After missing out on a bowl game in 2012, Eric Braswell and the Houston Cougars now have a chance to prove themselves against a team from the best conference in the country.
Houston takes on Vanderbilt at noon Saturday in the BBVA Compass Bowl at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala.
The former Shoemaker Grey Wolf helped Houston’s defense (8-4) finish 16th nationally allowing 20.2 points per game.
Braswell finished the season with 19 tackles, including 3.5 for loss, three sacks and a pair of forced fumbles. Vanderbilt (8-4) comes into the game riding a four-game win streak.
Houston finished the regular season fourth in the American Athletic Conference while Vanderbilt finished fourth in the Southeastern Conference’s East Division.
Does it feel good to get back out there and prepare for another game?
Definitely. We’ve been off for a few days and it’s good to get back into the swing of things and start getting ready for Vanderbilt. It’s always good.
Do you think you have something to prove against Vanderbilt?
I definitely do. Even after whatever we’ve done, people still look at us as the underdogs. A few people project us to lose this game and they say we’re playing an SEC team. We definitely have something to prove.
The SEC has the reputation as the best conference. How excited were you when you heard of this matchup?
It’s a chance to show the world what we can do, especially playing a team from the best conference in the NCAA. It gives us a chance to prove ourselves.
Have you had a chance to scout out that Vanderbilt offensive line?
They’re big, they’re pretty physical, but it’s something that we can handle.
How did you guys keep your poise during that three-game losing streak in November?
When you’re losing, you can’t get your head caught up in losing. You have to realize why you’re losing, what’s happening, what you’re doing wrong and the things you weren’t doing before. You’ve got to persevere and get better every day.
Does your experience in the 2011 Ticket City Bowl help you stay focused on the game?
I think so. I actually had a chance to experience a bowl and we have a lot of young guys that haven’t had that opportunity.
I’ll be able to prepare myself better for whatever happens before the game and I’ll be able to guide the younger guys that haven’t been to a bowl game.
You guys closed out the regular season with a 34-0 win over SMU, that’s the ideal way to close out the regular season.
That’s definitely the way that we wanted to close out the season.
We worked really hard at practice every day and we wanted to come out and show that the little three-game slide wasn’t permanent. We wanted to prove ourselves to everybody.
You’re going to have more than a month between the SMU game and the Compass Bowl. Are you concerned with the layoff?
I don’t think so. At practice we compete, we go hard and it’s always a lot of competition. It’s always a lot of competition and I’m not worried at all.
We’re going to be ready, we’re going to come out there and we’re going to play.
What can a bowl win do for the momentum heading into 2014?
Any win will help the momentum. It’ll give us a better state of mind going into next year into a new stadium and new things going on.
Have you ever watched the Compass Bowl?
To be honest, I didn’t know that it was a bowl game until they were talking about us going to it.