UH falls to Vanderbilt after third quarter comeback

The Cougars scored 24 points in the 3rd quarter, but it wasn't enough to overcome their first-half deficit. | Caitlin Hilton/The Daily Cougar

The Cougars scored 24 points in the 3rd quarter, but it wasn’t enough to overcome their first-half deficit. | Caitlin Hilton/The Daily Cougar

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In what seemed to be a train wreck, a somewhat dismal performance from UH in the first half, which was followed by one of the largest comebacks in school history, eventually came to a disappointment, with the Cougars losing to Vanderbilt, 41-24, in the BBVA Compass Bowl.

Despite tying the game late in the third, the Cougars were just unable to dig themselves out of the 24-0 deficit that they uncharacteristically let build in the first half, not being able to build any offensive rhythm as the offense obtained zero first downs and only 18 yards of offense on 21 plays, which is less than one yard per play.

Both sides of the ball began to pick up the pace in the third quarter, with the offense posting more 300 yards of offense, compared to Vanderbilt’s, which had only 51 yards.

The Cougars spark began on that second possession of the second half, driving 66 yards in seven plays to the Commodores 6-yard line before failing to convert on fourth-and-3. Freshman quarterback John O’ Korn’s pass fell incomplete to a tightly covered sophomore receiver Larry McDuffey; it was a blitz, and had O’ Korn saw Jackson who was wide open in the flat, he would have had a walk-in touchdown.

However, two plays later, the defense forced their second turnover of the game when sophomore defensive tackle Tommie Mark punched the ball out of a Commodore running back, then recovered by sophomore defensive back William Jackson.
Sophomore running back Kenneth Farrow would finally put the Cougars on the scoreboard with a six-yard touchdown run with 10:12 remaining in the third quarter.

After the defense forced a Vanderbilt punt, junior receiver Markeith Ambles, who hasn’t exactly been the focal point of the offense since the season began, had his biggest game on the team’s biggest stage of the year. In the third quarter, alone, Ambles racked up 98 yards on five receptions, including a 58 yarder, and an acrobatic six-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone to trip the lead to 24-14 with 6:25 left in the third.

The Cougars finally made it a one-possession game at 24-17 with 3:19 left in the third after sophomore kicker Kyle Bullard nailed a 30-yard field goal.

Freshman quarterback John O’ Korn found a wide open sophomore receiver Deontay Greenberry, leaping in for the touchdown after he broke loose for a 67-yard touchdown to tie the game as the third quarter came to an end. The Cougars were able to rack up 309 yards — in third quarter, alone. Unfortunately for the Cougars, similar to their first half outing, their fourth quarter performance followed the same suit.

After Greenberry’s touchdown, the onslaught continued: sophomore defensive back Adrian McDonald, team’s “ballhawk” nabbed his sixth interception of the season. With a chance to take the lead, the UH offense stalled, as did the rest of their drives.
The Cougars have had games where their offense struggled against teams in the for certain stints of a game: Central Florida when UH was shut-out in the first half, Louisville when UH was shut-out in second half and today against Vanderbilt when UH was shut-out in the first half.

Senior cornerback Zachary McMillian got his fifth interception of the season for the second consecutive year, and 11 in his four seasons as a Cougar.

Vanderbilt’s premier receiver, Jordan Mathews, wreaked havoc in the first half, picking apart the Cougar defense in the first half with 5 catches for 143 yards for two touchdowns. But the opportunistic defense picked up, shutting him out in the second half and forcing three turnovers.

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