A thriller in Houston concluded with the Bears and Commodores going back and forth. Both teams provided plenty of offense as the Baylor Bears came out on top 45-38.
An instant classic was played in Houston last night. The Baylor Bears (6-6) and the Vanderbilt Commodores (6-6) went at it all night, from beginning to end. However, it would be the Bears, led by QB Charlie Brewer, that got the last laugh.
There were a number of plays that occurred during the game that left fans with their jaws dropped. In fact, the final Bears drive happened to be magical. Overall, the game proved to be a delightfully different twist on what has otherwise been a lackluster bowl season. Let’s break down the game quarter by quarter.
Ever heard of instant offense? Boy oh boy did Vanderbilt add new meaning to that. At first, it looked as if it was going to be the Commodores all day long. As a matter of fact, Vandy’s first drive only took three plays, and they scored in 56 seconds. Yes, 56 seconds. Khari Blasingame took a pass from Kyle Shurmur and ran 65 yards with it to open up the scoring.
Khari Blasingame goes 65 yards to the house. pic.twitter.com/t3ePsFnJuf
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) December 28, 2018
That man can run. As for the Bears, things looked sluggish and it seemed like they were in for a long night. Their first drive took four minutes and 48 seconds for 12 plays and 69 yards. All of that for a field goal. However, the Baylor defense stood their ground for a bit and allowed the Bears offense to take the lead. Again, however, Baylor took too much time off the clock. It took the Bears four minutes and 35 seconds to score. While they took the lead 10-7, Vandy came back in a flash. How fast? It took them a minute and 56 seconds to retake the lead.
In the first quarter, Baylor’s pace was way slower compared to Vanderbilt. It took the Bears nearly 10 minutes to put up 10 points. Meanwhile, Vandy ran up and down in a little more than five minutes to lead at the end of the first quarter 14-10.
At the beginning of this quarter, the Bears picked up the pace. In fact, it only took them three minutes and 50 seconds to run eight plays, the conclusion an 18 yard run by JaMycal Hasty. Back came the lightning Commodores and that man. My oh my did Ke’Shawn Vaughn come to play in this game.
He. Could. Go. All. The. Way. AGAIN!!
Can't stop Ke'Shawn Vaughn. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/aKC8lTmV3Q
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) December 28, 2018
Baylor had no answer for Vaughn in the first half. As a matter of fact, Mr. Vaughn was incredible in the first half. Get this. Vanderbilt had a total of 175 rushing yards at the end of the second quarter. Vaughn had 150 yards all to himself by halftime. Yikes! The game could have been a bit closer had Bears kicker Connor Martin not missed a 21-yard field goal attempt. At halftime, it looked like Vandy’s game to win. The score was 21-17 Commodores.
Things took a bit of a twist in the second half. In fact, drastically different. If the first half was Vandy’s, then the script flipped on them in the third quarter. Indeed it was now Baylor playing at a faster pace. In two minutes and six seconds, Baylor went down 75 yards that concluded with a 34 yard run by Trestan Ebner. Baylor 24-21 to start the third off.
After a sequence of defensive stops, things got really interesting at the five-minute mark. Charlie Brewer capped off a three minute and 42-second drive with a rushing touchdown of his own. Baylor 31-21 at this point. It looked over for the Commodores. However, Shurmur and the Vandy offense responded with a short drive of their own to bring the score to 31-28, Bears.
Vaughn was practically a non-factor in the third quarter. While he had 150 yards to his name in the first half, he only managed four yards the entire third quarter.
It was game on in the fourth. Vandy marched down 80 yards in one minute to have the drive capped off by a Blasingame one yard touchdown. Vandy up 35-31. However, it wasn’t over yet.
On the kickoff return for Baylor, Ebner exploded for a 75 yard run down the field. Just like that, 12 seconds later, the Bears were back up 38-35 with 9:19 left.
After some long drives, Vanderbilt managed to come back and tie the whole game up at 38 a piece with 3:30 left. The game looked destined for overtime. By this time the game could have been considered a classic.
Then Brewer found Marques Jones for the final 52-yard touchdown pass and that basically sealed the game and the bowl for the Bears.
Here are the full game highlights from last night. Check out that ridiculous interception in the fourth quarter!
Things to note
Kyle Shurmur became the all-time leader in Vanderbilt football in several categories during this game. Shurmur moved past Jay Cutler in the school’s all-time passing yards category with 8,865 career passing yards. The previous record was 8,697. He also broke the pass attempts. most touchdowns, and most completions records during this game.
Most passing yards ✅
Most passing touchdowns ✅
What a career for Kyle Shurmur. 👏👏 pic.twitter.com/J3C01Gv4Ga
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) December 28, 2018
Ke’Shawn Vaughn rushed for a total of 243 yards, the most by an SEC player this season. In fact, during this game, Vaughn averaged 18.7 yards per rush. That is the most in a bowl game in the last 15 years.
Charlie Brewer won the Texas Bowl MVP for the Bears in an impressive show of resolve and grit. He finished 21/34 for 384 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception, and a QBR of 90.4.
Attendance at NRG Stadium for this game was a bit over 51,000. Both schools made their presence felt with the fans on both ends.
The Bears were superbly efficient with 4th down conversions. As a matter of fact, they were 5-5. While their pace was killing them in the first half, the defense made enough adjustments to win the time of possession battle.
Baylor TOP: 35:26, Vandy TOP: 24:34
This game featured 1241 total yards of offense, that is the 4th most of any bowl game.
The referees had a tough game this time around. A number of missed calls including six pass interference, a couple of face mask calls, and several others. In total, about 10 penalties were missed in the second half and about 12 total that could have been called were not.
While the game had plenty of offense, it is very evident what side of the ball both teams need to work on if they expect to make the jump next year. However, it was a tale of two halves for Vanderbilt. At the start, they played with great pace and answered every time the Bears scored.
For Baylor, at times they looked confused on offense in the first half. However, that was fixed in the second half and they were back to playing fast just like the Bears of old. As with the Commodores, they didn’t have enough to answer the call in the fourth quarter. Bears head coach Matt Rhule heads into the offseason with a 7-6 record, a bowl win, and nice foundation to work with after two years in charge.
He talked about his receivers and that “it’s just a matter of quarterbacks doing a great job of getting the ball to the right guys.” When asked about all the emotion the players brought to the game he said: “nobody knows how hard we work, you know, and the coaches, players, and everybody.” Our CEO Ralph Garcia asked him about the adjustments the team had to make in the locker room at the half and he replied: “they were having fast drives and we were having 7-9 play drives, and you could see some of their guys starting to get tired.”
Basically, a great night in Houston caps off a remarkable turnaround season for Baylor.
Ultimately, both teams played great and gave it their all. For Vanderbilt, the narrative of starting games slow continues to be a staple of the Derek Mason era. However, Mason has done a great job keeping the program afloat. Hopefully, he is able to add some defense and work his knowledge with them.
Of Vaughn, Mason said: “I think Ke’Shawn, you know, will get the information from the NFL and really respond to that information accordingly. The reality is, he’s always been a good back. I mean, I don’t think that’s changed. I think he’s an elite back. I think, capable of when the time is right of maybe being a first-round back, but there’s a lot of distance between now and then, like in my opinion. But I’ve always said he’s special. That’s why I wanted Ke’Shawn back here at Vanderbilt and I’m glad to have him, and as of now he’s a Commodore.”
Also, a quick shout out to both of the marching bands from each school for putting on a great show at the half.
That’s a wrap for the Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl. What a night in H-Town. Best of luck to both the Baylor Bears and Vanderbilt Commodores next season.
Baylor on the field postgame celebration
Hardworking, loyal, and passionate. I love the people that surround me because they allow me to be who I am. A lover of sports, video games, and life itself. I am a son, a brother, an uncle, and a person who holds nothing but love in his heart. I do this for Rosa Maria Magana and Edward Magana. A.k.a my folks in heaven. Music and sports keep me alive and well.