Skip to main content

Close, but No Cigar: Underdogs Who Provided Unexpected Scares in Week 4

These underdogs weren't ultimately able to pull off an upset in Week 4, but for at least a half they put up a big test against the favored team they faced.

We should’ve known. On a college football Saturday when only two games pitted ranked teams against each other, the afternoon was filled with surprises, as NC State ambushed Florida State and TCU held on to topple Oklahoma State. But while the day’s major upsets played out, a bunch of other games no one necessarily expected to be close left the favored team sweating out a win that may or may not have changed some perceptions around the nation. 

Here are the most surprising scares of the day (so far):

Oklahoma 49, Baylor 41: The Sooners appeared to be on their way to a romp in Waco, scoring touchdowns on their first two possessions and taking a 28-10 lead early in the second quarter. Baylor grabbed a touchdown right back to stay within striking distance heading into halftime, then scored in the first minute of the third quarter on a 72-yard touchdown pass from Zach Smith to Chris Platt. Two field goals later, the winless Bears had a 31-28 lead on the No. 3 team in the country. Trailing for the first time, the Sooners' offense roared back to life, scoring touchdowns on three straight possessions, but another Smith touchdown pass and a successful onside kick left Baylor down eight and starting a drive near midfield with 1:41 to play. It took a strip-sack three plays later by Sooners defensive leader Ogbonnia Okoronkwo to end the threat for good.

LSU 35, Syracuse 26: LSU led by double-digits throughout most of this SEC-ACC tilt, silencing Syracuse’s spread offense in the early going. After falling behind 21–3, the Orange loosened up, scoring their first touchdown via a reverse pass early in the third quarter and then cutting a new 16-point deficit all the way down to two with just over five minutes to play. After rotating in true freshman Myles Brennan, LSU turned back to starting QB Danny Etling to lead a seven-play, 56-yard drive capped off by D.J. Chark's clinching touchdown on an end-around run with 1:52 left.

USC 30, Cal 20: The Bears ultimately did themselves in with six turnovers, including four interceptions thrown by quarterback Ross Bowers, but first-year head coach Justin Wilcox’s defense contained a shorthanded Trojans offense that was missing lead tailback Ronald Jones and receiver Steven Mitchell Jr. and kept the score tied at 13 through three quarters. Then the turnovers came: USC turned a fumble and three interceptions into 14 fourth-quarter points to open things up.

TCU Drops Oklahoma State to Make Strong Case as Legitimate Big 12 Title Contender

Clemson 34, Boston College 7: Steve Addazio’s defense makes things uncomfortable for at least one good team a year, and Clemson’s number came up Saturday afternoon following last week’s primetime beatdown of Louisville. Kelly Bryant threw two interceptions and finished just 17 of 26 for 140 yards, and only after BC ground its way through an eight-play 37-yard touchdown drive to tie the score at seven late in the third quarter did the Tigers come to life. Travis Etienne finally busted free for a pair of touchdowns in the final six minutes.

Nebraska 27, Rutgers 17: Nobody knew how the Huskers would come out of the blocks after athletic director Shawn Eichorst was fired this week, throwing head coach Mike Riley’s future into doubt. The answer: poorly. Rutgers scored on the opening drive of the game, then pick-sixed Tanner Lee (continuing a disturbingly turnover-prone start to Lee’s season—he has already thrown nine interceptions in four games), and all of a sudden the Scarlet Knights led 17–13 early in the third quarter. The Huskers stabilized things with an exhausting 17-play, 97-yard touchdown drive that took up over half of the third quarter. Yielding Rutgers’s first Big Ten win since Oct. 17, 2015, would have sealed Riley’s fate.

South Carolina 17, Louisiana Tech 16: The Gamecocks’ hype train has come to a screeching halt after a thrilling Week 1 win over NC State. For the first 40 minutes, South Carolina looked to be still hungover from last week’s deflating loss to Kentucky in which top playmaker Deebo Samuel was lost with a broken leg. The Bulldogs led 13–0 until quarterback Jake Bentley capped off a 16-play, 96-yard drive with a touchdown pass to OrTre Smith early in the fourth quarter. Down two in the final minute, South Carolina needed a juggling catch by Bryan Edwards to get into field-goal range for kicker Parker White, who had missed all four of his field goal attempts this season. White was true from 31 yards out, and Will Muschamp sidestepped a loss that could have sent the Gamecocks spiraling.

Michigan Finds Its Red-Zone Groove in Victory Over Purdue

Tennessee 17, UMass 13: Speaking of hangovers, the Volunteers looked to still be feeling the effects of the heartbreaking Hail Mary that triggered their 12th loss to Florida in the last 13 meetings. Forced to host winless UMass for a noon kickoff, Tennessee struggled to stack scoring drives together, and running back John Kelly needed 25 carries to get to 101 yards and a touchdown. The Minutemen even started a drive in Vols territory with just over five minutes to go, but the Tennessee defense tightened up to keep that possession from turning into a real threat.

Miami 52, Toledo 30: Cancellations and postponements as a result of Hurricane Irma forced the Hurricanes into a 21-day layoff between Week 1’s win over Bethune-Cookman and Saturday’s shootout win over the feisty Rockets, who may be the best team in the MAC. After Toledo took a 16-10 lead into the half, Miami scored 28 unanswered points, then allowed the visitors to claw back within a score with just under 10 minutes to go. Consecutive touchdown drives brought the margin back to a safer place, keeping the Canes perfect ahead of a tricky road game next week at Duke. Another good sign for an offense still coming into its own under starting quarterback Malik Rosier: Running back Mark Walton needed just 11 carries to put up 204 rushing yards