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NFL Close Calls - Week 8
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 ninth big college football weekend to close October.
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.
Minnesota (+2½) 38, Indiana 31: Off to a 0-4 Big Ten start after a 3-0 non-conference run, Minnesota played behind backup quarterback Tanner Morgan with strong results, leading 21-9 at halftime and extending that lead to 31-9 through three quarters as the underdog cover seemed all but certain. The Hoosiers hit a big play early in the fourth to cut the margin to 31-15, failing going for two and Minnesota followed with a fumble to hand Indiana good field position. Six plays later the Hoosiers were within a single-score getting a touchdown and the two-point conversion to trail 31-23 with still 10 minutes remaining. The quarterbacks traded interceptions and Minnesota had to punt in rainy conditions to give Indiana the ball back near midfield with about seven minutes remaining. Peyton Ramsey led the touchdown drive and with another successful two-point conversion, the game was tied with about four minutes to go. Minnesota again had a 3-and-out with all the momentum in favor of Indiana but the Hoosiers opted to run three times despite the success in the passing game and didn’t pick up a first down. Minnesota got the ball back with fewer than two minutes on the clock and took a shot on 1st down, connecting for a 67-yard touchdown. Ramsey was sacked on 1st down with Minnesota recovering a fumble to seal the win despite the wild fourth quarter collapse.
Pittsburgh (+2½) 54, Duke 45: Duke led 21-10 late in the second quarter before Pittsburgh connected for a 50-yard touchdown pass to climb within four at halftime. Duke led by seven through three quarters before the game was tied. Duke settled for a short field goal with eight minutes remaining to lead by three but Pittsburgh used a nice kickoff return to tie the game with a 48-yard field goal with just over two minutes remaining. Duke was forced to punt and the Panthers managed to score with just five seconds remaining. It didn’t impact the outcome but the Panthers added two points with a safety after a Duke fumble on the final kickoff trying to set-up a miracle return with a lateral.
Massachusetts (-3½) 22, Connecticut 17: This line opened as high as -6 but came down steadily throughout the week. A pair of northeastern squads desperate for a win faced off with a surprisingly low scoring first half with just 10 points. Connecticut led 14-9 through three quarters and extended the advantage to 17-9 in the fourth. Massachusetts hit a 67-yard touchdown to climb within two, failing going for two and the tie. Massachusetts forced a 3-and-out on defense and then went 81 yards on its next possession to take a five-point edge which held for the final margin.
Coastal Carolina (-2½) 37, Georgia State 34: The Chanticleers were favored by -3½ or -3 much of the week before sliding to -2½ by kickoff. It didn’t seem likely to matter with a 17-0 start for Coastal Carolina. Georgia State made a rally with three third quarter touchdowns to lead 34-27 but Coastal Carolina regrouped in the fourth to tie the game early in the final quarter with a 12-play touchdown drive. Coastal Carolina got the ball back in good field position and after reaching the 5-yard-line settled for a short field goal to lead by just three. Georgia State threatened to extend the game reaching the 36-yard-line but fell short going for it on 4th down.
Oregon State (+26) 41, Colorado 34: When a nearly four-touchdown underdog wins outright there generally isn’t against-the-spread drama but Colorado led 31-3 early in the third quarter of this game to sit past the heavy favorite spread. The Beavers didn’t mail it in however and had climbed to within 14 by the first minute of the fourth quarter. Up 14 Colorado opted to go for it on 4th-and-1 just across midfield on its next possession and came up short and Oregon State added a field goal and an eight-point touchdown to suddenly sit within three with seven minutes to go. Colorado reached the Oregon State 10-yard-line before a holding penalty and settled for a field goal to lead by six, allowing Oregon State to seemingly win the game with a touchdown in the final minute. The extra-point was blocked however in a stunning finish. Colorado picked up 39 yards in the final seconds to get off a 53-yard field goal attempt but the kick missed an overtime was needed. The Beavers went first and delivered seven and Colorado was unable to match it.
Arizona State (+3) 38, USC 35: USC trailed by 10 at halftime behind Jack Sears but the Trojans scored two touchdowns in 25 seconds of game clock early in the third quarter. Late in the third Arizona State delivered a 92-yard punt return touchdown to lead by three before a tense final quarter. USC opted to go for it on 4th-and-1 from the Arizona State 20-yard-line with about 10 minutes remaining but the Sun Devils got the stop. After a pair of punts Arizona State put the game away with quarterback Manny Wilkins scrambling for a 45-yard touchdown run in the final two minutes. USC would score in the final seconds to close within three but didn’t get the on-side kick attempt.
Georgia (-7) 36, Florida 17: Florida dug a hole with early turnovers in the big SEC East matchup but only trailed by six at halftime. The Gators briefly took the lead in the second half but Georgia added nine points to lead 23-14 through three quarters with the field goal for Georgia coming after a Florida fumble at its own 1-yard-line as Georgia had a 3-0 turnover edge in the game. Florida added a field goal in the fourth to sit within the number down by six but the Bulldogs turned in two late touchdown drives to win by 19 points.
Kentucky (+7½) 15, Missouri 14: Missouri led 14-3 through three quarters and appeared to get the stop of the game holding Kentucky on 4th-and-short from the 3-yard-line halfway through the fourth quarter to hold the 11-point edge for the home favorite. Missouri looked to burn some clock with the lead and the limited Kentucky offense, running the ball three times before punting but the Wildcats got back in the game with a 67-yard punt return touchdown. Kentucky went for two and failed but was within the number down five. Kentucky would get the ball back with just over four minutes remaining but had an interception taking a deep shot. Missouri only was able to burn a minute of clock and had an incomplete pass to stop the clock on 3rd-and-2. Kentucky was punned at its own 19 with just over a minute remaining and took a sack on 1st down. The Wildcats were able to get down the field and eventually wound up with an untimed down from the 2-yard-line after a pass interference call. Terry Wilson hit C.J. Conrad for the winning score.
Houston (-10) 57, South Florida 36: The big AAC showdown lived up to its billing with a back-and-forth affair. Houston led 28-21 at halftime but South Florida got five points early in the third quarter with a safety and a short field goal to climb within two on a spread that climbed from +7½ to +10. 21 points were exchanged in the rest of the third quarter as Houston led 43-36 heading into the fourth. Houston would pull away in the final frame with two touchdowns while South Florida had two fourth quarter turnovers as the Cougars escaped with the cover in a game with 1,149 total yards.
Penn State (-5) 30, Iowa 24: The line on this game was near -6 most of the week but hit -6½ and -5½ at times before landing at -5. The underdog was promising as Iowa took a 12-0 early lead but Penn State battled back to reach a 17-17 tie by halftime. Penn State took over in the third quarter with a 51-yard run from Trace McSorley and a long field goal for a 10-point advantage. Iowa got the break it needed to get back in the game with a pick-6 in the fourth quarter to trail by three but a long kickoff return put Penn State in business to extend its lead though the Lions ultimately settled for a short field goal to lead by six, right on the number for many. Iowa reached the Penn State 3-yard-line on its next possession but Nate Stanley was intercepted on 1st-and-goal. The Hawkeyes got a final opportunity and went 48 yards in the final minute but stalled just across midfield and ran out of time.
Iowa State (-6) 40, Texas Tech 31: The spread on the Cyclones climbed from -3½ to -6 and it looked like it might matter as a Texas Tech tied the game in the fourth quarter with a fumble recovery touchdown. The Cyclones got an interception later in the fourth quarter to keep the game tied and then after pinning Texas Tech deep, Iowa State took the lead with a safety. The 33-31 edge wasn’t enough to cover but Iowa State hit a 48-yard touchdown pass with just over two minutes to go to lead by nine and then intercepted Alan Bowman again in Iowa State territory to hang on to the win and cover in a key Big XII game.
UAB (-15½) 19, UTEP 0: The winless Miners attracted some attention as this spread fell from opening at -17½. UTAB led 10-0 in the first quarter but did not score again until a third quarter safety and the Blazers led just 12-0 well into the fourth quarter. UTEP missed a field goal in late in the third but wasn’t a significant scoring threat and with four minutes remaining UAB snuck past the spread with a late touchdown.
Washington State (+3) 41, Stanford 38: Perfect ATS this season, Washington State was dogged at Stanford and trailed by 11 at halftime and by seven through three quarters. Washington State tied the game early in the fourth and then stopped Stanford going for it on 4th down in long field goal range with nine minutes remaining. Washington State converted a similar 4th down try on its next possession and eventually found the end zone to go up by seven with four minutes to go. Stanford answered and tied the game with more than a minute remaining but Washington State did enough to hit a 42-yard field goal to take a three-point lead. Stanford reached midfield in the final seconds but ran out of time as the Cougars took the Pac-12 North lead.
Tulane (-2) 24, Tulsa 17: Tulsa never trailed in this game until the final score but was unable to pull away despite having a 10-point lead in the second half. Tulane tied the game with 12 minutes to go and then Tulsa fumbled halfway through the fourth quarter in Tulane territory. Quarterback Justin McMillan broke free for a 39-yard touchdown run with fewer than four minutes to go to give Tulane its first lead in the game and Tulsa was unable to answer, going backwards after reaching Tulane territory on its final drive.
UL-Lafayette (+3) 47, Arkansas State 43: UL-Lafayette never trailed in the first three quarters but Arkansas State hit a 73-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth to move in front 35-34. UL-Lafayette answered quickly but Arkansas State would respond as well, making its two-point conversion to go up three after the Ragin’ Cajuns were unable to get its own conversion attempt on the previous score. UL-Lafayette burned nearly five minutes in 11 plays before turning in the game-winning touchdown with just over a minute to go.
Boise State (-10) 48, Air Force 38: These Mountain West foes were tied at halftime before Boise State pulled ahead by 10 early in the fourth quarter. Air Force cut the margin to three with five minutes to go but the Broncos responded with a 61-yard touchdown pass to close right on the number with a 10-point win.
Mississippi State (-1) 28, Texas A&M 13: There were many possible outcomes with the Bulldogs leading by one through three quarters with the spread on this game bouncing around before kickoff. Mississippi State went up by eight early in the fourth quarter and with just over two minutes remaining sealed the win with an interception in the end zone to hold A&M off the board. Two plays later the Bulldogs got a long run from Nick Fitzgerald to pad the final margin.
Notre Dame (-22½) 44, Navy 22: Notre Dame led 27-0 at halftime but Navy put forth a good effort in the second half to put up 22 points, climbing to within two scores early in the fourth quarter with a two-point conversion successful. The Irish answered to lead by 22 while Navy turned it over in Notre Dame territory on its next two possessions. Notre Dame didn’t add points as Navy barely held on with an underdog spread that dipped from 24 to 22½.
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