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4th Quarter Covers - Week 11
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NFL - Close Calls

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 11th college football weekend in mid-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.

Miami (OH) (-11½) 24, Akron 14: For the second straight week, the Miami line moved dramatically in the hours before kickoff with the possibility of quarterback Gus Ragland returning. Ragland didn’t play last week in a competitive loss to Ohio, but he was on the field Tuesday night against Akron with a home favorite price that opened at -4 settling at -7 by Tuesday and climbing all the way to -11½ by game time. Akron had the first score in the game, but Miami dominated in the middle quarters with a 24-7 advantage going into the fourth quarter. Akron completed a scoring drive with a 30-yard passing touchdown to cut the lead to just 10 points. Miami reached the Akron 25-yard-line on the next possession, but a penalty pushed the Redhawks backwards for an eventual punt and Akron’s next possession stalled just past midfield as well as the final margin stayed right at 10.

Buffalo (-7) 38, Bowling Green 28: The Bulls opened favored by -11½, but that line steadily fell and wound up at just -7 by kickoff Tuesday. Those chasing the ugly underdog were down 21-7 after the first quarter, but Bowling Green completed a 98-yard scoring drive just before halftime to match the closing spread. Seven was still the margin after three quarters before Buffalo hit a short field goal early in the fourth quarter to lead by 10. Bowling Green immediately answered with a four-play touchdown drive to suddenly trail by only three with 12 minutes to go. Buffalo responded with its own quick scoring drive as the Bulls were up by 10 with fewer than nine minutes to play. Bowling Green had an opportunity to steal the cover back late as they reached the Buffalo 20-yard-line before fumbling as the Bulls won on the closing number and the middle was there for the taking on both Tuesday night MAC games.

Western Michigan (-19½) 48, Kent State 20: Western Michigan scored on a pair of interception return touchdowns to lead 34-14 through three quarters on a spread that opened at -22, but fell to -19½ by kickoff. The Broncos picked up a third defensive touchdown with a fumble return and then added another touchdown on a 46-yard run to lead by 35 into the final minutes. Kent State would break its own long run for a score but a personal foul on the team’s final possession ended any threat of getting back within the number.

Central Michigan (+1½) 42, Eastern Michigan 30: Central Michigan pulled ahead 35-17 in the third quarter after a short-field touchdown drive following one of eventually five Eastern Michigan turnovers. Eastern Michigan rallied in the fourth with a pair of touchdowns to climb within five and while just a minute remained the Eagles got the ball back, setting up the possibility of late win and cover. On 2nd-and-2, Brogran Roback was intercepted with the pick returned for a touchdown as Central Michigan sealed up a second straight rivalry win with the help of turnovers.

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Appalachian State (-17) 27, Georgia Southern 6: Winless Georgia Southern hung in there at Appalachian State Thursday night trailing just 13-6 against one of the top Sun Belt contenders though three quarters. The Mountaineers delivered a third down touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter and after a dominant defensive 3-and-out, the Mountaineers were back in the end zone five minutes later, slipping by a home favorite spread that reached -18½ before settling at -17. Things got interesting late as the Mountaineers went for it on fourth down with just over a minute remaining outside of field goal range and came up short. Georgia Southern picked up 60 yards on its final possession and had two plays inside the red zone, but time expired with the Eagles only reaching the 8-yard-line.

N.C. State (-3) 17, Boston College 14: The Eagles botched a pair of early scoring opportunities and things got worse in the second quarter as quarterback Anthony Brown appeared to suffer a season-ending injury. To make matters worse, the Eagles allowed N.C. State to take the lead with 10 points in the final 2:26 of the first half. Boston College took the lead back with a late third quarter touchdown to lead 14-10 as a three-point underdog into the fourth quarter. Nyheim Hines broke a 50-yard touchdown run to put the Wolfpack in front with about eight minutes to go. Boston College drove into the red zone to the N.C. State 18-yard-line inside of five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, but on the tying field goal attempt a botched snap forced an impromptu pass from the holder that fell incomplete. N.C. State didn’t advance the ball much on two late possessions, but also didn’t opt to add points looking to burn as much time as possible, escaping with a narrow win and leaving most with a push.

Wake Forest (-2½) 64, Syracuse 43: In a wild offensive showcase, Syracuse led by 14 at the half and still by three heading into the fourth quarter as a tying extra-point-attempt for the Demon Deacons turned into two points the other way late in the third quarter. Wake Forest got the momentum back in the fourth quarter taking over with the help of a missed field goal and an interception to outscore the Orange 24-0 in the final frame.

Middle Tennessee State (-15) 35, Charlotte 21: The Blue Raiders had a commanding 28-7 lead at the half, but Charlotte scored the only points in the third quarter to trail by just 14, sitting just inside the underdog spread that closed at +15, although that was the highest point the line reached as numbers below the two-touchdown threshold were common late in the week. Charlotte held on defense with MTSU going for it just outside of field goal range, but the favor was returned as the 49ers were stopped going for it on fourth down late in the third quarter. An interception ultimately set-up an early fourth quarter touchdown for the Blue Raiders to push the lead to 21 but with about three minutes remaining the 49ers connected for a 26-yard touchdown to steal the cover on the closing number.

West Virginia (-3) 28, Kansas State 23: The Wildcats added an early fourth quarter field goal to trail by only five and got the ball right back with a defensive stand. Kansas State moved into West Virginia territory eventually getting to the 19-yard-line. With still nine minutes to go a field goal that would have shifted the spread result was still an option, but Kansas State didn’t get to make that decision as on third down, Skylar Thompson was intercepted with a 37 yard return dramatically shifting the field position as the Mountaineers held on for a narrow win and cover.

Oklahoma State (-8) 49, Iowa State 42: At no point in this game did Iowa State ever trail by more than seven points to cover on a closing spread of +8, but lines at +6 or +6½ was common most of the week. Iowa State led 42-34 to lead by eight approaching the midpoint of the fourth quarter, but Oklahoma State answered in quick order and hit the two-point conversion for a tie game with 5:55 on the clock. The marginal Oklahoma State defense forced a 3-and-out and three plays later the Cowboys were up by seven. Iowa State was a serious threat to force overtime as they converted a 4th-and-13 play in the final minute and had three plays inside the four-yard-line only to watch the game end on an interception in the end zone with the Cyclones forced to play much of the game with redshirt freshman quarterback Zeb Noland.

Navy (+1) 43, SMU 40: Navy led 34-11 at the half posting huge rushing numbers with the Midshipmen opening at -4½ at home before it became clear that quarterback Zach Abey wouldn’t play. SMU fought back in the game, trailing by only eight heading into the fourth quarter though they were a closing line favorite. Despite 72 points in the first three frames, the scoring stalled in the final quarter as SMU stopped Navy on fourth down to end two separate drives to keep it a one-score game. SMU made the next opportunity count with a touchdown with 3:30 to go and a successful two-point-conversion. Navy wasn’t able to punch in the go-ahead touchdown but as time expired they connected for an 18-yard field goal with a back-up kicker to get the win.

Mississippi (-24) 50, UL-Lafayette 22: The Rebels led by 32 heading into the fourth quarter, but a pair of quick scores had the Ragin’ Cajuns within 20. The Rebels unnecessarily went for two to lead 50-22 with still more than eight minutes to go. UL-Lafayette wasn’t able to threaten on two remaining drives as Ole Miss delivered the win and cover.

North Texas (-24) 45, UTEP 10: North Texas only led 21-10 late in the third quarter, but poured it on from there with a 24-0 run to close the game and sneak by the hefty home favorite spread.

Clemson (-16) 31, Florida State 14: The Seminoles hit a 60-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to suddenly close to within three points at Clemson. A fumble in Clemson territory gave the upset threat even more life but on first down James Blackman was intercepted going for it all. Clemson got a 38-yard return on the interception and six plays later the Tigers led by 10 with only three minutes remaining. Florida State had to go for it on fourth down in their own territory as Clemson was handed great field position and those on the Tigers got a lucky win as with 35 seconds to go Adam Choice ran into the end zone when Clemson could have taken a knee.

LSU (-19) 33, Arkansas 10: Arkansas competed much better than the final score suggests as this was a three-point game with only a few minutes remaining in the third quarter. LSU led by just nine heading into the fourth, but added two fourth quarter touchdowns including a spread-saving score with 3:46 remaining after Arkansas failed going for it on fourth down from its own 22-yard-line.

Tulane (-6) 31, East Carolina 24: Tulane appeared to have this game wrapped up with a 24-14 edge heading into the fourth quarter, but a fumble deep in its own territory set-up a field goal and the Wave threw an interception a few plays later. The Pirates didn’t score on that possession as they went for it on 4th-and-2 at the Tulane 5-yard-line and the pass fell incomplete. Tulane gained 50 yards on its next possession, but wound up punting and in the final minutes East Carolina went 89 yards to force overtime. Tulane went first in overtime and faced a tough decision with a 4th-and-1 at the 16-yard-line. The Wave not only got the first down, quarterback Jonathan Banks went all the way to the end zone as suddenly Tulane was ahead of the favorite spread. An answer looked inevitable with East Carolina getting 1st-and-goal from the 3-yard-line, but Tulane’s defense came through with four straight stops for the win and fortunate road favorite cover.

Northwestern (-6½) 23, Purdue 13: Purdue missed a field goal and failed on two fourth downs to wind up scoreless in the first half. Northwestern managed to go 96 yards for a touchdown in the final two minutes of the first half for a 14-0 edge and eventually led 23-7 in this Big Ten clash. Purdue was the more productive team in the game and scored to get within 10 with 5:32 to go, failing going for two to make it a one-score game. Purdue got the ball back and went 63 yards as a serious backdoor cover threat but wound up intercepted at the three-yard-line with just over a minute to go.

UCLA (-3) 44, Arizona State 37: The Bruins saw a 10-point lead disappear in the final four minutes of the third quarter as Arizona State tied the game with the help of blocked punt returned for a touchdown. The Bruins responded taking a 44-34 lead in the first six minutes of the final frame, but the Sun Devils were a threat to force a push late reaching the UCLA 5-yard-line and ultimately kicking a short field goal with just over a minute to go.

Arizona (-20) 49, Oregon State 28: Arizona led 28-0 at halftime but went on cruise control in the second half as the defense surrendered a few scores. The margin was back to 28 points heading into the fourth quarter with six minutes to go after an Arizona score with reserves in the game. With three minutes to go, the Beavers connected for a long pass play to close to within 21 points leaving mixed spread results on a line that fell from -23 to -20 during the week.

Boise State (-6½) 59, Colorado State 52: Colorado State appeared on its way to shaking up the Mountain West standings with an upset, leading 52-38 with just over three minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Boise State scored quickly going 75 yards in just over a minute. The Broncos got the onside kick and scored again in just 43 seconds to tie the game. Boise State went first in overtime with all the momentum and scored in four plays and the defense sealed the win, forcing a fumble at the 3-yard-line.

Fresno State (-9½) 31, Hawai’i 21: The road favorite spread in Honolulu opened at -9 and closed at -9½, but -10 or even -10½ was more common during the week. Hawai’i scored first but through three quarters Fresno State was in complete command with a 31-7 edge. In the first minute of the fourth quarter, the Warriors picked up eight points with a 75-yard touchdown drive and a successful two-point-conversion and just over a minute later, the Warriors scored on defense with an interception return touchdown. Down 10, Hawai’i again went for two to try to make it a one-score game but that conversion failed in a key play for those involved on the pointspread. Fresno State missed a field goal on its next possession and later threw another interception to keep Hawai’i in the game. The Warriors were in position to make the underdog cover a clear result as they had 1st-and-goal in the final minutes, but an interception in the end zone ended the threat for mixed betting results depending on the line. The total on the game also matched the closing number of 52 with those on the ‘under’ barely clinging to a win.

  
HEADLINES
Lawrence: Inside the Stats - Week 12
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Bookmaker: Best Bet - UCLA at USC
Williams: ACC Report - Week 12
Williams: Big 12 Report - Week 12
Williams: Pac-12 Report - Week 12
Marshall: Tech Trends - Week 12
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Sloppy USF holds off Tulsa 27-20
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