A tale of four quarters: Vanderbilt wins the Compass Bowl, 41-24

IMG-20140104-00049As reported, we went to watch Vanderbilt and Houston play in the Compass Bowl on Saturday, and from the start, my first trip to Birmingham did not disappoint. Arriving into town, I had my first new experience of the day: a traffic jam of cars decked out in Commodore regalia trying to get into the game. Some people complained about logistical failures surrounding the game, but I saw none, and this traffic jam was a good sign of the growing support of the program.

Once inside, we quickly found our seats, or some seats anyway, which happened to be on the Houston side of Legion Field, the site of soccer matches during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. I didn’t know if anyone from Houston would come for this game, and while the crowd (reported attendance 42,717) was probably two-thirds Vanderbilt fans, Houston’s band, cheer squad, and Texas rangers were there in full force. (I’m using the term “Texas rangers” to describe the male students shown in the picture above in the light brown longcoats and matching hats. Click the photo to enlarge it, or see a closeup here.)

The festivities really got underway when something called “Black Jack Billy” sang the national anthem as two men using American/POW-MIA flags as parachutes and emitting thick clouds of USA-colored smoke circled and landed on the field. (Video.)

After all of that, some football started happening, for one team, anyway. While Houston netted twelve yards of offense and no first downs in the first half thanks to an ineffective passing strategy, Vanderbilt moved the ball relatively easily, particularly on the ground, and went into the locker room at halftime with a 24-0 lead. Continue reading

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ALDLAND goes live to the Compass Bowl

cbFor the third consecutive year, Vanderbilt is playing in a college football bowl game, and, I am fortunate to be able to say, for the third consecutive year, I will be in attendance. (My usual bowling companion is unavailable this time, but ALDLAND’s own Physguy will be joining me.) After two games– the Liberty and Music City Bowls– inside the state of Tennessee, Vanderbilt achieved their goal of playing a bowl game outside their home state when they accepted an invitation to play in the Compass Bowl in Birmingham.

My preview post of all of this year’s bowl games has been called “Pulitzer-worthy,” and while my prediction record has proved middling at best, I stand by my prediction for the Compass Bowl:

Vanderbilt will make it three bowl appearances in a row when they play Houston in the Compass Bowl on January 4 in Birmingham. Considering they’ve only played in six bowl games ever before this season, that’s a pretty remarkable achievement. This is their fourth bowl game since 2008, and they bring a 2-1 postseason record from those games into this one. Mobile backup quarterback Patton Robinette will start the game for Vandy on account of starter Austyn Carta-Samuels’ season-ending injury. Carta-Samuels played his last three games this season– all VU wins– with a torn ACL. Another Vandy note: Commodore players donated their bowl per-diem stipends to a children’s charity. Houston has had a resurgence in recent years, but they aren’t the same without Kevin Sumlin, Case Keenum, Clyde, and Olajuwon. The Commodores should register another nine-win season.

The Compass Bowl has been known as the Birmingham Bowl and the PapaJohns.com Bowl, and it has been played annually in Birmingham since 2006. (Birmingham’s bowl history long predates the Compass Bowl, though, as it has been the host of the Dixie Bowl (1947-8), the Hall of Fame Classic (1977-85, now the Outback Bowl in Tampa), and the All-American Bowl (1986-90).) Pittsburgh has appeared in the Compass Bowl three times; no other team has appeared more than once.

Vanderbilt’s opponent, Houston, also finished the year with an 8-4 record, posting wins over Rutgers and South Florida, as well as a shutout win against SMU. The Cougars struggled in the second half of the season, however, while the Commodores finished strong. Tomorrow marks the first-ever meeting between these two teams. It also will be the last-ever game for SEC-leading receiver Jordan Matthews in a Vanderbilt uniform.

As always, keep track of our coverage here and on Twitter. The game starts at 1:00 Eastern on ESPN.