4th Quarter Covers – Week 4

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NFL Close Calls - Week 3

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 fourth big weekend of the college football season. 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.

Tulane (-4½) 38, Houston 31: The Thursday night underdog certainly looked promising in AAC action as D’Eriq King sparked Houston to a 28-7 edge just a few minutes into the second quarter. Tulane answered to get within 14 where the margin held past halftime. Tulane hit a 48-yard pass play to close to within seven early in the third quarter and then early in the fourth, the Green Wave tied the game by completing a 93-yard drive while Houston had a pair of punts and the team’s second missed field goal of the game to start the second half. Tulane added three with about six minutes remaining to take the lead while Houston put together a lengthy drive looking for the win in regulation. The Cougars reached the Tulane 4-yard-line with 30 seconds remaining but ultimately had to settle for a short tying field goal with 21 seconds remaining. A fake kneel-down from Tulane led to an 18-yard gain to give the Wave a chance for a late score and Jalen McClesky made a catch in traffic around the 25-yard-line and scampered into the end zone in the final seconds as Tulane improbably won the game and slid past the favorite spread in a dramatic finish.

Louisiana Tech (-7) 43, FIU 31: With James Morgan back in action, FIU’s offense finally clicked and this game turned into a shootout in the second half after a 13-10 Bulldogs lead at the break. Louisiana Tech still led by just three heading into the fourth quarter after these squads traded leads in the third quarter. FIU’s defense held Louisiana Tech to three consecutive field goals to fall behind by 12, but they didn’t add points of its own until the final minute, scoring what looked like the underdog covering score with 51 seconds to go for a five-point margin. The ensuing on-side kick attempt went awry however as it was caught and returned for a short kickoff return touchdown for the Bulldogs to give the favorite the cover right back.

Syracuse (-3½) 52, Western Michigan 33: The production in this game wound up nearly even and the score was close to that as well late in third quarter as back-to-back Western Michigan scores turned a 38-19 Orange edge into a 38-33 margin heading into the fourth quarter. The Broncos forced an early fourth quarter punt and had the ball approaching midfield before a huge swing as they were stopped going for it on 4th-and-1 from the their own 41. Syracuse needed only a few plays to find the end zone inheriting great field position, pushing the lead to 12. The Broncos reached Syracuse territory on the next possession, but failed on 4th-and-10 from the Syracuse 28. Syracuse added another touchdown with about three minutes remaining in the game to pad the final score.

New Mexico (-4) 55, New Mexico State 52: These rivals were tied at 31-31 at halftime, but New Mexico took charge in the third quarter with three scoring drives to lead by 10 heading into the final frame, a lead the Lobos extended to 17 early in the fourth quarter. The Aggies didn’t mail it in by scoring a touchdown halfway through the fourth and then getting back in the game with an interception. New Mexico State added a quick touchdown to trail by only three in the final minutes, a score that shifted the spread outcome. New Mexico had to covert a 4th down to close out the game before eventually taking knee inside the New Mexico State 10-yard-line.

California (+3) 28, Mississippi 20: Pac-12 officials added another chapter to their infamous legacy in this non-conference game at Ole Miss. The Bears were in control and had a 28-13 edge well into the fourth quarter despite a big yardage edge for the Rebels. Mississippi made a late charge with an 88-yard touchdown drive to get within a single score with 4:29 remaining. Cal opted to punt on 4th-and-1 near midfield as the Rebels had the ball back with an opportunity to tie. Without timeouts, John Rhys Plumlee engineered a great drive and the pivotal play occurred on 3rd-and-goal from the Cal 3-yard-line. Plumlee hit Elijah Moore who turned to the ball with his feet in the end zone before being tackled. The official spotted the ball short of the end zone and there was not a stoppage for a review on what certainly looked like a potential touchdown. With only seconds on the clock, Mississippi scrambled to the line to run a play and a disorganized 4th down sneak was stuffed as time expired and the Bears held on the for the win, avoiding the possibility of overtime.

Alabama (-36½) 49, Southern Miss 7: If Nick Saban wants fans to stay all four quarters of Alabama games, he just needs to make sure they have action on the spread as another Tide game featured a very late spread-result shifting score. Southern Miss trailed just 28-7 at the half, but Alabama pushed the margin to 42-7 by the fourth quarter, not quite enough on the heavy favorite number. Southern Miss burned substantial clock on a fourth quarter drive, but facing 4th-and-14 near midfield, they simply opted to punt. Alabama didn’t seem likely to go the length of the field in that situation, but Jaylen Waddle returned the punt 41 yards to put the Tide in great field position with still seven minutes remaining. Alabama opted to go for it on 4th-and-5 and Taulia (not Tua) Tagovailoa hit a 20-yard pass for the first down and a few plays later Jerome Ford rushed into the end zone to flip the spread result inside of two minutes.

West Virginia (-5) 29, Kansas 24: The Mountaineers led by only three heading into the fourth quarter, but managed to pull away with a pair of long drives, though resulting in only nine points with a short field goal and a touchdown but with a missed two-point try. That 12-point margin loomed large on the potential spread outcome on a line that landed right at -5. Kansas would indeed get a touchdown with about two minutes remaining to hit that five-point margin and the Jayhawks defense forced a punt to at least get the ball back though with only 32 seconds and no timeouts. Kansas picked up two modest gains and on the final play delivered a lateral play that for a moment had a chance, ultimately reaching the West Virginia 12-yard-line before the Mountaineers were able to clinch the win.

Florida State (-6½) 35, Louisville 24: Florida State jumped out to a 21-0 lead in this contest, but early leads have consistently melted away for the Seminoles this season. Louisville would score the next 24 points to lead by three as an underdog early in the fourth quarter. With Wisconsin-transfer Alex Hornibrook in the game, the Seminoles struck a 60-yard pass play for the go-ahead score halfway through the final frame. The Florida State defense stepped up with a three-and-out and a 15-yard penalty helped the cause to give the Seminoles great field position. Florida State eventually opted to kick a field goal from 4th-and-1 but a roughing the kicker call gave the Seminoles 1st-and-goal at the one and a potential 6-point lead became an 11-point margin. On its last possession, Louisville’s offense reached the Florida State 39 before running out of time.

Clemson (-41) 52, Charlotte 10: Charlotte’s numbers vs. Clemson were certainly better than some have posted vs. the Tigers, but the 49ers still trailed 31-0 before the halfway point of the second quarter. Down 45-3 in the third, Charlotte got a muffed punt to get the ball at the Clemson 12 and they cashed in, bringing the margin to 35 points. Clemson backup quarterback Taisum Phommachanh was picked off on the next drive to end a scoring threat as the 49ers had a chance to hold on to the cover but late in the game a Phommachanh pass got 15-yards added to it with a penalty and Michel Dukes broke free for a 24-yard touchdown run to inch past the spread.

Texas State (-3) 37, Georgia State 34: Texas State broke a 17-17 tie with a field goal late in the third quarter before an exciting finish in this Sun Belt opener. Georgia State had a 13-play touchdown drive to take the lead with about eight minutes to go, but Texas State answered with a touchdown drive completed on a 20-yard rush to go back up by three. Georgia State had a shot to win in regulation reaching 1st-and-goal form the 2-yard-line, but an untimely false start pushed the team back. Pass interference on Texas State gave that yardage back, but cost time and ultimately that proved to be the issue as the Panthers had to settle for the tying kick. After matching touchdowns in the first overtime, both teams would miss mid-40s field goals in the second overtime and Georgia State would do it again to start the third round. Despite a combined -20 yards from both teams in the second and third overtimes, Texas State kicker Joshua Rowland finally nailed the fourth field goal attempt of overtime from 35-yards as Texas State got its first win and the game finished on the number.

Oregon (-12½) 21, Stanford 6: Oregon’s high scoring offense was held in check in this game, but they took a 14-3 lead into halftime after getting a touchdown on a drive with two 3rd-and-long conversions while a Stanford drive into Oregon territory ended empty before halftime. The Ducks went ahead 21-3 in the fourth quarter following an interception while Stanford only answered with a field goal to trail by 15, not quite enough on the double-digit underdog spread. The Ducks had a bad snap on a field goal attempt to cost the team three points, but on two late possessions, Stanford was unable to spoil the cover despite holding Ducks to minimal production and having a nearly 2-to-1 edge on the ground.

Texas (-7) 36, Oklahoma State 30: Texas appeared to have a 21-13 edge heading into halftime, but the Longhorns muffed a punt return with 45 seconds to go ultimately handing the Cowboys a touchdown to get within one. The lead for Texas was five through three quarters, but early in the fourth the Longhorns took control with a touchdown drive and a successful two-point conversion for a 13-point edge. That should have been the final margin, but again Texas fumbled on a punt reception and with fewer than four minutes remaining Oklahoma State was handed great field position. Oklahoma State converted a 3rd-and-10 for 33 yards on a scramble from freshman quarterback Spencer Sanders and the Cowboys got the spread-stealing score with 1:37 remaining. Texas was in danger of having to give the ball back after barely recovering the on-side kick attempt and needed a Sam Ehlinger bootleg scramble to pick up the win-sealing 3rd down.

Nevada (-13½) 37, UTEP 21: Nevada and UTEP were tied 21-21 late in the third quarter before a field goal put the Wolf Pack ahead by three heading into the fourth quarter. Nevada added two fourth quarter scores to slip past the hefty road favorite number with the first score coming on a short field off an interception.

Toledo (-5½) 41, Colorado State 35: Following a missed Colorado State field goal, Toledo extended an eight-point lead to 11 points with a fourth quarter field goal with only about six minutes remaining in the game. Colorado State answered going 71 yards in fewer than two minutes and with a successful two-point conversion the Rams only trailed by three. Facing 4th-and-1 from its own 45-yard-line, Toledo broke a 35-yard-run and a penalty was tacked on to hand the Rockets 1st-and-goal. Colorado State still had a timeout as Toledo wasn’t able to drain all of the remaining time and ultimately wound up kicking a short field goal to lead by six with 31 seconds to go. On 1st down, Colorado State went 29 yards and spiked the ball to give themselves a shot, on the final play of the game Rams receiver EJ Scott was stopped at the 2-yard-line as Toledo held on.

UCLA (+18) 67, Washington State 63: Only a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown hallway through the second quarter slowed the bleeding for UCLA trailing 35-17 at halftime and then watching the Cougars score a pair of touchdowns to lead by 32 with fewer than 22 minutes remaining in the game. Headed for an 0-4 start, the Bruins didn’t fold and took advantage of a fumble to add back-to-back touchdowns to bring the margin back to 18. After holding Washington State to its first of only two punts on the night, UCLA went 94 yards on 1st down to trim the deficit to 11 points. Washington State fumbled again and Bruins scored in four plays to close to within three. After trading touchdowns, the second punt of Washington State’s night went 69 yards for a return touchdown as the Bruins had the lead. Washington State quarterback Anthony Gordon then connected for his ninth touchdown of the game to put the Cougars back in front and the Washington State defense got a stop on 4th down in the red zone with just over two minutes remaining. Incredibly on 1st down, a 14-yard gain for Washington State resulted in another fumble and UCLA used the short field to take the lead back with just over a minute remaining. A sack on 1st down led to another Cougars fumble for the sixth turnover of the day helping to propel the astonishing Bruins comeback.