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4th Quarter Covers – Week 13
By Joe Nelson
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 final big weekend of the college football regular 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.
Bowling Green (-23½) 48, Ball State 10: While Bowling Green led 34-0 at one point Ball State got very close to the spread in the fourth quarter with a field goal cutting the margin to just 24 points. Bowling Green responded with a 90-yard drive to clearly get by the number and then broke a 95-yard run in the final minute to pad the numbers ahead of next week’s MAC Championship game.
Texas Tech (PK) 48, Texas 45: The Thursday night game in the Big XII provided a very exciting finish as Texas Tech’s 3-point lead heading into the fourth quarter vanished as Texas took a 38-34 lead with under eight minutes to go in the game after a 46-yard run from Tyrone Swoopes. It only took six plays for Texas Tech to get the lead back and with less than three minutes to go Texas went for it on a 4th-and-7 play from their own 40. On the next play from scrimmage Texas Tech ran a bit of a trick play to produce a 40-yard run for a score, making it a 10-point margin and making a late Texas touchdown after a nice kick return meaningless relative to the number.
Tulsa (-9) 45, Tulane 34: For the second straight season Tulsa had a wild comeback win vs. Tulane and in both instances the Hurricane came away with incredibly improbable favorite covers as well. This year Tulane pulled ahead 34-24 about halfway through the fourth quarter but Tulsa took less than a minute to get back within three playing as a road favorite that climbed from -6 all the way up to -9 by kickoff. On Tulane’s first play from scrimmage on the next possession Tulsa got an interception returned 28 yards for a touchdown, to take a 38-34 lead. Down four Tulane used up much of the clock and drove all the way down to the Tulsa 16-yard line looking to take the lead back. On 3rd-and-9 Tulane was picked off again and the interception was returned 89 yards for another score putting Tulsa up by 11 for an amazing turn of events and certainly one of the luckier covers of the season.
TCU (+2) 28, Baylor 21: There were a lot of personnel questions in the Friday night Big XII clash that many expected to be the game of the season in the conference before the season started. A 56-yard fumble return for TCU tied the game at 14-14 early in the second quarter and incredibly there was no scoring the rest of regulation with sloppy play through a downpour. Baylor went first in overtime and the Bears kept the ball mostly on the ground before finding the end zone with a four-yard pass play on 3rd down. TCU got a big pass interference penalty on a 3rd down play on its possession, finding the end zone two plays later. TCU cashed in with another touchdown on 3rd-and-goal from the 8-yard line to start the second overtime. Baylor came up empty with two rushes falling just short of the first down mark as TCU escaped with the win and cover, making the Oklahoma/Oklahoma State game essentially the Big XII title game.
Appalachian State (-22½) 28, Louisiana-Lafayette 7: Appalachian State struggled to put up big numbers in this home finale but with about six minutes to go the Mountaineers slipped past the heavy favorite spread with their fourth touchdown of the game. With the game in hand a relaxed Appalachian State defense wound up losing the shutout as Louisiana-Lafayette found the end zone in the final minute of the game for the late underdog cover.
Louisville (-7) 38, Kentucky 24: Needing to win this rivalry game to make a bowl game Kentucky had a great start leading 21-0 just over 10 minutes into the game. Kentucky still led 24-7 at the half but a big third quarter from the Louisville offense turned the tide with the Cardinals scoring 17 points in the final eight minutes of the quarter to tie the game heading into the final frame. Punt returns wound up being the most important plays in the fourth quarter as twice Louisville wound up with a short field after a Kentucky punt, getting touchdowns on drives of just 34 yards and 13 yards to pull away in the fourth quarter to spoil the postseason hopes for the Wildcats.
Cincinnati (-2) 19, East Carolina 16: An early 10-0 lead for East Carolina was erased as Cincinnati had a 16-10 lead heading into the fourth quarter. The Pirates found the end zone to tie the game early in the final frame after a 15-play drive but the extra-point was missed to leave a 16-16 tie. Cincinnati kicker Andrew Gantz missed a 44-yard field goal on the next drive for the Bearcats but he succeeded in a redemptive 42-yard kick as time expired as the Bearcats narrowly won and covered.
Syracuse (+3) 20, Boston College 17: Syracuse led 17-7 in the third quarter but Boston College broke a big run for a two-play scoring drive to get within three. In the final three minutes of the game the Eagles tied the game with a field goal but Syracuse milked the rest of the clock for a final kick that was good for the slight underdog win.
Indiana (-9½) 54, Purdue 36: Needing this win to clinch a postseason bid Indiana maintained control with a lead that stretched from 10-17 points most of the game with a spread that climbed about three points during the week. The Hoosiers led by 16 early in the fourth quarter but a touchdown with a successful two-point conversion briefly put Purdue within eight. A 72-yard pass play for the Hoosiers ended the cover threat about a minute later however and Purdue had turnovers on each of its final three possessions.
Florida Atlantic (-4) 33, Old Dominion 31: Florida Atlantic led 24-3 at one point but Old Dominion was within three after a long pass play late in the third quarter. An interception allowed the Monarchs to go in front for the first time in the game just a few plays later, leading 31-27 heading into the fourth quarter. Florida Atlantic got a field goal to trim the margin to one point and disaster struck for Old Dominion later in the final frame with a with a fumble that set up the Owls on the 21-yard line. A touchdown would have put Florida Atlantic in position to cover but the Owls settled for a field goal to take a two-point lead which held up.
Wyoming (+2) 35, UNLV 28: This Mountain West finale was tied at 21-21 and 28-28 in the fourth quarter as an early Wyoming lead slipped away. The Cowboys connected for a 64-yard touchdown with just over two minutes to go to take the lead for the final time as a slight home underdog.
Maryland (+1) 46, Rutgers 41: While this was a meaningless season finale at the bottom of the Big Ten it was not without a very entertaining finish. Rutgers had a 31-13 lead at the break but Maryland climbed within four in the third quarter before a Rutgers touchdown put the Knights back up by 11 heading into the final frame. Maryland had back-to-back touchdown drives to take a 39-38 lead as they missed on both two-point conversion attempts which looked important as a Rutgers field goal with less than five minutes to go put the Knights up by two. On the next play from scrimmage Maryland turned in an 80-yard rush to take the lead and Rutgers fell short on back-to-back rushes on 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-1 in Maryland territory on their final possession.
LSU (-6½) 19, Texas A&M 7: LSU led 13-7 through three quarters which was not quite enough on the closing number that climbed past -6. With less than three minutes to go Leonard Fournette hit the end zone to put the Tigers up 19-7 with a missed two-point conversion leaving the back door open for the Aggies. Texas A&M reached the LSU 38-yard line late in the game before an interception ended any threat for the underdog cover.
Northwestern (-2) 24, Illinois 14: The Wildcats took a 24-14 lead early in the fourth quarter but Illinois made a couple of threats to score late in the game with +3 or +3½ available on the Illini much of the week for this Solider Field game. An interception ended a drive inside the Northwestern 25-yard line and Illinois also missed a 27-yard field goal as Northwestern held on to complete a 10-2 regular season.
Alabama (-15½) 29, Auburn 13: Alabama led 19-6 early in the third quarter, sitting just short of the road favorite spread, settling for field goals early in the game. Auburn connected on an incredible one-handed catch for a 77-yard touchdown to suddenly make it a six-point game. Alabama added a field goal early in the fourth quarter and then with just 26 seconds to go the Tide padded Derrick Henry’s Heisman statistics with a 25-yard touchdown run on 4th down with the game in hand after Auburn gave the ball back going for it deep in its own territory, providing a miracle late cover for those on the Iron Bowl favorite.
California (-4) 48, Arizona State 46: California dug an early hole in this game with a 27-10 deficit at the half. In the second half the Bears clearly looked like the stronger team, moving the ball with ease and eventually posting nearly 700 yards of offense. By the start of the fourth quarter California was within two points and the Bears took a one-point lead with about nine minutes to go after missing on a two-point conversion. Arizona State had to settle for another field goal to take the lead back but a four-play scoring drive put the Bears in front and with a successful two-point conversion the Bears were past the number with about six minutes to go with a six-point lead. Arizona State delivered a great late drive to take a one-point lead with just over two minutes to go but the Sun Devils could not stop Cal’s offense and with a minute to go California had 1st-and-goal. A touchdown would have earned the cover but all California needed was a field goal and they conservatively played for the kick which went through from 26 yards as time expired.
Idaho (-4½) 38, Texas State 31: Idaho and Texas State were tied heading into the fourth quarter and it was tied again halfway through the final frame at 31-31 after the Bobcats scored after a muffed punt. With just over a minute to go Idaho scored the go-ahead touchdown to win and secure the cover as well on a line that jumped on Saturday from -2½ to -4½.
UTEP (+3) 20, North Texas 17: In the third quarter North Texas scored on a punt return and a fumble return to take a 17-13 lead at home but UTEP put together a great late scoring drive to take the lead in the fourth quarter. North Texas had an 11-play drive on its final possession but a penalty was a big setback and the UTEP got the stop on 4th down.
Stanford (-4) 38, Notre Dame 36: Notre Dame led 29-28 heading into the fourth quarter having missed on a two-point conversion on the previous score. Stanford took a six point lead after an early fourth quarter touchdown and then an offense-oriented game shut down on both sides with four consecutive punts. Notre Dame put together a 15-play drive to score with 30 seconds to go on a 1st down play to take the lead by one after the extra-point. On replay DeShone Kizer looked down short of the end zone but the play stood. Ultimately Stanford had enough time to go 45 yards for the game winning kick although the Irish held on to the underdog cover.
San Diego State (-17) 31, Nevada 14: This game was tied at 14-14 late in the second quarter but a 72-yard run put San Diego State in front by the half and they managed to reach the closing spread with a fourth-quarter touchdown following a Nevada touchdown. San Diego State was favored by 17½ much of the week and neither team really threatened to score again the rest of the way.
Hawaii (-7) 28, UL-Monroe 26: Hawaii led 28-10 at one point in the third quarter but Louisiana-Monroe trimmed that margin to just eight points by the start of the fourth quarter. The Warhawks drove to the Hawaii 11-yard line in the fourth quarter but wound up getting sacked going for it on 4th down to end the scoring threat. Incredibly a few plays later Louisiana-Monroe found the end zone on defense with a fumble recovery in the end zone, making it a two point game. The conversion attempt was for the tie but the Warhawks fell short but the late score was enough to earn the underdog cover.