4th Quarter Covers - Week 3
September 17, 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 third 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.
Louisville (-14.5) 27, Kentucky 13: The highly-regarded offense for the Cardinals had an ugly start against Kentucky, failing to find the end zone until just before halftime. The defense played well however with three big turnovers and Louisville was past the over two touchdown spread entering the fourth quarter, leading 20-3. Into the fourth quarter, Louisville eventually took the lead to 27-6, but Kentucky put together a 15-play drive that included two separate 4th down conversions to put the score at 27-13 and giving most on the Wildcats a late cover. On the next possession, Louisville still had its starters in and it did not take long to get back into Kentucky territory on its last meaningful possession, but they eventually settled for a field goal try which Kentucky blocked to prevent the favorite from covering.
Pittsburgh (-22) 49, New Mexico 27: Pittsburgh led 42-6 midway through the third quarter as the Panthers survived four turnovers for a big output performance. Those on the Panthers laying over three touchdowns had some growing worries as New Mexico punched in two touchdowns in the final five minutes of the third quarter, the second of which came after a Pittsburgh fumble, putting the margin right at 22. With an early fourth quarter touchdown, Pittsburgh got past the spread that opened at -21 and climbed as high as -23.5 before settling at -22. Both teams traded punts after that score, but then New Mexico went 80 yards into the end zone on a 10-play drive, scoring with less than a minute to go as the final margin matched the closing spread at most outlets.
Alabama (-9) 49, Texas A&M 42: The biggest game of the day had wild swings with the spread result changing in the final frame. After falling behind 14-0 early, the Crimson Tide took over the game and eventually took a 42-21 lead heading in the fourth quarter. Texas A&M put up a great late fight, getting within seven after a 95-yard touchdown play by Mike Evans, following an Alabama fumble. Alabama would answer with a clock-burning 65-yard touchdown drive, converting on a key third and goal play to put the lead back at 14 points. With just over two minutes to go, it did not appear that the Aggies had enough time to realistically extend the game, but Texas A&M was able to spoil the bets of many with a touchdown in the final minute to flip the spread result, swapping huge amounts of winnings in what will likely be one of the most heavily bet games of the season.
Washington (-10.5) 34, Illinois 24: After a tight first half in Chicago, Washington pulled away in the third quarter, leading 31-10 late in the frame. The game changed with Illinois answering the last Washington touchdown with a 72-yard pass play to get within 14 entering the fourth quarter. Playing conservatively with the lead, Washington was held to consecutive punts with just one first down and Illinois put together another touchdown drive, scoring with just over nine minutes to go in the game with the touchdown rush coming on fourth down. Washington was able to calm the upset risk with an 11-play drive, but those on the Huskies saw Washington settle for a field goal to put the margin right at 10, meaning a push or a tough loss with the 10.5 hook coming late in the week. Washington actually intercepted Illinois on the next drive, but there was no reason to try to add more points and the game finished 34-24.
North Texas (+3.5) 34, Ball State 27: Despite three first half fumbles, Ball State led 27-9 late in the second quarter on the road in Denton, but a score in the final two minutes before halftime gave the Mean Green some momentum. North Texas got within the spread with a touchdown early in the third quarter as Ball State missed field goals on consecutive possessions on both sides of the half and the Cardinals then came up empty after a 66-yard drive going for it on fourth down. North Texas tied the game early in the fourth quarter and added a touchdown with about 10 minutes to go and that would be last score of the game.
South Carolina (-13) 35, Vanderbilt 25: South Carolina was far more dominant in this SEC clash than the final score indicates. The Gamecocks led 28-0 before Vanderbilt finally got on the scoreboard late in the second quarter. It was a 25-point margin going into the fourth quarter, but Vanderbilt posted 15 points in 13 seconds of game clock, completing a touchdown drive and then scoring one play after getting a South Carolina fumble on the kickoff. After forcing South Carolina to punt, it looked like the Commodores would really get back into the game as they took the ball down to the South Carolina five-yard line, but an interception ended the threat. South Carolina would go on to milk the clock for a 17-play drive, but it did not end up with any points as they were stuffed on fourth down just outside of field goal range.
Oklahoma (-23.5) 51, Tulsa 20: Oklahoma led 34-7 early in the third quarter as Blake Bell was impressive in his first start for the Sooners. Tulsa chipped away with field goals and was within the spread down 21 entering = he fourth quarter. Oklahoma did not let off the gas with the starters playing much of the fourth quarter and Oklahoma's touchdown with just over two minutes to go sealed the favorite cover.
Rice (-6.5) 23, Kansas 14: This spread opened at -4 but immediately shot up and was to -7 much of the week. The underdog Jayhawks looked poised for a rare road win leading 14-13 well into the fourth quarter. Rice got on top with an impressive 56-yard field goal and the Owls quickly got the ball back as Kansas went backwards on a 3-and-out. Rice started in great field position and in six plays the Owls went up 23-14 and past the spread. Kansas had two more possessions, but did not threaten to score for a 20th consecutive road loss.
Arizona (-25.5) 38, Texas-San Antonio 13: The statistics were nearly even in this matchup, but it took a fourth quarter touchdown to get Texas-San Antonio a third straight cover to start this season. Arizona led 31-6 entering the fourth, right near the number that was at or just over 25 most of the week. Early in the fourth, Arizona moved to a 38-6 lead, but UTSA answered with a 10-play, 75-yard drive. Both teams had two more possessions, but there was no more scoring as Arizona won by exactly 25.
Oregon State (+4) 51, Utah 48: Oregon State led most of the way as Utah had three turnovers, including an interception returned 73 yards for a touchdown. Utah took the lead with just over four minutes to go in the game 38-37, though still short of the spread. Oregon State would answer and a successful 2-point conversion set up a chance for Utah to take the game to overtime and give Utah backers at least still a chance for a lucky late cover. The Utes tied the game with 21 seconds to go, but in overtime the Oregon State defense forced a field goal for Utah and the Beavers were able to get six for the win.
UNLV (-8) 31, Central Michigan 21: The Rebels fell behind 21-0 early in the game, but the defense would not allow another point. Covering the over a touchdown spread seemed like a tall order, but the game was tied by the start of the fourth quarter. UNLV added an early field goal and a late touchdown to get past the spread. Central Michigan was into UNLV territory late in the game with a chance to spoil the cover, but the UNLV defense held.
Arizona State (-6.5) 32, Wisconsin 30: This line fell most of the week before a late spike and the result was one of the more bizarre finishes ever to a college football game. Wisconsin led by two going into the fourth and then by five after a successful field goal. Arizona State got the lead back 25-24 after a touchdown run, though they missed the two-point conversion. The Badgers had to punt on its possession and the Sun Devils quickly went down the field to go up by eight with another touchdown and they passed the spread for the first time in the game. Wisconsin looked ready to concede another three-and-out, but a fake punt keyed a touchdown drive to put the Badgers within two with less than four minutes to go. Wisconsin misfired on what would have been the tying 2-point conversion however. Wisconsin's defense got the stop it needed with some help from the Sun Devils, who oddly passed incomplete on a second down play to save Wisconsin a timeout. The Badgers exhausted the timeouts, but got the ball back with over a minute and a half to go.
A 51-yard pass play that featured tightrope walking on the sideline withstood review and the Badgers were down to the Arizona State 13-yard line with 18 seconds to go, but no timeouts. Wisconsin quarterback Joel Stave then ran a play that will live in infamy, attempting to kneel to move the position for the field goal and then setting the ball down in hopes of a quick spot. In the rules, a signal of a kneel constitutes a kneel so whether he actually contacted the ground was irrelevant, but there was mass confusion as the officials called the play dead, while allowing Arizona State players to lie on the ball to stall and then prevented Wisconsin from snapping the ball until after time ran out. The officials then declined the chance to review the play and ran off the field. The play did not impact the spread result, but anyone on the moneyline certainly had a lot at stake.