4th Quarter Covers - Week 9
October 29, 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 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.
Mississippi State (-12) 28, Kentucky 22: The Bulldogs led by nine entering the fourth quarter, just shy of the home favorite spread Thursday night. Kentucky punted on its first possession and it pinned Mississippi State back at the 2-yard line, the play that likely made the biggest difference in the closing result as the Bulldogs eventually had to punt the ball back leaving Kentucky in promising field position. While Kentucky had just 55 yards combined in its final three drives of the game, the field position allowed them to add a field goal, while a 13-play drive for Mississippi State finished with no points to secure the underdog cover.
Georgia Tech (-10) 35, Virginia 25: Entering the fourth quarter, the Yellow Jackets led 21-10, just narrowly past the road favorite spread. Virginia scored 15 seconds into the fourth quarter to give hope to the underdog Cavaliers for the upset, but that was muted as two minutes later, Georgia Tech had a 65-yard rushing touchdown. With the lead still at 11, both offenses faltered with an exchange of punts, but Virginia completed it next drive for a touchdown with just over three minutes to go. Down five, the Cavaliers went for two with success, a play that would prove critical to the spread result. It did not take Georgia Tech long to answer to seal the win, but the extra-point left the margin right on 10, leaving a push for most.
Clemson (-16 ½) 40, Maryland 27: Looking to get back on track after last week's disaster against Florida State, Clemson missed opportunities to pull away early with three short field goals in the first half. The Tigers did score with just nine seconds left in the half to take a 16-7 lead, but Maryland cut the lead to just three points midway through the third quarter. With another short field goal, Clemson led by six entering a fourth quarter that featured a great deal of scoring. Twice Clemson went past the spread in the fourth, leading 33-13 and later 40-20, but with nine seconds left on the clock, Maryland found the end zone to steal the cover for the underdog late.
Navy (+4 ½) 24, Pittsburgh 21: The Panthers led 13-7 at the half, and that was still the score entering the fourth quarter after both teams had a pair of empty possessions in an uneventful third quarter. Navy took a one-point lead after completing a drive early in the fourth quarter, but Pittsburgh answered and with a successful 2-point conversion, the Panthers led by seven with eight minutes to go. The pounding ground attack continued to have success for Navy however and the game was tied with less than four minutes to go after another long touchdown drive. Pittsburgh was sacked on first down on its next possession and eventually had to punt with still two-plus minutes left in the game and a poor 20-yard put set up the Midshipmen in great field position. With a suspect kicking game, Navy still had to convert a few big third down plays, but they moved well within range and had the ability to run the clock all the way down, eventually hitting a short field goal to win as time expired.
SMU (-14) 59, Temple 49: Temple led 28-7 just before halftime and 35-21 early in the third quarter, but the Mustangs scored three straight touchdowns to take a 42-35 lead a minute into the final frame. Temple answered on the next possession to tie the game and put the underdog in good position, especially with SMU having to settle for a 21-yard field goal to complete the next drive. A few minutes later, SMU had taken the lead past the spread with back-to-back touchdowns, leading 59-42 with just over two minutes to go after taking advantage of a Temple fumble. The Owls would score late to change the spread outcome back however, getting a touchdown with just over a minute left in game that featured over 1,300 yards of offense.
Arizona (-12 ½) 44, Colorado 20: With a third quarter touchdown, Colorado was within seven in this game, but the Wildcats would pull away with 17 additional points. Colorado had two late drives with significant yardage, but did not come up with any points and after struggling in the first half the Arizona offense took over, helped by a few short field set-ups.
Oregon (-23 ½) 42, UCLA 14: Well into the third quarter, it appeared that this game could provide a chance at a major upset with a tie score at 14-14 until less than three minutes to go in the third quarter. Oregon scored to lead by just seven entering the fourth, making the favorite cover seem unlikely. UCLA seemed poised to answer as they moved into Oregon territory on the next possession, but Brett Hundley was intercepted on the first play of the fourth quarter. Oregon added another touchdown a few minutes later to go up by 14 and then up 21 just a few minutes later with another quick scoring drive after a UCLA punt. Oregon got the ball back with about seven minutes to go up by 21, needing another score to cover and with eight consecutive Thomas Tyner rushes, the Ducks delivered the spread saving score to go up by 28. UCLA still had plenty of time and the Bruins moved all the way to the Oregon 24-yard line despite not running passing plays, but the clock run out on the Bruins.
Washington (-28) 41, California 17: Despite the winless ATS season for California, the Bears have looked like a team with backdoor cover potential in many weeks. They made good on that promise this week, down 31 entering the fourth and eventually getting a late touchdown on the ground, not through the air, with a 73-yard rush with five minutes to go, getting within the big spread.
Kansas State (-13) 35, West Virginia 12: The Wildcats and Mountaineers were in a low-scoring grind early in this game with West Virginia leading 9-7 at halftime and just 12-7 late in to the third quarter. The floodgates opened up from there however as Kansas State scored four touchdowns in the final 18 minutes of the game, all on substantial yardage drives and with the help of just one turnover to roar past the spread for a result that was not looking likely with Kansas State having a punt or turnover on all but one of its first nine possessions.
Florida State (-35) 49, NC State 17: In a revenge opportunity from last season, Florida State took complete control early with a 35-0 lead after the first quarter. That lead was stretched to 42-0 by halftime as the Seminoles made a strong statement about belonging near the top of the polls. With a spread that jumped nearly a touchdown from opening to close, a late NC State rally proved problematic for those on the favorite as the Wolfpack scored 10 points in the third quarter and then added another touchdown in the fourth against an uninterested Florida State squad coasting to another win. That score put the margin below all spreads at just 25 points, but Florida State would put together a late touchdown drive with reserves in the game to put the final margin at 32, ahead of the early week numbers with that late score coming with just two minutes left in the game to save the day for many on the popular Seminoles.
Oklahoma (-6 ½) 38, Texas Tech 30: The spread in this key Big XII battle dropped from an opening number of -8 and this was a good battle as Oklahoma's 21-7 lead early in the third quarter evaporated quickly with the Red Raiders taking a 24-21 lead late in the third quarter. Oklahoma answered with two consecutive touchdowns, but Texas Tech was within five after its own scoring drive, though they failed going for two with about seven minutes to go, preventing the margin falling to just three points. With the slim lead, Oklahoma put together a 53-yard drive that burned most of the clock over 12 plays, but they had to settle for a field goal to keep Texas Tech's chances at forcing overtime alive. With just over a minute to work with, the undefeated season came to an end however with a sack and three incomplete passes to end the late threat.
Iowa (-3 ½) 17, Northwestern 10: Iowa led 10-0 at halftime, but Northwestern finally seemed to get its offense back on track with successful drives on consecutive possessions, getting a touchdown on an 81-yard drive and then settling for a field goal after a 16-play drive to tie the game early in the fourth quarter. Iowa went 51 yards on its next possession, but missed on a field goal that would have put the Hawkeyes in position to win and the Wildcats in position to cover. Northwestern had some momentum and took the ball down to the Iowa 30 on the next possession, but a key 15-yard penalty pushed the Wildcats back and they fumbled on the next play. Iowa took over near midfield and moved to the edge of field goal range before getting intercepted in the final seconds. Iowa went first in overtime and scored a touchdown in just four plays while Northwestern could not answer, allowing Iowa to leave a step closer to bowl eligibility and with a very fortunate cover while one of the preseason Big Ten favorites now sits at 0-4 in conference play.
San Jose State (-10 ½) 51, Wyoming 44: This line climbed throughout the week and that timing proved critical with the seven-point final margin. Wyoming led 30-14 early in the third quarter, but the Spartans scored three touchdowns in the remainder of the third, getting a two-point conversion on the third score to lead by six entering the fourth. Wyoming eventually answered to take a one-point lead, but San Jose State added eight more with another quick strike. Wyoming tied the game with five minutes to go, but too much time was left for San Jose State and using the time well the Spartans scored with eight seconds to go.
Stanford (-4) 20, Oregon State 12: Stanford led by just four entering the fourth quarter with the margin sitting even with the closing spread. Tyler Gaffney broke a long run for the Cardinal early in the fourth quarter to put Stanford up 20-9 however. Stanford forced back-to-back punts for Oregon State, but getting the ball back with just over four minutes to go, they gave the Beavers another shot with a fumble. Oregon State could not gain yardage and had to settle for a field goal to get within eight. Stanford was not able to run out the clock however and the Beavers got the ball back in Stanford territory after a nice Brandin Cooks punt return. Sean Mannion was sacked on first down, but on second down, a pass interference penalty gave Oregon State new life. The Beavers were able to move deep into Stanford territory with a couple of quick passes, setting up 1st and goal from the seven. Four straight incomplete passes ended the threat and the late scare for those on the Cardinal.
Mississippi (-41 ½) 59, Idaho 14: Ole Miss led by just 24 late in the third quarter, but the Rebels remained aggressive on offense even with reserves in the game. Mississippi scored three more times in the game with two fourth quarter touchdowns to eventually climb past the massive spread. Idaho had come up empty on a 50-yard drive late in the third quarter and netted just five yards on two fourth quarter possessions.
South Carolina (+3) 27, Missouri 24: Missouri led 17-0 entering the fourth quarter with no points for the Gamecocks, despite four separate drives of at least 47 yards. South Carolina finally completed a drive early in the fourth quarter to get within 10, but it appeared Missouri would answer with a field goal, however the kick was missed. It did not take long for South Carolina to get back into scoring range, but despite getting to the 2-yard line, they settled for a field goal with about five minutes to go in the game, cutting the margin to just seven points. Missouri tried to run out as much clock as they could, but after a big stop on third and short, the Tigers had to punt back, giving South Carolina the ball with three minutes to go. It only took eight plays for the Gamecocks to tie the game. Missouri went first in overtime and scored on four plays and South Carolina was forced to go for it on 4th and 15 on their possession, completing the touchdown pass to extend the game. South Carolina settled for a 40-yard field goal after going nowhere in the second overtime, but that would be enough as Missouri could not find the end zone and inexplicably missed on a 24-yard field goal try to end the game.
Oklahoma State (-12 ½) 58, Iowa State 27: The yardage in this Big XII clash was far closer than the final score and it was just a 28-20 lead for the Cowboys at halftime before big plays padded the lead in the third quarter. In the span of about two minutes, Oklahoma State had a 58-yard touchdown run and a 54-yard fumble return touchdown to put the game away, leading by 25 entering the third and extending that lead in the fourth quarter. Oklahoma State only had one drive longer than 58 yards the entire game as they scored on several short drives, taking advantage of Cyclone mistakes as Iowa State played with a back-up quarterback in the second half.
Louisville (-21) 34, South Florida 3: The Cardinals bounced back from their first loss with an impressive statistical game, out-gaining South Florida 485-133, but entering the fourth quarter Louisville led by just 17. The Cardinals completed a drive to go up 24 early in the fourth and then added a 70-yard interception return touchdown to seal the cover in a game where the heavy favorite had just nine possessions.
Toledo (+3 ½) 28, Bowling Green 25: The Rockets stormed out to a 21-0 lead, but Bowling Green took control from there, eventually taking a 25-21 lead with six minutes to go in the game, just past the slight home favorite spread. Despite an over 30 minute scoring drought, Toledo made the most of its final possession with a 10-play, 70-yard drive resulting in the go-ahead touchdown with just over a minute to go in the game. The touchdown came on a 4th and nine play for Toledo, handing Bowling Green its first conference loss. The Falcons did get the ball with over a minute to go, but a sack on 2nd down hurt those prospects and Toledo held on.
Fresno State (-6) 35, San Diego State 28: As just a slight favorite on the road, the undefeated Bulldogs appeared to be in good shape after returning a fumble 78-yards for a touchdown for a second score in a two minute span early in the fourth quarter, leading by 14. San Diego State dominated the yardage in this game, scoring in just four plays to get back within seven and then got the surprise on-side kick with nine minutes to go. It took just six plays to tie the game as the Fresno State defense had another tough fourth quarter. The Aztecs forced a 3-and-out and appeared poised for the upset moving quickly into Fresno State territory, eventually converting on a fourth-down play and then managing the clock down to a final field goal attempt. The 37-yard try as time expired was blocked however. In overtime, Fresno State overcame a personal foul penalty and scored seven and then got the stop it needed on San Diego State's possession to escape with a win.