Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014 | 2:10 p.m.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Patton Robinette threw two 50-yard touchdown passes to Jordan Matthews, and Vanderbilt recovered after blowing a 24-point lead to beat Houston 41-24 on Saturday in the BBVA Compass Bowl.
Robinette, starting after senior Austyn Carta-Samuels had season-ending surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee, also had an 8-yard scoring run as Vanderbilt built a 24-0 lead in the first half.
After Houston (8-4) pulled even by scoring 24 points in the third quarter, Vanderbilt reclaimed the lead on Brian Kimbrow's 21-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Vanderbilt (9-4) closed the season with five straight wins, adding to third-year coach James Franklin's status as a possible candidate for coaching vacancies, including at Penn State and with the NFL Browns and Redskins. The Commodores played in three straight bowl games under Franklin — a first for the program — and completed their first back-to-back nine-win seasons.
Vandy players doused Franklin with a water bucket in the final seconds.
Houston gained only 22 yards and had one first down in the first half but rallied with 24 points in the third quarter to pull even. Kenneth Farrow had a 6-yard scoring run and Deontay Greenberry and John O'Korn threw scoring passes to Markeith Ambles.
The Commodores regrouped with two big gains on direct snaps to running backs early in the fourth quarter. Jerron Seymour ran for 38 yards to the Houston 34. Kimbrow's touchdown run gave the lead back to Vanderbilt.
Jahmel McIntosh's interception less than a minute later gave the ball back to Vanderbilt, setting up Carey Spear's 35-yard field goal.
Seymour added a 2-yard scoring run with less than 2 minutes remaining.
Matthews, a senior who set Southeastern Conference records for career catches and yards receiving, had five catches for 143 yards and two touchdowns.
Matthews took advantage of a lead block by receiver Jonathan Krause to make his first touchdown catch on Vanderbilt's second possession.
A forced fumble by linebacker Chase Garnham set up the Commodores' second touchdown. After Houston's O'Korn threw a pass to Greg Ward Jr., a big hit by Garnham forced the fumbled recovered by Andrew Williamson at the Houston 16. Robinette, making his third career start, scored on an 8-yard keeper on fourth down.
No Houston defender was near Matthews on his second 50-yard scoring catch in the second quarter.
A lost fumble by Robinette set up Farrow's 6-yard touchdown run to start Houston's third-quarter comeback.
Houston built on the momentum. Daniel Spencer's 62-yard run set up O'Korn's 6-yard touchdown pass to Ambles. O'Korn's 58-yard pass to Ambles set up a 30-yard field goal by Kyle Bullard. The Cougars completed their big third-quarter comeback on O'Korn's 67-yard touchdown pass to Greenberry to tie the game.