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4th Quarter Covers - Week 12
Editor’s Note: Joe Nelson is the top college football handicapper on (67%, +2,022). Don’t miss out on his Week 13 Winners!

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.
Toledo (-5½) 51, Buffalo 41: The Rockets stormed out to a 31-0 halftime lead but the Bulls got within 13 and lined up for an onside kick. Toledo recovered and started the drive on the Buffalo eight-yard line after the return and a personal foul penalty. The Rockets added a short field goal and a late Buffalo score was not enough to get within a spread that climbed dramatically before game time.
Northern Illinois (-8) 48, Ball State 27: Ball State led the undefeated Huskies 24-20 at halftime and it was a tie game 27-27 early in the fourth quarter as Ball State got a fumble to prevent the Huskies from taking the lead. Ball State moved into Northern Illinois territory but eventually had to punt, pinning Northern Illinois back deep. The Huskies hit a few big plays to score to take a 34-27 lead with about six minutes to go, still leaving the underdog in position to cover. Ball State again stalled just past midfield, failing on 4th and short to give Northern Illinois the ball back. Ball State burned its timeouts as Northern Illinois marched down the field, picking three first downs and Ball State used up its final timeout with 1:33 to go. It was just enough time that on 2nd down Northern Illinois could not yet take a knee and quarterback Jordan Lynch wound up scampering into the end zone to get the Huskies past the spread. Ball State still had time to get another score but a Keith Wenning pass was intercepted near midfield and returned for a touchdown, finishing off the game and giving the Huskies a very deceptive 21-point win.
Vanderbilt (-11) 22, Kentucky 6: Vanderbilt led just 9-6 entering the fourth quarter in a defensive battle with some wild scoring plays as the extra point try on Kentucky’s opening touchdown drive was blocked and returned for two points. Vanderbilt scored later in the first quarter and then the middle two quarters delivered no points for either team. Vanderbilt added two early field goals in the fourth quarter, taking advantage of a fumble and then with less than a minute on the clock the Commodores passed for a 13-yard touchdown that put Vanderbilt up by 18 and past the double-digit spread for the first time in the game.
Central Michigan (-3) 27, Western Michigan 22: Central Michigan took a 14-0 lead early in this game but sloppy play brought the home team back into the picture as the Chippewas had five turnovers in the game. Western Michigan would take a 16-14 lead midway through the third quarter but Central Michigan seemingly put the game away with two touchdowns in 15 seconds of game clock, getting a passing touchdown and then an interception return touchdown to lead by 11 going into the fourth quarter. Western Michigan found the end zone early in the fourth quarter after a fumble from Central Michigan and then the Chippewas gave the ball right back with another turnover but the Broncos failed to cash in with a short missed field goal. Western Michigan’s final drive went down to the Central Michigan 25-yard line but the Broncos failed to find the end zone as Central Michigan barely held on.
North Carolina (+1½) 34, Pittsburgh 27:
In this closely-lined ACC clash North Carolina took a commanding 24-3 lead at the half after a Ryan Switzer punt return touchdown with a minute to go. The Tar Heels extended that lead with a field goal early in the second half before Pittsburgh made a great comeback, tying the game with less than nine minutes to go. Pittsburgh held on defense and got the ball back but they were pinned deep and had to punt back to the Tar Heels with less than five minutes to go. Switzer did it again with a 61-yard return touchdown to put North Carolina back in front and North Carolina was able to hold on 4th and short with just over a minute to go and the Panthers in Tar Heel territory.
Penn State (-21½) 45, Purdue 21: Penn State led 28-7 late in the second quarter but a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown put Purdue back in the game. The Boilermakers struck first in the second half to get within seven but Penn State managed to pull way leading 38-21 entering the fourth, comfortably ahead but just short of the heavy favorite spread. Early in the fourth quarter Purdue marched into Penn State territory but a fumble ended the scoring threat and with mainly rushing plays and little urgency Penn State put together a 74-yard scoring drive to get past the spread with less than five minutes to go in the game.
Michigan (+3) 27, Northwestern 19: The snake-bitten season for Northwestern continued as a 9-3 lead heading into the fourth quarter was erased as Michigan delivered an amazing final sequence. Down three in the closing seconds Michigan faced 3rd and 23 from the Northwestern 43-yard line, the Wolverines completed a pass to Jeremy Gallon for 16 yards but he was tackled in bounds and with no timeouts and it appeared the game would be over. Michigan managed to get the field goal team out in time including holder Drew Dileo sliding to the mark and Brendan Gibbons hit a rushed 44-yard kick to tie the game, just barely ahead of the final tick on the clock. With momentum in overtime Michigan quickly found the end zone but Northwestern matched them. The second session saw the teams trade field goals but Michigan found the end zone again in the third overtime, getting the two-point conversion as well. Northwestern was unable to answer as a nightmare Big Ten campaign continues for the Wildcats and those on the home team also saw a very tough defeat as Northwestern had many chances to put the game away in regulation.
SMU (-16) 38, Connecticut 21: SMU led by 14 entering the fourth quarter but Connecticut hit a big pass play for a touchdown to get within seven with 10 minutes to go. The Mustangs were able to seal the win with a short field goal with less than four minutes to go but the cover did not seem likely for the heavy favorite. As Connecticut played with desperation an interception was returned for a touchdown as SMU wound up just past the spread for a fortunate cover with the final score being the only point in the game the Mustangs led by more than 14.
Baylor (-27½) 63, Texas Tech 34: Baylor led by just a single-point late in the second quarter in this key Big XII clash but the Bears had a 58-yard touchdown to take an eight-point lead into halftime. The quick scoring Bears managed to pull away in the third quarter leading 56-34 entering the fourth, still short of the spread however. Baylor added another touchdown and the high scoring Red Raiders only were able to run just eight plays in the final frame as the Baylor defense held firm.
Arizona State (-13½) 30, Oregon State 17: Arizona State led by 10 entering the fourth quarter and there was no scoring in the final frame until just over five minutes to go as Arizona State had to settle for a short field goal after being stuffed at the goal line. That put the margin at 13, putting those on the underdog in a pretty good position with Oregon State getting the ball back. Seconds later that changed completely as Robert Nelson took an interception 23 yards for a touchdown, putting the Sun Devils up by 20. With just over two minutes to go Oregon State would get the cover back with a 29-yard touchdown pass to complete a 75-yard drive.
Auburn (-3) 43, Georgia 38: While it is going to go down as a mediocre season for Georgia, currently at 6-4, they may lead the country in entertainment value with several dramatic games. Last week’s game with Auburn may take the cake with one of the wildest finishes of the season. Georgia had a lot of things working against them early as Auburn stormed out to a 27-7 lead late in the second quarter but Georgia was able to get a field goal in right before the half. The momentum did not swing long enough as Auburn was back up to a 20-point lead with 10 minutes to go in the game after a fourth quarter field goal. Georgia scored three touchdowns in about seven minutes of game clock including an Aaron Murray rush for a touchdown on fourth down. That was a controversial play as Murray was ruled in for the score but replay review made it look like his knee likely hit before the ball crossed the plan. There was not enough evidence to overturn the call however, shifting the game and spread result over a ruling that could have gone either way. Auburn had time to work with but the offense had disappeared in a passing situation but on fourth and long Nick Marshall heaved a pass down the middle of the field. Two Georgia defenders collided as they both attempted to play the ball with the pass tipped in the air and incredibly landing in the hands of Auburn receiver Ricardo Louis for a 73-yard score, putting the Tigers up five and back past the small home favorite spread. Georgia had two timeouts and 25 seconds and they certainly made in interesting, picking up 50 yards in two plays to get to the Auburn 25-yard line with eight seconds to go. Georgia got off two more plays but they were not able to deliver as Auburn held on.
Oklahoma (-23) 48, Iowa State 10: This was a 10-10 game at halftime with the only Oklahoma touchdown coming on a 91-yard punt return. The Sooners took over in the second half with three touchdown runs of more than 50 yards but Oklahoma only led by 17 entering the fourth as three fourth quarter touchdowns certainly padded the final margin.
Oregon (-28) 44, Utah 21: Oregon only led 17-14 early in the third quarter but the Ducks managed to pull away, leading by 23 entering the fourth quarter. The Ducks pushed that lead to 30 in the fourth quarter, getting by the four-touchdown spread but Utah scored with six minutes to get the cover back for the underdog and Oregon was able to run out the rest of the clock.
Colorado State (-6½) 66, New Mexico 42: Colorado State only led by three entering the fourth quarter but Kapri Bibbs added to his touchdown binge with three more scores in the fourth quarter, now with 25 on the season and 19 in the last five games. New Mexico was in Rams territory twice in the fourth quarter but could not add points.
San Diego State (-5) 28, Hawaii 21: This game was tied going into the fourth quarter and overtime was needed as San Diego State scored with just over two minutes to go to tie the game, preventing Hawaii from getting its first win of the season. The Aztecs went first in overtime and only needed three plays to get a touchdown while Hawaii went backwards and failed on 4th and 20, losing the game and unable to cover with San Diego State winning by seven despite never leading in regulation.

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