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December 31, 2011Vanderbilt made three turnovers and gave up a fourth-quarter kickoff return for a touchdown, as the Commodores lost to Cincinnati in the Liberty Bowl by a 31-24 score on Saturday evening.
VU had just taken a 21-17 lead with 14:03 left in the game when backup quarterback Larry Smith hit Chris Boyd with a 68-yard touchdown pass on a bubble screen, and 12 seconds later, Ralph Abernathy ran the kickoff back 90 yards for a touchdown.
VU had a chance to take the lead after blocking a field goal late in the fourth quarter, but Smith's pass to Jordan Matthews was tipped into the hands of UC's Nick Temple and returned 12 yards to the VU 31.
Isaiah Pead tacked on a 12-yard touchdown with 3:15 left as part of a 28-carry, 150-yard performance.
VU's Ryan Fowler hit a 35-yard field goal with 23 seconds left to pull VU closer, but the Commodores couldn't recover the onside kick to win.
Vanderbilt's Casey Hayward intercepted a pair of passes to tie Leonard Coleman for the school's career record with 15 picks, but the 'Dores committed two other turnovers coming on Eric Samuels's fumble of the second-half kickoff at the VU 15, and a Jordan Rodgers interception.
VU dodged a bullet as neither of those miscues turned into points, and held UC to 300 yards, but couldn't get any distance on the Bearcats because of an offense that gained just 295 yards.
The Bearcats also had two huge first-half plays - a 69-yard touchdown by George Winn, and an 8-yard pass from Zach Collaros to Anthony McClung with 12 seconds left in the half - that gave them a 14-7 lead at the break.