The numbers that mattered in Cincinnati's 31-24 win over Vanderbilt, from Isaiah Pead's rushing, to Jordan Rodgers' iffy passing, to the best block you saw all day.
228: Combined rushing yards gained by Isaiah Pead and George Winn in the 2011 Liberty Bowl. This was, for the most part, the rare "exciting defensive battle." Neither team gained more than 301 yards, and the teams combined for 11 three-and-outs, but there were still big plays to be made. With Zach Collaros showing quite a bit of rust after coming back from a broken ankle (this was his first game since November 12), however, the Bearcats had to lean on their running game for explosiveness. Cincinnati's first five drives generated just 40 yards, but on the sixth, Winn ripped off a 69-yard run to tie the game at 7-7; then, with Cincinnati clinging to a tight lead, Pead's 10 fourth-quarter carries went for 62 yards, and his 12-yard touchdown with 1:52 remaining put the game away.
15: Yards for which backup running back Wesley Tate engaged Cincinnati's Camerron Cheatham on the best block of the day in any game. Backup quarterback Larry Smith triggered a quick, seemingly harmless bubble screen to Chris Boyd; because of Tate's block, which was so effective that he used Cheatham to take out a second Cincinnati defender as well, a six- or eight-yard gain turned into a go-ahead, 68-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
Smith earned 68 passing yards on this play, and Boyd gets 68 receiving yards, but this would have been about a five-yard gain if Tate hadn't done his job so well.
Of course, this play would have meant a lot more had Cincinnati's Ralph Abernathy not returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown.
8: Consecutive Liberty Bowls that have been decided by a touchdown or less. Seriously, your team isn't playing in a bowl game, and you want to have a good time? What about an exciting game, good food, and Beale Street (and Divers) for New Year's Eve? Does that possibly sound appealing? This game didn't hit fifth gear until the fourth quarter, but the Liberty Bowl almost always hits fifth gear at some point.
5.9: Cincinnati's turnover points margin. The Bearcats outgained Vandy and won the turnovers battle, but they very much struggled to put the Commodores away. (Of course, if they hadn't missed two field goals, that would have helped their cause a bit.)
2.0: Average gain on Zach Collaros' 32 pass attempts. One of the storylines heading into this game was whether Collaros could avoid serious rust after breaking his ankle just seven weeks ago. That he was playing at all was damn impressive. But his performance was not. He was about as inaccurate as you would have expected, and against a solid Vandy secondary, he and his receiving corps just couldn't get on the same page. The final stat line: 12-for-29 passing, 80 yards, one touchdown, two picks, three sacks and quite a bit of limping. But thanks to his teammates (fellow senior Pead certainly went out in style), he also finished with a win.
And it could have been worse: he could have been Jordan Rodgers.
1.2: Average gain on Jordan Rodgers' 16 pass attempts. Aaron's little brother did not have a very good time in his first bowl appearance. His play over the last half of the season (70-for-124, 1,076 yards, seven touchdowns, four interceptions in his last five games) assured the Commodores of just their second bowl bid in 29 years, but he was flustered, pressured and completely ineffective: 4-for-14, 26 yards, one interception and two sacks for seven yards. That's 19 net yards in 16 attempts. He was supplanted by Larry Smith, the player he supplanted as starter in early October, and while Smith wasn't much better (his stat line was boosted considerably by Boyd's catch-and-run above) ... he was a little better. Vandy did, after all, score on three of Smith's seven possessions. They scored on only one of eight with Rogers.