4th Quarter Covers - Week 2
September 11, 2017
By Joe Nelson
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Glancing at the scoreboard won’t tell you the whole story in most games. Here are some of the games that went down to the wire relative to the spread in the fourth quarter last week in the second big college football weekend. 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.
Oregon (-11) 42, Nebraska 35: The line on this Pac-12/Big Ten clash dropped from as high as -14 but it didn’t look like it mattered at halftime as Oregon led 42-14. Nebraska put together a good fight in the second half to climb within 14 in the first seven minutes before scoring halted on both sides with Oregon ending successive drives with an interception, a failed 4th-and-short, and a missed field goal. Nebraska wasn’t able to take advantage as it looked like Oregon would be able to run out the clock. With just over five minutes to go the Ducks fumbled in their own territory. Many watched with great interest as Nebraska went for it on 4th-and-4 from inside the Oregon 20-yard-line in the final minutes, converting and eventually finding the end zone for the backdoor cover. Nebraska actually got the ball back in decent field position with about two minutes to go but any hopes of tying the game ended quickly with an interception.
Old Dominion (-3½) 17, Massachusetts 7: Old Dominion had a 10-0 lead at halftime but two offensive plays into the second half the Minutemen were within three and within the spread with a 60-yard passing touchdown. Seven consecutive punts followed before the Monarchs seemed ready to put the game away but a 16-play, 93-yard drive came up empty with Massachusetts getting three straight stops on the one-yard-line. Pinned deep the Minutemen couldn’t advance and in great field position after a short punt Old Dominion would find the end zone again, going up by 10 with just over six minutes to go in the game. Massachusetts entered Old Dominion territory on its final two possessions but could not add points, falling to 0-3 S/U and ATS on the season despite three competitive games.
Michigan (-33) 36, Cincinnati 14 (49½): As a heavy favorite Michigan was never a threat to cover, leading by only three points well into the second half before pulling away. The total however brought some fourth quarter excitement with a number that fell from just above 50 to just below 50 by kickoff. There were just 24 points at halftime but 38 points through three quarters. Michigan settled for a very short field goal with about nine minutes to go and then scored twice on defense in the final seven minutes with a safety and the team’s second interception return touchdown of the game for the scoring to close right on 50.
Louisville (-11½) 47, North Carolina 35: Louisville led by 13 early in the third quarter, past a road favorite spread that reached as high as -12½. That lead didn’t last long as the kickoff was returned for a touchdown to bring the Tar Heels within six and later in the third quarter North Carolina took a 28-27 lead. Louisville would score three touchdowns in a 10-minute span in the fourth quarter to lead by 19 with about three minutes to go but North Carolina scored a touchdown with 31 seconds remaining to make the final margin 12, right near the number.
Iowa (-3½) 44, Iowa State 41: This rivalry game lived up to the billing with an exciting back-and-forth contest. Iowa had a 21-10 lead halfway through the third quarter but Iowa State scored three consecutive touchdowns to take a 31-21 lead early in the fourth quarter. Iowa tied the game with the help of the lone turnover in the game getting a short field goal to knot the game at 31-31 with about five minutes to go but Iowa State quickly hit a 74-yard pass play to go up by seven. With just over a minute to go Iowa hit a 46-yard pass to force overtime. The Cyclones went first in the extra session and had to settle for a field goal, Iowa was able to convert a big 3rd down play and hit for the game winning score, not needing the extra-point that those on the Hawkeyes needed for the closing line cover, though a push was certainly a common result.
Colorado (-37) 37, Texas State 3: The Buffaloes were in command with a 31-3 edge through three quarters but they settled for a field goal with about 10 minutes remaining to sit short of the hefty favorite spread. A Texas State fumble handed Colorado the ball right back at the Texas State 24-yard-line but the Buffaloes again had to settle for a short kick, leaving them just short of the elevated spread. Colorado would get the ball back and opted to go for it on 4th-and-6 from deep field goal range, falling a yard short and winding up just short of the number.
Penn State (-18½) 33, Pittsburgh 14: The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 14-0 lead but they couldn’t pull away from rival Pittsburgh, leading just 21-6 through three quarters before scoring early in the fourth quarter to get past the spread with a 28-6 edge. The line on this game reached as high a -20½ before dropping before kickoff and the timing wound up being rather critical as Pittsburgh closed the margin to 14 points with a touchdown and a two-point conversion before Penn State added a late safety and a short field goal to win by 19 despite posting only 312 total yards in the game. Pittsburgh had a chance to convincingly steal the cover on any price but in the final seconds Ben Dinucci was sacked and fumbled on 4th-and-goal from the 8-yard line.
Navy (-8) 23, Tulane 21: This game featured a line as high as -14 before steadily falling all the way down to a closing number of -8. The middle was momentarily there with Navy leading by 10 heading into the fourth quarter after scoring nine points on defense in the third quarter. Tulane scored two minutes into the final frame and hit the two-point conversion for a two-point game having to play much of the way with a back-up quarterback. The Wave failed on a pair of fourth down attempts late in the game as Navy was able to run out the clock for the win.
Tulsa (-14) 66, UL-Lafayette 42: Tulsa led by just three points late in the third quarter but wound up scoring four touchdowns in the final 19 minutes, including a rush with their starting quarterback with less than a minute to go for an eventual 24-point final margin, slipping past the favorite spread in a game where the yardage edge wasn’t dramatic with Tulsa posting 667 yards compared to 596 for the underdog Ragin’ Cajuns.
Toledo (-11) 37, Nevada 24: Toledo led by 17 on three separate occasions but Nevada hit a 75-yard pass play late in the third quarter to climb within the spread trailing by 10 entering the fourth quarter. The Rockets missed a field goal but Nevada had turnovers on its next two possessions, allowing the Rockets to get three with a short drive with just over four minutes remaining. It looked like the favorite cover was in jeopardy as Nevada reached the red zone on its final possession but failed on 4th-and-2.
Houston (-1½) 19, Arizona 16: Finally on the field for the first time this season Houston started strong at Arizona taking a 17-10 lead into halftime and adding an early third quarter safety to lead by nine as a very slight road favorite. Arizona had a great late third quarter drive but ultimately had to settle for a short field goal to trail by six. Midway through the fourth quarter an interception helped Arizona cut the margin in half with another field goal and the Wildcats had the ball back after forcing a quick Houston punt. With a fresh set of downs at the Houston 32-yard line Khalil Tate was intercepted with fewer than four minutes remaining and Houston was to pick up a first down and shift the field position to hold off the Wildcats for a narrow win and road favorite cover.
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