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NFL Close Calls - Week 9
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 10th weekend of the college football season to start November.
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.
Coastal Carolina (+2) 36, Troy 35: It was clear early on that this Sun Belt game would be a high-scoring back-and-forth affair with five touchdowns combined in the first quarter. Coastal Carolina scored 11 points out the break to lead by seven, but Troy answered to tie the game heading into the final frame on a spread that was near-even most of the week with the Trojans closing as a slight favorite. Troy got the ball back in the fourth and connected for a touchdown to go up by seven with just over eight minutes remaining. The Chanticleers couldn’t answer, but pinned Troy deep and got the ball back with over two minutes remaining though having already used up all three timeouts. Bryce Carpenter and Coastal Carolina faced only one third down in an 11-play drive resulting in a touchdown and playing to win Coastal Carolina went for two. Pass interference was called on the initial failed conversion, but inched closer on the retry CJ Marable raced in to take the lead and secure the clear cover for Coastal Carolina.
Pittsburgh (-9½) 20, Georgia Tech 10: Pittsburgh had a nearly 2-to-1 yardage edge while holding Georgia Tech below 200 yards for the game, but the Yellow Jackets got a third quarter field goal following a blocked punt to trail by only seven. The Yellow Jackets were poised to tie the game reaching 1st-and-goal from the 6-yard-line, but fumbled on 3rd down with a 79-yard return setting up a Pittsburgh field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter to put the Panthers back up by 10, past a spread that jumped from -7½ to -9½. Pittsburgh couldn’t put the game away missing a 44-yard field goal later in the fourth but Georgia Tech’s next play was an interception. The Yellow Jackets would punt deep in their own territory with more than six minutes remaining and never held the ball again as Pittsburgh escaped with the win and narrow cover.
Purdue (+4) 31, Nebraska 27: Adrian Martinez returned for Nebraska and fueled a 10-0 first quarter for the Cornhuskers. By halftime, Purdue led 14-10 however, scoring with 14 seconds before the break on 3rd down to complete a 96-yard drive. Nebraska took a 3-point lead early in the fourth quarter and still led by three with about four minutes remaining after an exchange of touchdowns with a road favorite spread that was commonly at -3 upon release before sliding upward to -4 by kickoff. Purdue went 82 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with just over a minute remaining relying on Aidan O’Connell at quarterback after Jack Plummer was injured again earlier in the fourth quarter.
North Texas (-22) 52, UTEP 26: North Texas pulled away late in the second quarter and led by 18 through three quarters. A touchdown with about nine minutes remaining put the Mean Green in front by 25 and past the heavy favorite spread. UTEP would put together an 11-play touchdown drive ending with just over three minutes to go to sit behind by only 18. That margin would hold after North Texas took a knee at the UTEP 11-yard-line without adding points.
Arkansas State (-1) 48, UL-Monroe 41: The Warhawks led 21-3 early in this game before four touchdowns from Arkansas State in the span of just over 12 minutes in the second quarter. UL-Monroe would rally to tie the game by the end of the third quarter, but the Red Wolves would strike first in the fourth and would add a second touchdown in the middle of the fourth to pull away. The Warhawks got back within seven and crossed midfield on its final drive before running out of time.
Tulane (-10) 38, Tulsa 26: Tulsa led 13-10 in the second quarter, but would be down 31-16 by the end of the third quarter with a defensive score for Tulane part of the turnaround. The Golden Hurricane would climb within five with 10 minutes to go but on 4th-and-goal with fewer than five minutes to go Tulane was able to cross the goal line and slip past the favorite spread with a 12-point final margin as a torturous run of late-game stumbles continued for Tulsa.
Utah (-3) 33, Washington 28: Washington led 21-13 late in the third quarter before a pick-6 put Utah right back in the game. The Utes missed on the two-point conversion, but added a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns to suddenly lead by 12. Washington would score a late touchdown, but it wasn’t enough as the Utes avenged the Pac-12 championship loss from last season while stealing the cover as well in a game that Washington didn’t trail in until the fourth quarter.
South Carolina (-14½) 24, Vanderbilt 7: The Gamecocks led 14-7 through three quarters despite dominating the production in the game. A fourth quarter field goal after an interception calmed the upset risk and after forcing a punt the Gamecocks put the game away with a 76-yard touchdown drive completed with about six minutes remaining. Vanderbilt had another interception on its next possession as South Carolina escaped with the win and the narrow favorite cover.
Memphis (-5½) 54, SMU 48: The showcase game in the AAC Saturday night lived up to its billing much of the way before Memphis pulled away late in the third quarter. Down 16 entering the fourth quarter, SMU was able to get eight to cut the margin in half, but about a minute later, the Tigers were back in the end zone. Memphis would go up 54-32 with about nine minutes remaining but SMU delivered a long run to stay in the game. Down 14 with just over two minutes to go, SMU found the end zone and again went for two, converting a third straight two-pointer with this late conversion having a big impact on plenty of folks with late week numbers of -6 or -6½ on the Tigers.
Nevada (-4) 21, New Mexico 10: The Wolf Pack scored a pair of touchdowns in the span of three minutes in the second quarter to lead by seven at the break. New Mexico managed a field goal in the third to trail by four, even with the closing spread though lines as high as -6½ and as low as -3 were possible at various times. Early in the fourth quarter, New Mexico reached the Nevada 11-yard-line but failed going for it on 4th-and-1. A series of punts followed before a solid return sparked a short-field Nevada touchdown drive to go up by 11 with just over five minutes remaining. New Mexico’s final drive reached Nevada territory before four straight incomplete passes for a Lobos team not used to throwing.
Fresno State (+2) 41, Hawai’i 38: The Warriors led by 10 at halftime, getting 48-yard touchdown 23 seconds before the break. In the third quarter, Fresno State took over, outscoring Hawai’i 17-0 to take a 31-24 lead into the fourth and a few minutes into the final frame the Bulldogs went up by 14 after an interception. Hawai’i turned in a long drive to answer but came up empty despite reaching 1st-and-goal from the 4. Getting the ball back with fewer than four minutes remaining Hawai’i got back within seven and then saw Fresno State fumble on the kickoff. Five plays later, the game was tied with just over a minute remaining with a roughing the passer call aiding the drive led by Chevan Cordeiro, who took over for Cole McDonald earlier in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs were left with enough time and with limited resistance. Fresno State reached long field goal range. On 3rd-and-10, Fresno State picked up 13 yards to make it a more manageable kick and Cesar Silva was good from 37 yards to seal the minor upset as time expired.
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