2011 Liberty - Cincinnati 31, Vanderbilt 24

Posted Dec 31, 2011

2011-2012 Bowls - CFN's Preview & Prediction for the 2011 AutoZone Liberty Bowl

2011 AutoZone Liberty

Cincinnati 31, Vandy 24

- 2011-2012 CFN Bowl Central

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National Rankings
56th Total Offense 97th
47th Total Defense 19th
27th Scoring Offense 60th
20th Scoring Defense 28th
37th Rushing Offense 47th
6th Run Defense 25th
69th Passing Offense 97th
105th Passing Defense 32nd
10th Turnover Margin 42nd
Position Rankings
relative to each other
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
C   V
3 Quarterbacks 3
4 RBs 4
3 Receivers 2
3 O Line 2
5 D Line 4
4 Linebackers 4
2 Secondary 4
3 Spec Teams 2.5
3.5 Coaching 4
Liberty Bowl
Cincinnati 31 … Vanderbilt 24

- CFN Thoughts on the Liberty Bowl

Cincinnati: The Bearcats ran for 221 yards. … Zach Collaros completed 12-of-29 passes for 80 yards and a score with two picks. … Isaiah Pead ran 28 times for 149 yards and a score. … Adrien Robinson caught four passes for 16 yards. … J.K. Schaffer made nine tackles with a sack.

Vanderbilt: The Commodores outgained the Bearcats 168 yards to 80 though the air. … Larry Smith completed 8-of-19 passes for 142 yards and a score with a pick, and Jordan Rodgers completed 4-of-14 passes for 26 yards with a pick. .. Zac Stacy ran 18 times for 57 yards and a score. … Jordan Matthews caught four passes for 56 yards. … Archibald Barnes made ten tackles with a blocked kick. … Casey Hayward made eight tackles with a tackle for loss and two picks.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Isaiah Pead ran for 149 yards and a touchdown, and Ralph David Abernathy IV's 90-yard kickoff return early in the fourth quarter put Cincinnati ahead to stay as the Bearcats edged Vanderbilt 31-24 on Saturday in the Liberty Bowl.

The Bearcats (10-3) capped the season with their third straight victory.

But the co-Big East Conference champs had to work to put away Vanderbilt (6-7), a team that tied for fourth in the Southeastern Conference, despite forcing three turnovers and coming up with two sacks. The Commodores led 21-17 when Abernathy became the first Cincinnati player to return a kickoff for a TD in the program's 13 bowl appearances.

Vandy's Archibald Barnes blocked Tony Miliano's 39-yard field goal with 3:58 left, giving the Commodores the ball with plenty of time to go ahead. Nick Temple picked off a Larry Smith pass with 3:15 remaining, and Pead sealed the victory with a 12-yard TD run with 1:52 left.

Pead was the game's MVP.

Vanderbilt kicked a 35-yard field goal with 35 seconds left, but the Bearcats recovered the onside kick to kneel down for the victory.

Abernathy is the grandson of the civil rights leader who was in Memphis with Martin Luther King when he was assassinated in 1968.

George Winn also scored on a 69-yard TD run when he replaced Pead, while the Big East Offensive Player of the Year fixed a broken chin strap.

Zach Collaros, playing for the first time since breaking his right ankle Nov. 12, threw a touchdown pass but was intercepted twice. He was just 12 of 29 for 80 yards passing, though he moved around well.

Vanderbilt missed notching only its second winning record since 1982 with the loss.

This was only the fifth bowl for the SEC's only private university yet the second in four seasons. But the Commodores had trouble getting their offense going to match a defense that came up with three sacks and two interceptions - both by Casey Hayward.

Smith replaced Jordan Rodgers at quarterback in the third quarter, and he threw for 142 yards, including a short pass to Chris Boyd that the receiver took 68 yards up the right sideline before pulling up lame and diving into the end zone for a 21-17 lead with 14:03 left that lasted only as long as Abernathy could sprint down field after the kickoff.

The Bearcats led 14-7 at halftime and couldn't take advantage of two Vanderbilt turnovers in the third quarter.

The Commodores first muffed the opening kickoff before Rodgers was intercepted by Camerron Cheatham. Rodgers, the younger brother of NFL Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, didn't play after that. Coach James Franklin turned to Smith, who started the Commodores' Music City Bowl win in 2008.

Smith nearly pulled it off. He drove the Commodores 52 yards with a couple of key passes to set up Jerron Seymour's 5-yard TD run with 3:53 left in the quarter to tie it up at 14-all.

Zac Stacy also ran for a TD.

Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Vanderbilt (6-6) Dec. 31, 3:30, ABC

Here's The Deal … The Liberty Bowl gets what every postseason committee craves—two teams that really, really appreciate the invitation.

Despite being separated by about a 280-mile stretch of mostly Kentucky highway, Cincinnati and Vanderbilt haven't met since 1994. That'll change on New Year's Eve, when the two schools lock horns in Memphis. Both schools are thankful to still be playing. The Bearcats know the sting of being home for the holidays, after following up back-to-back Big East championships with last season's 4-8 disappointment. And the Commodores have appeared in just a single postseason game, the 2008 Music City Bowl, since 1982. Neither team is taking this game for granted.

Cincinnati—and second-year coach Butch Jones in particular—desperately needed a bounce back season in 2011. Heck, Jones inherited a team that had gone to consecutive BCS bowl games, and promptly guided it into the tank. Anything but a complete about-face might have cost him his job. His veteran Bearcats responded to the pleas for all-around improved execution, winning nine games, and earning a share of the Big East title. Oh, but this season of redemption could have been so much more if not for one crushing injury.

When West Virginia descended upon the Queen City on Nov. 12, Cincinnati was ranked and in the conference pole position. By nightfall, the picture had completely changed for the Bearcats. Not only did they lose a game at Paul Brown Stadium, but they lost their most influential player, senior QB Zach Collaros, to a fractured ankle. The offense just wasn't the same without its sparkplug. A week later, it produced three points in a loss to Rutgers that opened the door for West Virginia to capture the Big East's automatic bid to the Orange Bowl.

Few coaches had a more successful debut at a new school than James Franklin did at Vanderbilt. Inheriting a team that went 2-10 a year ago, he and his staff of assistants helped guide the Commodores to an unexpected bowl berth, just the fifth one in school history. They've been a competitive crew throughout, shining even in losing efforts. Buoyed by an unheralded defense, the ‘Dores hung tough against SEC opponents, losing to Georgia, Arkansas, Florida and Tennessee by no more than six points. The pinnacle of frustration came on Oct. 29 when the team blew a fourth-quarter lead to the No. 8 Hogs, and squandered a chance at an extra session when PK Casey Spear missed a 27-yard chip shot with 12 seconds left.

Vanderbilt is not your garden variety program in the SEC, a private institution better known for its academics than its prowess on the football field. So, the barometer for success is quite a bit different than it is in other southern locales, such as Baton Rouge, Gainesville or Tuscaloosa. This bowl appearance is a huge deal for the Commodores, especially the veterans who've toiled in relative obscurity for the past four or five years. Winning the Music City Bowl will be even bigger for Franklin as he attempts to turn these types of cappers into a trend.

Players to Watch: While QB Jordan Rodgers has provided a lift to the offense since supplanting Larry Smith in early October, Vandy remains a run-first attack. The younger brother of Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers was at his best when escaping the pocket, and surging toward the sticks. The junior, combined with RB Zac Stacy, will present major problems to a stout Cincinnati front seven. Stacy was a workhorse throughout the second half of the regular season, establishing a new single-season rushing record for the Commodores. The Second Team All-SEC pick was particularly potent between the tackles over the final seven games, powering his way to 852 yards and a dozen scores.

A Bearcats D that returned all of its starters was determined to be more than just a year older in 2011; it wanted to be a year better. And, oh, how it has succeeded. Fueled by one of the country's most underrated front sevens, Cincy leads the country in sacks and tackles for loss, while collecting 30 takeaways. Although the turnaround has been a team effort, the ‘Cats are particularly strong up the middle. Tackles John Hughes and Derek Wolfe have been menacing, with the latter racking up 19.5 stops behind the line and 9.5 sacks. The Big East Defensive Player of the Year and AP All-American has played his way into a prominent role in April's NFL Draft. Cleaning up whatever messes remain will be inside LB JK Schaffer, who's as stingy in pass defense as he is against the run.

The Commodores are capable of delivering the payload on defense as well. Ranked 19th nationally in total D, Vanderbilt boasts veteran stalwarts at every level of the depth chart. DE Tim Fugger and DT Rob Lohr have taken full advantage of a new get-off scheme that encourages both to attack the backfield. LB Chris Marve is a steady, no-nonsense force, who leads the team with 85 tackles. The secondary, which has more interceptions than touchdowns yielded, harbors a pair of next-level defensive backs, CB Casey Hayward and S Sean Richardson. If Cincinnati hopes to navigate the ‘Dores D, it better be prepared to be patient and methodical, because Vandy gives up very few big plays.

Collaros is out. Or is he? The senior, in the midst of a remarkable recovery, has returned to practice, and is listed as 50-50 to actually play in the game. Of course, if he's in the huddle so soon after going down, it'll be an inspiration to the rest of his Bearcats teammates. If not, Jones will once again turn to young Munchie Legaux, who played extensively over the final four games. The sophomore from New Orleans has a ton of physical ability, but is still trying to flatten the learning curve as a passer. The Commodores can expect to see a heavy dose of RB Isaiah Pead, one of the nation's premier senior backs.

Cincinnati will win if … it sports a viable downfield threat out of the passing game.

Whether it's Collaros, Legaux or Jordan Luallen, for that matter, calling signals, the Bearcats will want to give Vanderbilt a reason not to stack the box to stop Pead. Cincinnati needs to get No. 23 out of the blocks, and past that underrated Commodores front seven. Besides blocking at the point of attack, the best way for the team to support its star back is with some early strikes to receivers D.J. Woods, Kenbrell Thompkins and Anthony McClung. The sophomore McClung, in particular, is capable of spreading out the Vanderbilt defense with his quickness and second gear on go-routes.

Vanderbilt will win if … it can solve the Cincinnati defense when it matters most.

On third downs, the Bearcats D ranks 13th nationally. In the red zone, they're 33rd in touchdowns allowed. If the Commodores are going to get out of Memphis with a winning record, they'll have to execute during crunch time. That'll mean a few more touchdowns and fewer field goal attempts from Spear. Stacy, like Pead, will need his quarterback to have his back as often as possible by fashioning some element of surprise and degree of unpredictability. Vanderbilt doesn't often win games because of Rodgers, but it hopes he can be a little more involved with the outcome of the Liberty Bowl. If the Commodores are going to remain on an offensive uptick, all of Rodgers' diverse skills must be on display.

What Will Happen: With two equally talented teams squaring off, you can bank on the 53rd Liberty Bowl coming down to the last possession or two.

Vanderbilt and Cincinnati both have terrific defenses, all-star feature backs and a degree of uncertainty at quarterback. The gap between the combatants is razor-thin. For the Commodores, the difference will come down to a tougher regular season proving ground and a little more want-to. Although Pead, Stacy and the two defenses will make most of the headlines on this afternoon, Rodgers will pilot the winning drive. In a four-quarter scrum, he'll find budding big-play WR Jordan Matthews behind the Bearcats at least a couple of times. The final one will put Vanderbilt in a position for the game-winning score, and a triumphant finish to Franklin's first season in Nashville.

CFN Prediction: Vanderbilt 26 … Cincinnati 23
- Click For Latest Line From ATS: Vanderbilt -2.5   O/U: 49.5
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The Wake Forest game stands out; Vanderbilt was brilliant with an improving offense over the second half of the season. Don't undersell Cincinnati, though, even with Zach Collaros out for the year.

By Richard Cirminiello 
Two unheralded, yet talented, defenses will square off in Memphis, a relatively short trip for both schools' fan base.

By Matt Zemek
Vanderbilt will be sky-high for this clash. Cincinnati will have to match the Commodores' energy from the start; it won't be easy for the Bearcats to do just that.

By: Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee  
James Franklin has made waves in recruiting and on the field in his inaugural season. A trip to Memphis could only help Vanderbilt's recruiting.

By Russ Mitchell
Vandy has been one of the more exciting teams to watch this season. It's defense is ranked sixth best in the conference - a conference that has both LSU and Bama. It's fourth best in the SEC against the run. Cincinnati did a great job rebounding from the injury to QB Zach Collaros. This will be an exciting game, and a short trip for both fan bases.

By Terry Johnson
Rushing yards will be hard to come by in this game, as Vanderbilt and Cincinnati only allow 3.4 and 2.6 yards per carry, respectively.

By Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN
Vandy got its six wins by beating up on non-conference opponents, and although Cincinnati went 5-2 in the Big East, the SEC has it all over them.
Best Bowl Moments
Best Bearcat Bowl Moment: Even a broken hand and unseasonably cold weather in Texas couldn't keep Cincinnati quarterback Gino Guidugli from carving up the Marshall defense in the 2004 Fort Worth Bowl. The senior threw for 231 yards and a pair of touchdowns, leading the Bearcats to a 32-14 victory, their first in postseason play in seven years.

Best Commodore Bowl Moment: Four bowl appearances have produced two victories for Vanderbilt, one of which occurred more than half a century ago in the 1955 Gator Bowl. Facing SEC rival Auburn, Vanderbilt pulled away behind the heroics of quarterback Don Orr, who was questionable to even dress for the game. Still recovering from a dislocated elbow suffered a month earlier, he rebounded with a touchdown pass and two touchdown runs to earn game MVP honors.

Liberty Bowl History
2010 (Dec.) UCF 10, Georgia 6
2010 Jan.) Arkansas 20, East Carolina 17 OT
2009 Kentucky 25, East Carolina 19
2007 Miss St 10, UCF 3
2006 South Carolina 44, Houston 36
2005 Tulsa 31, Fresno State 24
2004 Louisville 44, Boise State 40
2003 Utah 17, Southern Miss 0
2002 TCU 17, Colorado State 3
2001 Louisville 28, BYU 10
2000 Colorado State 22, Louisville 17
1999 Southern Miss 23, Colorado State 17
1998 Tulane 41, BYU 27
1997 Southern Miss 41, Pitt 7
1996 Syracuse 30, Houston 17
1995 East Carolina 19, Stanford 13
1994 Illinois 30, East Carolina 0
1993 Louisville 18, Michigan State 7
1992 Mississippi 13, Air Force 0
1991 Air Force 38, Mississippi State 15
1990 Air Force 23, Ohio State 11
1989 Mississippi 42, Air Force 29
1988 Indiana 34, South Carolina 10
1987 Georgia 20, Arkansas 17
1986 Tennessee 21, Minnesota 14
1985 Baylor 21, LSU 7
1984 Auburn 21, Arkansas 15
1983 Notre Dame 19, Boston Coll 18
1982 Alabama 21, Illinois 15
1981 Ohio State 21, Navy 28
1980 Purdue 28, Missouri 25
1979 Penn State 9, Tulane 6
1978 Missouri 20, LSU 15
1977 Nebraska 21, North Carolina 17
1976 Alabama 36, UCLA 6
1975 USC 20, Texas A&M 0
1974 Tennessee 7, Maryland 3
1973 NC State 31, Kansas 18
1972 Georgia Tech 31, Iowa State 30
1971 Tennessee 14, Arkansas 13
1970 Tulane 17, Colorado 3
1969 Colorado 47, Alabama 33
1968 Mississippi 34, Virginia Tech 17
1967 NC State 14, Georgia 7
1966 Miami 14, Virginia Tech 7
1965 Mississippi 13, Auburn 7
1964 Utah 32, West Virginia 6
1963 Miss State 16, NC State 12
1962 Oregon State 6, Villanova 0
1961 Syracuse 15, Miami 14
1960 Penn State 41, Oregon 12
1959 Penn State 7, Alabama 0

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