Commodores ready to go bowling after 6-6 season

Vanderbilt tight end Cody Markel catches a 2-yard touchdown pass ahead of Tennessee defensive back Nigel Warrior in the second half of a game on Nov. 24 in Nashville. Vanderbilt beat Tennessee 38-13 and will take on Baylor in the Texas Bowl on Dec. 27 in Houston. Associated Press

By Bailey Brammer | Broadcast Managing Editor

The Bears are all set to go bowling on Dec. 27 in Houston where they will take on the Vanderbilt Commodores in the Texas Bowl.

Both teams went 6-6 on the season and neither team has made a bowl game appearance since 2016. The Commodores are led by head coach Derek Mason and finished sixth overall in the SEC-East, winning three of their last four games on the road to the bowl.

“They had to win their last two games to be bowl eligible,” said Baylor head coach Matt Rhule. “They went out and earned this, they’re going to be excited to play. We’re playing one of the best quarterbacks in the country and they know how to play defense. All those things will be really good for our team. We need to go out and defend a really good quarterback and we need to see if we can play really good up front versus an SEC defensive line.”

Senior quarterback Kyle Shurmur has passed for 2,844 yards this season and trails the school’s all-time career passer record by just 118 yards. Jay Cutler, former NFL quarterback, currently holds this Vanderbilt record, however Shurmur already broke Cutler’s career record for touchdown passes with 23.

The Bears will also have to watch out for redshirt junior running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, who boasts 1,001 rushing yards as well as 10 rushing touchdowns and 2 receiving touchdowns.

Vanderbilt began its season with big back-to-back non-conference wins over Middle Tennessee University on Sept. 1 and Nevada University on Sept. 8. The Dores then took on No. 3 Notre Dame in Indiana on Sept. 16 and almost upset the Fighting Irish. Vanderbilt held Notre Dame to only two touchdowns and held them scoreless in the third quarter, but the Fighting Irish ultimately came out on top and won 22-17.

In tougher matches, the Dores struggled to remain consistent. Vanderbilt lost to South Carolina at home on Sept. 22, but then took down Tennessee State on Sept. 29 in a close 31-27 comeback win.

The Commodores went on a three-game losing streak to ranked teams, dropping the ball to Georgia on Oct. 6, Florida on Oct. 13 and Kentucky on Oct. 20. While the game against Georgia was a blowout, Vanderbilt stayed close to both Florida and Kentucky and held their high-powered offenses on key plays.

In an end-of-the-season spurt, Vanderbilt won three of its last four games, defeating Arkansas on Oct. 27, Ole Miss on Nov. 17 and longtime rival Tennessee on Nov. 24 to secure bowl eligibility.

Vanderbilt and Baylor have played each other twice, and the Bears won both match-ups: 47-6 in Waco in 1953 and 25-19 in Nashville in 1954. The Commodores have nine bowl appearances and a 4-1-3 all-time bowl record.

Rhule and Mason coached against each other when Rhule was at Temple in 2014 in Mason’s first game as head coach.

“I thought it was really cool for us to play an SEC team … I’ve had a chance to coach against Coach Mason before, he’s a tremendous coach,” Rhule said. “We know it will be a great challenge, one that we’re excited about, and we’re looking forward to [it].”

The Commodores and the Bears take the field at 8 p.m. on Dec. 27 in Houston.