4th Quarter Covers - Week 1
September 3, 2013
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 the opening weekend of 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.
Utah (-1) 30, Utah State 26: Utah State took a 23-14 early in the third quarter as a slight underdog, but Utah had the lead by the end of the third quarter, taking advantage of a successful onside kick to score 10 points in less than two minutes. After trading field goals in the fourth quarter, Utah forced a punt and then took the clock down to 19 seconds before kicking a field goal to get past the spread as a Hail Mary from the Aggies fell short.
Mississippi (-3½) 39, Vanderbilt 35: The SEC opener delivered an amazing finish as both teams squandered leads early in the game. Early in the fourth quarter, Mississippi took a 32-28 lead and it appeared that might hold as Vanderbilt faced a 4th-and-18 in its own territory with just two minutes to go. The Commodores amazingly converted and then took advantage of a blown coverage on the next play for the go-ahead touchdown. On the second play for Mississippi after getting the ball back, Jeff Scott broke one the great runs of the weekend for a 75-yard score. Vanderbilt took the ensuing kickoff to midfield but an interception ended the game.
USC (-24½) 30, Hawaii 13: After an ugly start to the game, USC managed to go up 30-5 late in the fourth quarter after completing an 80-yard drive, seemingly earning a late cover. With less than a minute to go, Hawaii connected for a 60-yard touchdown play that took the underdog cover back for the Warriors.
Miami, FL (-31½) 34, Florida Atlantic 6: The Hurricanes led by 28 in the fourth quarter sitting at 1st and goal at the Florida Atlantic 2-yard line. The Owls would hold as Miami failed to punch the ball in with four straight rushing attempts from Gus Edwards, preserving a narrow underdog cover for the Owls. Florida Atlantic put together a 16-play drive on the subsequent possession, but also wound up without points in the scoreless fourth quarter.
Texas Tech (-4½) 41, SMU 23: The Mustangs were a popular underdog and with a late third quarter rushing touchdown, SMU was within four. Texas Tech dominated in the fourth quarter, posting three touchdowns on three consecutive drives and putting the game out of reach before SMU scored again.
Wisconsin (-43) 45, Massachusetts 0: Covering a massive spread seemed unlikely for the Badgers with just a 17-0 lead at halftime. Wisconsin hit three big touchdown plays in the third quarter and got an interception on the only productive drive for the Minutemen in the second half. Wisconsin would add an early fourth quarter touchdown and it would be just enough.
Northern Illinois (+3) 30, Iowa 27: The Hawkeyes appeared poised to take a narrow win against the Huskies for the second year in a row, but this year, Northern Illinois delivered the comeback. Iowa led by four entering the fourth and by seven after a field goal with less than seven minutes to go. Northern Illinois had struggled to move the ball most of the second half, but took just six plays to deliver the tying score. After trading punts, Iowa gave Northern Illinois the ball in Iowa territory after an interception with just over a minute to go. The Huskies burned most of the clock and hit the go-ahead field goal for the upset win.
Virginia (+3) 19, BYU 16: The Cavaliers took a 12-7 lead into the fourth quarter in a defensive battle with BYU. The Cougars would get an elusive touchdown with just over six minutes to go to lead by one as they failed on the 2-point conversion. BYU was able to quickly add three more points after Virginia fumbled on the kickoff return, but settling for the field goal would prove costly. The BYU defense did its part as Virginia was held to a three-and-out and another punt. BYU had the ball with the lead, but on a key third down play with less than three minutes to go, an interception gave the Cavaliers great field position and it took just one play to punch in for a touchdown. The game continued with two more possessions for the Cougars, but Virginia held on.
Oklahoma State (-13) 21, Mississippi State 3: The Cowboys had an ugly start to the game on offense, scoreless until late in the second quarter. After punting on the first five possessions of the game, the offense was productive on five consecutive drives, resulting in three touchdowns, a missed field goal, and a turnover on downs in MSU territory. A touchdown early in the fourth quarter put Oklahoma State past the spread for the first time, but it appeared the Bulldogs would answer, getting inside the 15-yard line, but ultimately leaving empty handed after a missed field goal. Mississippi State went into Oklahoma State territory on its next possession as well, but an interception late in the game secured the cover for Oklahoma State despite just 21 points scored.
Texas (-44) 56, New Mexico State 7: With just over two minutes left in the first half, New Mexico State went up 7-0 on highly ranked Texas, making a cover for the favorite look impossible with the over six-touchdown spread. The Longhorns incredibly scored twice in 40 seconds of game clock to take the lead into the half. Texas took control from there with three touchdowns in each of the third and fourth quarters, getting the final touchdown with just over a minute to go to get past the spread.
Penn State (-9) 23, Syracuse 17: Penn State led just 13-10 heading into the fourth quarter, but the Lions managed to gain some distance, adding a long field goal and then connecting on a 54-yard touchdown pass to lead 23-10. Syracuse was given another chance as an interception was returned to the Penn State 1-yard line, setting up an easy score that flipped the cover with just seven minutes to go. Neither team seriously threatened to score the rest of the way.
LSU (-6) 37, TCU 27: In the big late game in Arlington, LSU led most of the way, taking a 30-17 lead into the fourth quarter. A fumble recovery deep in LSU territory gave TCU a second wind and the Frogs were within six a few plays later. TCU forced a punt and then put together a productive drive, but ultimately had to settle for a field goal to trail, 30-27 with less than eight minutes to go. A 75-yard kickoff return gave the momentum back to LSU and the Tigers converted with a touchdown on a big third down play. TCU had to punt on its next possession and never got the ball back.
UCLA (-21) 58, Nevada 20: While the Bruins had big numbers on offense, they created a bit of a deceptive final score with late touchdowns. UCLA led by just four at the half and by just 17 into the fourth quarter, but three Bruins touchdowns late in the game pushed the margin to 38 points and past the spread as Nevada had just 15 net yards on its final four possessions.
Northwestern (-6½) 44, California 30: Cal led 24-20 in this game before an interception return for a touchdown sparked the Wildcats to a 27-24 lead entering the fourth quarter. The Bears tied the game early in the fourth quarter, but another interception return touchdown allowed Northwestern to pull away for the win and cover in a game that was closer than it looked and featured a yardage edge for the Bears.
Colorado (+3) 41, Colorado State 27: The final score makes this look like a convincing win for the Buffaloes in the opening week rivalry game, but the Rams led 24-23 entering the fourth quarter. A long fumble return touchdown gave Colorado a bit of a margin and a 75-yard pass play to immediately answer a Colorado State field goal with less than four minutes to go put the game away. Colorado did dominate the statistics, but a punt return touchdown helped to keep the Rams in the game.
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