HOUSTON -- Offense has been the calling card for No. 18 Houston with dynamic quarterback Greg Ward, but it was the defense that was dominant on Saturday as the Cougars shut out Vanderbilt, 34-0, at TDECU Stadium. Here's a breakdown:
What the win means for Houston: The Cougars (8-0) remain undefeated and will likely continue to climb in the national rankings. Where they stand in the season's first College Football Playoff rankings -- to be unveiled on Tuesday night -- will be a true barometer of where they sit among the undefeated Group of 5 teams in the race to get a New Year's Six bowl bid. Regardless of Vanderbilt's record, Saturday was a quality win for Houston over an SEC program that was coming off its best win of the season a week ago. Three of the Cougars' final four games will be a test as they host Cincinnati, Memphis and Navy.
What the loss means for Vanderbilt: Losing by such a wide margin has to be a bit of a gut punch for the Commodores, who had some real positive momentum after earning their first SEC win under head coach Derek Mason last week versus Missouri. The defense did a solid job in keeping Ward from gashing them in the running game, but offensively the Commodores could never get going. They played two quarterbacks (true freshman Kyle Shurmur and sophomore Johnny McCrary) for the second straight week, but both struggled as the Commodores' offense didn't cross midfield until the 12:08 mark of the third quarter.
How the game was won: Houston's defense was both stifling and opportunistic. The Cougars held Vanderbilt to a meager 185 yards and came up with four turnovers that led to 21 points. While Vandy kept Houston's offense from consistently sustaining drives early in the game, the Cougars' first two touchdowns came after interceptions that were returned into the red zone.
Stat of the game: Houston joined Baylor as the only FBS teams that have defeated six opponents this season by at least 21 points.
Top play: With Houston unable to get much going offensively early in the third quarter, cornerback William Jackson III put points on the board via defense. The senior intercepted a McCrary pass and made an impressive 55-yard return for a touchdown that gave the Cougars a commanding 27-0 lead.