Vanderbilt smothered by No. 18 Houston defense in 34-0 loss
HOUSTON (AP) — Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason apologized for the way his team played Saturday night against No. 18 Houston.
In every facet of the game, Mason said the Commodores have to get better after Greg Ward Jr. threw for a score and ran for another and Houston’s defense forced four turnovers in a 34-0 romp.
“I apologize for the bad ball tonight,” Mason said. “We had to eliminate it and we didn’t but we will come back and we will get this thing fixed, that’s what I see.”
Ward rushed for a 5-yard score with three minutes left in the first and then found Demarcus Ayers for an 11-yard TD in the second quarter, as the Cougars led 20-0 at the half. Ward finished 15 of 23 passing for 221 yards and the Cougars reached 8-0 for the fourth time in school history and first time since 2011.
Kenneth Farrow carried 16 times for 82 yards and had a 15-yard rushing score near the end of the third quarter.
The Cougars outgained the Commodores 371-185, as Houston’s defense collected its first shutout since a 34-0 win over SMU on Nov. 29, 2013.
“I thought it was average all around,” Mason said. “The positive coming out of this — if there is a positive — is that these kids have to continue to know and understand that you cannot continue to turn the ball over; you have to make better decisions with the football and you have to play cleaner overall ... in order to have a chance to win games like this, especially in someone else’s house.”
Ayers finished with five catches for 59 yards, and Chance Allen had three receptions for 95 yards for Houston, which earned its second victory over a Power 5 conference this season after winning at Louisville 34-31 on Sept. 12.
Kyle Shurmur started for Vandy (3-5) and finished 3 of 11 for just 20 yards. Johnny McCrary didn’t fare much better in relief, finishing 2 of 9 for 24 yards. They combined for three interceptions.
“We have to get better play out of the QB position,” Mason said.
Ralph Webb rushed for 99 yards on 26 carries for the Commodores, who lost their seventh straight against a ranked opponent.
Vanderbilt didn’t cross into Houston territory until 12:08 remaining in the third quarter.
“It came down to the offense, defense and special teams playing with more heart, and we just didn’t come out there and play with enough of it,” linebacker Darreon Herring said. “It was definitely surprising to come out here and get beat 34-0, but it happened.”
Adrian McDonald set up Ward’s rushing touchdown when he intercepted McCrary at the Vanderbilt 5-yard line. Steven Taylor picked off Shurmur and returned it 25 yards to the Vandy 12 to set up Ward’s touchdown pass.
William Jackson III extended Houston’s lead to 27-0 with a 55-yard interception return for a touchdown with 3:28 left in the third quarter.
“It is hard to win a game when you basically score 21 points for the other team,” center Spencer Pully said. “That is what we did.”
Ty Cummings had field goals of 22 yards and 37 yards in the first half.
Ward set Houston’s single-season record for rushing touchdowns with his 16th, surpassing Jackie Battle’s 15 in 2006. Ward also set the career record for rushing touchdowns by a Houston quarterback with his 24th, passing Case Keenum.
The win was Houston’s sixth by 21 points or more this season, matching Baylor as the only FBS schools to do that.