It looked for a while like Vanderbilt was going to coast to an easy victory over Houston in the 2013 BBVA Compass Bowl.
Then the third quarter happened.
The Commodores blew a 24-0 halftime lead by allowing 24 third-quarter points to Houston, then put the Cougars away with 17 fourth-quarter points to win their second-straight bowl game, 41-24.
Vanderbilt finished 9-4, tied for the most wins in school history. Houston dropped to 8-5.
The Cougars managed just 23 yards of offense in the first half but came to life early in the third quarter when Patton Robinette’s fumble allowed Houston to take over at the Vanderbilt six yard line. Kenneth Farrow punched it in on the next play to put the Cougars on the board. Houston forced a three-and-out on Vandy’s next possession and the Cougars then drove 86 yards in six plays for another score, this one a six-yard touchdown pass from John O’Korn to Markeith Ambles. Vandy moved the ball 20 yards on four plays on its next drive and was forced to punt it away. O’Korn found Ambles for 58 yards and that set up a 30-yard field goal from Kyle Bullard. Suddenly, it was 24-17 and the Cougars were on fire.
Houston held Vandy again on the next series and O’Korn completed the comeback with a 67-yard touchdown strike to Deontay Greenberry.
The game entered the fourth quarter tied at 24, with all the momentum on the side of Houston.
But the Commodores re-grouped and drove 82 yards on seven plays — all on the ground — with Brian Kimbrow scoring from 21 yards out to make it 31-24. O’Korn threw an interception on the next series and that turned into a 35-yard field goal from Carey Spear. Vandy was up 10 and finally had the game in hand when O’Korn’s second pick turned into a short touchdown plunge by Jerron Seymour to make the final score 41-24.
To Houston’s credit, it did not go down without a fight. In the end, it didn’t have enough gas in the tank to overcome its fourth quarter mistakes.
As for Vandy, it averted disaster and once again showed why it is no longer the Vandy of old. This is a program on the rise and, if they can keep head coach James Franklin in the fold for the foreseeable future, there’s no reason the Commodores can’t start competing for SEC East titles.