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2014 BBVA Compass Bowl - Vandy 41, Houston 24

2014 BBVA Compass Bowl - Vandy 41, Houston 24

2013-2014 Bowls - CFN's Preview & Prediction for the 2014 BBVA Compass Bowl

Vanderbilt 41, Houston 24
Basically … Vanderbilt was in total control, getting up 24-0 in the first half on two 50-yard touchdown catches from Jordan Matthews and helped by an eight-yard Patton Robinette touchdown run, but the turnovers started to flow and Houston came roaring back with a 24-point third quarter as Deontay Greenberry caught a 67-yard touchdown pass, Markeith Ambles caught a six-yarder, Kenneth Farrow added a six-yard scoring run and Kyle Bullard hit a 30-yard field goal, and then the roof caved in. The Commodores scores 17 unanswered points on touchdown runs from Brian Kimbrow and Jerron Seymour, and Carey Spear added a 35-yard field goal, to put the Cougars away.

- Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews caught five passes for 143 yards and two touchdowns.
- Houston QB John O'Korn completed 20-of-47 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns with two picks, and ran seven times for 38 yards.
- Vanderbilt P Colby Cooke punted ten times for 452 yards with six put inside the 20 averaging 45.2 yards per kick.
- Houston WR Markeith Ambles caught six passes for 105 yards and a touchdown.
- Vanderbilt CB Andre Hal made 7.5 tackles with a pick with three broken up passes.
- Houston LB Steven Taylor made a game-high 11.5 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss.
- Turnovers; Houston 3 – Vanderbilt 3
- Third down conversions: Vanderbilt 2-of-17 – Houston 1-of-17

CFN PREVIEW

Houston (8-4) vs. Vanderbilt (8-4) Jan. 4, 1:00, ESPN

Here's The Deal … Houston and Vanderbilt meet for the first time, both looking to end up-and-down seasons with their ninth win.

The Commodores were hoping that a strong finish might propel them to a bigger bowl venue. No such luck. Despite ending the regular season 5-1, including statement wins over Georgia, Florida and Tennessee, they were passed over by the Gator Bowl, Liberty Bowl and Chick-fil-A Bowl. Still, it was another successful campaign in Nashville that could end with another Top 25 ranking if Vandy gets out of Legion Field with a victory. Oh, and as an added bonus, popular head coach James Franklin remains on the payroll, the most important element to the program's long-term success.

Houston has enjoyed a rebound season under second-year head coach Tony Levine, a much-needed turnaround after falling to 5-7 in 2012. The Cougars, too, came painfully close to earning a berth in a much bigger bowl event, losing their four games by an average of only five points. In one frustrating three-game stretch in November, the program fell to the three top teams in the American Athletic Conference, UCF, Louisville and Cincinnati, by no more than a touchdown apiece.

Players to Watch: Not only has Houston turned the corner in 2013, but it's done so with a true freshman, John O'Korn, under center. O'Korn was supposed to caddy for David Piland this fall until the latter's career was ended by multiple concussions. The passing attack hasn't skipped a beat. O'Korn ranks second in the league to Teddy Bridgewater with 26 touchdown passes, while throwing just eight interceptions. He's also formed quite a relationship with big-play WR Deontay Greenberry, who'll benefit from more than a month of rest and inactivity.

O'Korn and Greenberry will be facing one of their toughest challenges of the 2013 season, the Vanderbilt defensive backfield. The Commodores rank third in the SEC in pass efficiency defense, while picking off 16 passes. The unit is spearheaded by a couple of dynamite next-level defenders, CB Andre Hal and FS Kenny Ladler. Hal, assuming he's completely healthy, has the cover skills and the experience to minimize Greenberry's damage. Ladler has once again been a game-changer for the ‘Dores, leading them with 87 tackles, five interceptions and five forced fumbles.

After playing most of the season with a torn ACL in his left knee, Vanderbilt QB Austyn Carta-Samuels underwent surgery that'll keep him out of the BBVA Compass Bowl. Patton Robinette will start in his place, a role that's not unfamiliar to the redshirt freshman. He played plenty in his first year, though he was more dangerous as a runner than a passer. Robinette has more than a month to sharpen his passing skills and get better acquainted with one of the country's top receivers, Jordan Matthews. Even with the uncertainty at quarterback this fall, Matthews managed to catch 107 balls for 1,334 yards and five touchdowns, though none since Oct. 5.

Turnovers will somehow impact the outcome of this game. Vanderbilt is second in SEC takeaways. Houston is first … in the country. The Cougars have recovered 17 fumbles and picked off 23 passes, the trademark of David Gibbs' athletic and attacking unit. Houston is going to bring the heat from every possible angle, pressing the action with the likes of linebackers Efrem Oliphant and Derrick Mathews, and defensive backs Trevon Stewart and Adrian McDonald. Even with OT Wesley Johnson anchoring the left side of the line, the Commodores have had issues keeping the pocket clean.

Houston will win if … it consistently converts on third downs.

The Cougars need to prove early on that they can move the sticks on a quality SEC defense. The offense went in reverse in November, struggling to extend drives and score six. Heck, when facing the quality defensive units of UCF, Louisville and Cincinnati, Houston averaged less than 15 points in those defeats. Levine needs to get O'Korn off to a fast start, while a little more help from running backs Ryan Jackson and Kenneth Farrow would serve as an unexpected bonus for the offense.

Vanderbilt will win if … Robinette can maximize the many talents of Matthews.

The Commodores flat-out can't run the ball, and probably won't against Houston either. They haven't averaged more than four yards a carry in a game since facing UAB back on Sept. 28. If the team is going to score, it'll have to unleash Matthews on the Cougar secondary, which means Robinette has to perform like the heir apparent in Nashville. He has got to be careful when dropping back to pass, remaining mindful of the speed and the tenacity of the opponent's back seven. If the young quarterback falls into Houston's turnover trap, it'll spend the afternoon playing from behind.

What Will Happen: The BBVA Compass Bowl will be close. Bad news for Houston.

The Cougars have struggled to get over the hump this season in games decided by a touchdown or less, losing four straight such nail-biters. Make it five in a row against a gritty Vanderbilt team that'll find a way to pull out a hard-fought victory. The Commodores will win with defense and a conservative offensive approach that limits turnovers, accentuates the legs of Robinette and involves Matthews just enough to keep Houston from loading up at the line of scrimmage.

Prediction: Vanderbilt 27 … Houston 23
Line: Vanderbilt -2.5 – O/U: 53.5
Must See Rating: (5 Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight – 1 I Dream of NeNe: The Wedding) … 2.5
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