4th Quarter Covers - Week 5
September 30, 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 fifth weekend of college football to close out the month of September. 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.
Pittsburgh (-6) 14, Virginia 3: Pittsburgh led 14-0 after the first quarter, but the Panthers needed to hold on late. Down by 11 into the fourth quarter, Virginia marched to the Pittsburgh three-yard line with a touchdown being enough to flip the spread result, but the Cavaliers failed on fourth down and Pittsburgh was able to hold on in a game in which neither team eclipsed 200 total yards.
Ball State (-1½) 31, Toledo 24: In a key MAC West game, Ball State led by seven at home entering what would be a wild fourth quarter. Just seconds into the final frame, the Rockets tied the game with a 10-yard touchdown pass. It took less than three minutes for Ball State to take the lead back and the Cardinals appeared to be in control after Ball State got a stop as the Rockets went for it on fourth down just outside of field goal range. The Rockets got another chance with an interception however and a few plays later the game was tied again with just over six minutes to go. Ball State got help on the next drive with a big pass interference penalty and the Cardinals took a seven-point lead with three minutes to go. Toledo went to mid-field quickly on its final possession, but the Ball State defense held again for a key conference win.
NC State (-24) 48, Central Michigan 14: NC State cruised to a 38-0 lead going into the fourth quarter, but those on the heavy home favorite would get a scare as Central Michigan scored back-to-back touchdowns in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter to match the spread. NC State connected on an 80-yard pass a few minutes later to get by the number and Central Michigan threw interceptions on two of its next three offensive plays to mute the threat.
TCU (-17) 48, SMU 17: SMU led 10-7 at the half and TCU led by just seven entering the fourth quarter. TCU hit a few big plays early in the fourth quarter to pull away, but after SMU scored with three minutes to go, most on the Frogs were holding losing tickets or earning a push at best with the margin at 17 points. In the final three minutes, TCU scored touchdowns on an onside kick return and an interception return to deliver a misleading final score.
Missouri (-22½) 41, Arkansas State 19: While the Tigers still fell short on the closing line, this spread was at 21 or 21½ most of the week, meaning a slim cover with the final margin at 22 points. That result seemed highly improbable with Arkansas State leading this game 16-14 well into the second half. Missouri led by four entering the fourth and added two touchdowns in the final five-plus minutes to pull away.
Colorado State (-13½) 59, UTEP 42: This game featured some big momentum shifts as Colorado State saw a 28-7 halftime lead erased with three touchdowns in the first seven minutes of the third quarter from UTEP. A safety turned things around for the Rams and by the start of the fourth quarter, Colorado State was up nine, though still short of the spread. Colorado State eventually pulled away with a 52-28 lead at one point and while UTEP scored two more touchdowns, including scoring as time expired, the Rams held on in the shootout.
Georgia (-3) 44, LSU 41: One of the biggest games of the week lived up the hype, providing one of the more entertaining games of the season in a shootout led by the two high profile quarterbacks trading scores. Georgia led by seven at the half and entering the fourth quarter, but LSU continued to answer. After Georgia settled for a field goal, LSU took the lead with just over four minutes to go to get up by four. Georgia scored with relative ease to take the lead back, but many feared too much time was left on the clock. LSU’s final drive was stopped as Georgia held on for the three-point win, but LSU backers did hold on for a push with some getting a win as the spread jumped to 3½ at times late in the week.
Oregon (-39½) 55, California 16: The Ducks continue to be heavily bet at any price as this spread climbed four points throughout the week and that gap proved critical for those that played the game late. Oregon led 55-3 early in the third quarter, but with a strong passing game, this will not likely be the last time that California is in play for a backdoor cover. The Bears would score two touchdowns including the second with just three minutes to go in the game. Incredibly, the extra point was missed on that final score putting the margin at 39 rather than 38 and with -38 or -38½ as common numbers late in the week it proved to be a huge play for many. In the young Mark Helfrich era, the Ducks had done some fourth quarter scoring, but Oregon did not score a point in the final 25 minutes in this game.
Bowling Green (-15) 31, Akron 14: Bowling Green recovered from a rough start to squeak out a cover against an Akron squad that continues to provide competitive efforts. The Zips led 14-3 after the first quarter, but they would not score again and Bowling Green added a touchdown with less than five minutes to go in the game to get by the number.
South Carolina (-7) 28, Central Florida 25: UCF led 10-0 at the half, but they missed an opportunity to add more points with a turnover in the red zone. South Carolina regrouped and took over in the second half, running the ball with great success with Connor Shaw knocked out of the game. The Gamecocks took a 28-10 lead early in the fourth, but a 73-yard pass play put the Knights back in the game. An interception on the next UCF possession appeared to end those comeback hopes, but a nine-play drive that was intended to ice the game ended in a fumble for South Carolina. Central Florida was back in the end zone in the final two minutes to earn the cover for the underdog Knights.
Tennessee (-17) 31, South Alabama 24: Tennessee led 31-7 against South Alabama early in the second half, but things got rather interesting late in Knoxville as the underdog took the cash and nearly had a shot at a major upset. Tennessee posted a total of 58 yards on its final six possessions while South Alabama put up 17 points despite missing a field goal along the way. On fourth and goal, South Alabama’s upset threat ended with an interception with less than two minutes left on the clock as the Volunteers escaped.
Ohio State (-7½) 31, Wisconsin 24: The line on this Big Ten Leaders clash was at -7 much of the week despite opening and closing at -7½, and -6½ was even briefly available at a few outlets. The game provided plenty of late drama as Ohio State seemingly pulled away with a 31-14 lead entering the fourth quarter, not necessarily out-playing the Badgers but making fewer mistakes. Wisconsin missed a short field goal early in the game, allowed a long touchdown pass on the final play of the first half, and had a procedure penalty that wiped away a game-changing turnover. The Badgers battled back into the game late with a touchdown early in the fourth and a few stops on defense. Wisconsin settled for a field goal after stalling with just over two minutes to go and then on defense nearly got a miracle as a bad snap bounced around before Braxton Miller recovered it. Wisconsin got the ball back with no timeouts, but they were pinned deep and the final margin stayed at seven leaving a push for most.
UNLV (+1½) 56, New Mexico 42: This line flipped late in the week, but it did not matter as UNLV snapped a long losing streak in road games. The game was tied at the half and deep into the fourth quarter, but the Rebels held on defense in the final frame and delivered two late scores in the final minute, the first touchdown coming on a 15-play, 80-yard drive and the second play coming in opposite fashion as Tim Cornett broke a 75-yard run to put the game away.
Fresno State (-17½) 42, Hawaii 37: Those waking up to see the final score in the late Saturday night game at Hawaii saw a very different result than those than how the game actually played out. Fresno State led 42-3 late in the third quarter before Hawaii made things very interesting, taking advantage of turnovers and sitting down just five points halfway through the fourth quarter. The final eight possessions for Fresno State featured five turnovers and three punts as the offense could not put the game away, but the defense held on with an interception at the three-yard line ending the amazing comeback bid.