BBVA Compass Bowl 2014: Vanderbilt Commodores 41, Houston Cougars 24: Objectives

Stacy Revere

The questions are about to start mounting for Vanderbilt. But for now, they've closed out yet another successful season with a win

There's no way for Vanderbilt's fans, players or to some degree James Franklin to determine what happens next for this football program. The greatest single player on the team, Jordan Matthews, is graduating. Opponents like Florida and Tennessee are unlikely to be down forever. And, of course, Franklin could soon face a  decision on whether he wants to continue to coach at Vanderbilt or take a shot somewhere else.

But on Saturday afternoon, none of that mattered. And for all but one quarter of their game against Houston, the Commodores played like none of it mattered. Vanderbilt scored 24 points in the first half, then tacked on 17 more in the fourth quarter after Houston rallied to tie the game in the third.

You could say the defense played a major role in winning this game, but it also almost played a major role in losing it. Vanderbilt allowed Houston to gain 309 yards in the third quarter, limiting the Cougars to just 72 yards the rest of the game. It might be one of the most bipolar box scores ever put together, but it worked.

Meanwhile, what do you say about Jordan Matthews? Sure, Brian Kimbrow (13 carries, 75 yards, one touchdown) and Jerron Seymour (20 carries, 89 yards, a touchdown) had good days on the ground, but Matthews essentially was the passing game for Vanderbilt. He caught five of the six passes Patton Robinette completed for 143 yards and two touchdowns. He wasn't a major factor in the fourth quarter, as the Commodores went to the Wildcat for the game-winning drives and Matthews ended up with zero receptions in the second half, but his performance in the first half still made the win possible.

What happens next? Who knows? Saturday's win showed why Franklin's name has been connected to so many jobs, and the loss of Matthews either makes next year's quest for a third straight nine-win season that much harder or makes it more tempting for Franklin to look elsewhere. But all anyone connected with the program could do today was make sure that the second straight nine-win season was in the books. And, save for one sloppy quarter, they did so convincingly.

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