4th Quarter Covers – Week 1

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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 first 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.

Northwestern (+1) 31, Purdue 27 (49½): The Wildcats led 31-17 at halftime, but only were up by four early in the fourth quarter on a spread that fell from +3 to just +1 by kickoff on opening night. Purdue got a big stop with the Wildcats going for it on 4th and 6 just outside field goal range, but they had to punt the ball right back. From there, Northwestern burned nearly eight minutes of clock over 14 plays, with a personal foul penalty negating a 3rd down stop that would have given the Boilers the ball back.

Wake Forest (-7½) 23, Tulane 17 (55½): At no point in the game was Tulane not covering the closing spread, but this line was at just +6½ much of the week before a late rise. Wake Forest threw a red zone interception in the fourth quarter up by three that allowed Tulane to tie the game with a field goal with just over three minutes remaining, converting a big 4th-and-11 play along the way. Going first in overtime, Tulane went backwards and came up empty after facing 4th-and-25. Wake Forest needed seven plays to score the game-winning touchdown, but they didn’t need the extra-point, which saved those on the underdog Wave.

Stanford (-14½) 31, San Diego State 10 (48½): The Cardinal trailed 7-0 early but an 80-yard pass play on 3rd-and-long put Stanford up by 14 late in the third quarter to sit on or near the spread for most with the number hovering around 14 all week. The Aztecs went for it on 4th and 1 early in the fourth quarter in Stanford territory, but fell short and Stanford added another touchdown on the subsequent drive to push the margin to 21 points. San Diego State reached Stanford territory on its final possession, but back-to-back sacks made for 4th and very long and the Aztecs just opted to punt and didn’t see the ball again. Those on the ‘under’ also held on with only seven points in the fourth quarter despite both teams having a pair of drives across midfield in the final frame.

Ohio State (-39) 77, Oregon State 31 (62): This matchup of OSUs from the Pac 12 and the Big Ten was never expected to be close, and it wasn’t. The Buckeyes put up 21 points in the first quarter on two Dwayne Haskins touchdown passes, compared to 7 points by the Beavers who were playing with second-string quarterback Conor Blount for most of the game. The second quarter would not get any closer as the Buckeyes put up another 21 points including a Nick Bosa fumble recovery and return for a touchdown. At the half, the score was 42-14. The third quarter was unique as the Beavers outscored the Buckeyes, 17-14. Beavers' running back Artavis Pierce broke off touchdown runs of 78 and 80 yards to bring the score to 56-31 at the end of three quarters of play leaving those on the hefty underdog in pretty good position down 25 with two touchdowns to spare on the closing number. The fourth quarter was back to looking more like the beginning of the contest -- all Ohio State. The Buckeyes exploded for yet another 21-point quarter, putting the game away, and covering the spread with the final score coming with fewer than four minutes remaining as Master Teague broke a 33-yard run on a 4th down play.

Indiana (-13) 38, Florida International 28 (56): The spread on this game was -10 or -10½ most of the week before rising to -13 by kickoff. The Hoosiers were just past that number by halftime with a 28-14 advantage and turned it into a 35-14 edge midway through the third quarter. Florida International delivered a 16-play touchdown drive late in the third quarter to get back to within 14 and Indiana settled for a short field goal early in the fourth quarter to leave the backdoor open. Back-to-back defensive penalties helped the cause as FIU went the distance including getting a 4th-and-4 conversion to put the underdog in position to cover down 10. Things got interesting late as Indiana recovered the onside kick attempt and rushed down the field with the clock running out, eventually ending the game on the FIU 2-yard-line.

Auburn (-1½) 21, Washington 16 (50½): Washington traveled across the country to take on Auburn in the Chick-fil-a Kickoff this past Saturday in Atlanta and they gave us a classic. Auburn started off the game on fire, scoring the first nine points on a Jarrett Stidham touchdown pass and an Anders Carlson field goal. The Huskies would answer back with 2:59 to go in the first quarter on a Peyton Henry 31-yard field goal. Both teams would trade field goals to open the second quarter of play. Auburn’s Anders Carlson would add a 53-yard field goal at the 1:23 mark to make the score 15-6. Jake Browning took only 40 seconds to strike back on a 13-yard pass to receiver Quinten Pounds to end the half with a score of 15-13 in favor of the Tigers.

Scoring would halt in the third quarter though not without chances for both teams. Missed field goals were traded early in the third quarter and Washington came away empty despite reaching 1st-and-goal after a fumble on a 3rd down sack. Washington place-kicker Peyton Henry put a 30-yard field goal through the uprights at the 14:05 mark to give Washington the lead 16-15. Scoring would pause with a pair of punts until Auburn’s JaTarvious Whitlow scored on a ten yard run with 6:15 remaining in the game. Whitlow’s carry would prove to be the deciding factor in this matchup of Top 10 teams as Auburn would take home the win 21-16 with Browning sacked for the fifth time on 4th and long after Washington had reached the Auburn 37-yard-line in the final minutes. Those on the ‘under’ were never threatened on the scoreboard, but 51 first downs and 818 total yards suggested a higher scoring outcome. 22 combined penalties for more than 200 yards played a role along with settling for nine field goal attempts including three that were missed.

California (-7) 24, North Carolina 17 (57½): In a rematch from last season’s 35-30 win for California to open the season, the Bears led 17-0 at halftime against a North Carolina squad shorthanded with suspensions. A 38-yard interception return touchdown was among the scores as the edge for California was more about the failures of the Tar Heels than the success of the offense for the Bears. North Carolina got on the board late in the third quarter with a field goal, but California answered with a touchdown drive for a 24-3 edge heading into the fourth quarter. Pinned deep, North Carolina finally got its offense going, delivering a 19-play, 92-yard touchdown drive to trim the margin to 10 points. With four minutes remaining, the Tar Heels got the ball back and again drove into the end zone with just over a minute remaining to put the margin at seven, right on the number for many. Initially, North Carolina recovered the subsequent onside kick but it was taken back with an early block ruling on replay review.

Washington State (-3) 41, Wyoming 19 (45): The post-Josh Allen era for Wyoming started off great last weekend when the Cowboys trounced New Mexico State, this weekend was not so favorable. Mike Leach’s Washington State Cougars traveled to Laramie to face the upstart Cowboys in a game that many thought would be a close one. The game started off all Wazzu as they took a 10-point lead with 3:28 left in the first quarter. Wyoming would answer with a rare safety to make the score 10-2 at the end of one. The Cowboys outscored the Cougars, 14-3 in the second quarter to take a 16-13 lead into the locker room. The second half started off slow as Wyoming added a field goal midway through the third quarter, but Washington State took the lead by the end of the frame with a 75-yard drive capped off with a Max Borghi reception. The fourth quarter was where the game broke open as the Cougars exploded for 21 unanswered points to wind up with a 41-19 final result for the favorite cover as well as hitting the ‘over’ with Wyoming posting a net total of zero yards combined on its final five possessions.