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January 3, 2014

Ware Sees Two Different Styles

As the college football season draws near to completion it's fans are still constantly reminded of the inability to properly predict what the outcome will be of bowl match-ups which often feature two teams different in style and usually unfamiliar with each other.

For the Houston Cougars, they are no different as they get set to face off with Southeastern Conference foe Vanderbilt Saturday afternoon on the BBVA Compass Bowl held in Birmingham, Alabama. The odds makers have pegged the Commodores as a field goal favorite over the Cougars, which is a virtually non-existent number in situations like these.

Former Cougar great Andre Ware, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1989 and now has a successful broadcasting career will be a part of the team calling the game Saturday and shared his thoughts on the difficulties to accurately determine how the game will play out.

"You can't really get a read on the game because they are two different styles," Ware told CougarsDen Friday. "When you look at both programs you know that both teams will be buttoned up and they won't make mistakes."

The discipline the two programs show has a lot to do with the head coach and staffs that have been working towards this final game for over a month. Ware has a strong familiarity with both head coaches and has a great deal of respect for them.

"I admire both coaches a lot," he said of Tony Levine and James Franklin. "I got to know coach Levine throughout the offseason. We'd talk and we'd text and he is one of my favorite people. He is genuine and I have a lot of respect for him. On the flip side of that, I have gotten to know James Franklin over the last three years that he has been at Vanderbilt. He has been nothing but welcoming each and every time that we have gone in there and I feel like I have gotten to know him a great deal over that time and there is no one I have more respect for that him."

Both teams have shown the ability to score a lot of points on offense throughout the season. One glaring difference for Vanderbilt is the change at quarterback as senior Austyn Carta-Samuels, who started ten games for the Commodores, had surgery to repair a torn ACL shortly after the end of the regular season. Redshirt freshman Patton Robinette has some experience filling in for the injured Carta-Samuels but is not the more polished of the two. It is a change Ware thinks could play a role in the game. "I got to see Pat Robinette in his first start at Texas A&M, we had the call on that game," said Ware. "If you can get to him and if you can disrupt him a little bit he is certainly capable of turnovers. Without Carta-Samuels, who is the more experienced of the two I think you can force turnovers. If he (Carta-Samuels) were starting I think it would be less likely to get interceptions with him under center but with Robinette there is an opportunity there for the Cougars. With that being said he is an excellent runner so if you take some risks and come after him you are going to open up some things. That is kind of how he was used later in the year after Austyn came back is he was kind of used as a running specialist at quarterback especially down inside the redzone. Vandy doesn't turn the ball over a whole lot, especially fumbles so I don't think turnovers will come that way. I think the better opportunity will be in the form of interceptions."

Houston has depended a lot on their defenses ability to give them as many opportunities on offense as possible but Ware still thinks the Cougars can be in the game Saturday without having to depend solely on turnovers.

"I think they are going to have to score when they have opportunity," he said. "By that I mean Vanderbilt is going to try and chew up a lot of the clock, that is the kind of game I think they want to play, shorten the game keep the Cougars offense on the sidelines. If you can adopt the formula that A&M used which is to jump on them quick and put them in catch-up mode, that can create some turnovers. That puts them out of their element of what they really want to do offensively."

The biggest concern for the Cougars defense will no doubt be Commodores standout receiver Jordan Matthews who Ware speaks very highly of.

"He is a tough player to defend," Ware said of the All-American receiver. "Everybody, and I mean everybody, has tried different things to try and stop the guy. He is one of the best, if not the best in the country at his position in my opinion. The staff is smart enough that he is never in the same place from snap to snap. One minute you'll have him out at the Z position and the next minute he will be down in the slot. He knows all four of the wide receiver positions so it is hard to really get a game plan together to try and stop him unless you are willing to just commit one guy, your best cover man, all game long and he is still going to win some because he is still good at man-to-man coverage. It helps now too that they have a healthy Jonathan Krause who had been bothered by a hamstring who can now take attention off of Matthews. He is capable of breaking your back at any point in the game as well so that helps Matthews that there is another viable option out there. I think William Jackson has got to play a bigger role in this game because the two normal starters in there in Zach McMillian and Thomas Bates are smaller guys and I think Jackson matches up a little better there and may see more time with him maybe shadowing Matthews or at least to his side as they roll zone coverage that way."

Kick-off between the two teams is scheduled for noon Saturday and Ware will be joined by Dave Neal in the booth and sideline reporter Dawn Davenport on the ESPN broadcast.

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