Vanderbilt had pulled to within 21-17 on Chris Boyd's 68-yard TD catch a minute into the fourth quarter, but Abernathy returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, restoring Cincinnati's 11-point lead.
George Winn ripped off a 69-yard touchdown run in the first half and Zach Collaros returned from a broken right ankle to toss a scoring pass for the Bearcats (10-3).
Big East Conference Offensive Player of the Year Isaiah Pead amassed 150 yards on 28 carries and a touchdown in the win.
Larry Smith went 8-of-19 for 142 yards, one TD and one interception for the Commodores (6-7).
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