QUICK HITS: Cincinnati 31, Vanderbilt 24
Posted on: December 31, 2011 7:15 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2011 7:24 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
CINCINNATI WON. Senior quarterback Zach Collaros took the field less than two months after breaking his ankle, and finished his Cincinnati career a winner as the Bearcats won a wild and crazy Liberty Bowl 31-24.
HOW CINCINNATI WON: Collaros' timing in the passing game looked off all afternoon, and he struggled to hit his wide receivers in stride. Luckily, the Bearcats' defense held Vanderbilt to just 295 total yards of offense and delivered an interception to set up Isaiah Pead's touchdown run to seal the victory. With the passing game struggling, Pead was the reliable workhorse in the offensive backfield for head coach Butch Jones. The Big East Offensive Player of the Year also finished his career in style: with 150 yards on 28 carries and the final touchdown with less than two minutes remaining. Credit Vanderbilt for fighting through their offensive woes to keep it interesting in the end, particularly the play of All-SEC cornerback Casey Hayward who led the way with two interceptions. But the offensive miscues ended up costing Vanderbilt in the end, and Cincinnati picked up a huge win in Year 2 of the Butch Jones era.
WHAT CINCINNATI WON: Their fourth 10+ win season in five years. Butch Jones has done an incredible job putting the pieces together after the 4-8 finish last season and quickly bringing Cincinnati right back to the place where Brian Kelly left it. Bearcats' fans had become accustomed to competing for Big East titles and playing in bowl games, so the struggles of 2010 were unfamiliar territory. With a share of the Big East title, and another 10-win season for the program; Jones has proven to the administration he's worth every penny of his restructured contract.
WHAT VANDERBILT LOST: A disappointing performance for Jordan Rodgers. After finishing the season with the starting job locked up, he looked shaky at the start and was eventually replaced by Larry Smith. Word from Vanderbilt during the game was a hip injury, but after completing just 4 of 14 passes for 26 yards and throwing an interception his substitution from the starting lineup may have been performance-related.
THAT WAS CRAZY: In the first minute of the fourth quarter, Vanderbilt took a 21-17 lead on Chris Boyd's 68 yard touchdown reception from Smith. Boyd was suffering from cramp in his right leg, but exploded down the sideline when he hauled in the catch. He began to limp as he approached the goal line, and collapsed to the ground once he reached the end zone. Cincinnati's defensive backs have been better this season, but getting burned for a deep touchdown by an injured wide receiver looked more like the unit that suffered against the pass in 2010.
BOWL GRADE: B+. I would have liked to see a better showing from both Collaros and Rodgers, but the forced turnovers and big special teams plays were exactly what I expected from these two squads. Two very promising young coaches on the rise featured here, and I'd guess we will see both coaches back in the postseason in 2012.
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Tags: Big East, Bowl Results, Bowl Schedule, Brian Kelly, Butch Jones, Chip Patterson, Chris Boyd, Cincinnati, Isaiah Pead, James Franklin, Jordan Rodgers, Larry Smith, Liberty Bowl, Liberty Bowl Reaction, Liberty Bowl Score, Liberty Bowl Summary, Munchie Legaux, SEC, Vanderbilt, Zac Stacy, Zach Collaros