered into the end zone but a holding play bailed out Oklahoma. With a two more tries TCU got close but could not come down with the 4th down catch in the final seconds to leave the margin at seven and give most on Oklahoma a narrow win.
Kansas State (-11) 42, Texas 24 (59): With a Fiesta Bowl spot on the line Kansas State scored late in the 3rd quarter to take a 21-17 lead, well short of the double-digit spread. Texas was forced to punt after a 3-and-out and on first down Kansas State hit a 55-yard pass play to go up by 11. Texas had a solid sustained drive on the next possession but a 40-yard field goal was missed. Kansas State was forced to punt on the next possession but there was a fumble on the return that set the Wildcats up in great position, eventually tacking on another touchdown. The game continued to grow out of hand as Texas had an interception on its second play of the next possession and Kansas State had just 10 yards to go to add in another score. Texas did not have enough time to rally back into the spread but they would add a late touchdown that was enough to push the total that fell all week ‘over’.
Boise State (-7½) 27, Nevada 21 (54): Boise State led 24-7 entering the 4th quarter and an early 4th quarter scoring opportunity came up empty for the Broncos going for it on 4th down. That proved to be critical relative to the spread as Nevada delivered quick rushing touchdowns on back-to-back possessions, sandwiching a Boise State field goal. That left the score at 27-21, leaving the underdog with the cover. Boise State was able to burn most of the clock on its final possession though they did have to give Nevada a long shot opportunity with 17 seconds to go.
UL-Lafayette (-8½) 35, Florida Atlantic 21 (61): Florida Atlantic led early in this game but by the start of the 4th quarter the Ragin’ Cajuns led 28-14. Florida Atlantic hit a big play early in the 4th to get within the spread, connecting on a 42-yard touchdown pass. The cover would not last for the Owls however as Louisiana-Lafayette would answer with a touchdown following an Owls fumble. Florida Atlantic threatened late to score again but they would up short going for it on 4th down on two late possessions inside the opponent’s territory.
Tulsa (-3) 33, Central Florida 27 (52½): Central Florida delivered a comeback in the 3rd quarter, eventually taking the lead 27-21 after the extra-point was blocked on the previous touchdown for the Knights. With just five minutes to go Tulsa appeared to score the game winning touchdown with a 54-yard punt return touchdown but UCF returned the favor with a block on the extra-point to leave the game tied. Overtime did not provide the same drama as UCF failed to move the ball and then missed a 38-yard kick. With points in the kicking game at a premium in windy conditions, Tulsa punched into the end zone on 3rd and Goal from the one to lock up the Conference USA championship as well as earn the cover for the slight favorite.