Case Keenum got off to a slow start but once he got in a groove he and the #17 Houston Cougars were nearly unstoppable. Keenum set the Football Bowl Subdivision record for career touchdown passes after throwing for a career high nine touchdowns and 534 yards in Houston’s 73-34 win against Rice in Conference USA play Thursday night.
Houston’s Tyron Carrier opened the game with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, which also tied an NCAA record for career kickoff returns for touchdowns. Carrier is tied with Clemson’s C.J. Spiller with seven kickoff return touchdowns. But the first quarter was all about Rice looking for an upset against Houston, who is looking to become the first BCS at-large team in Conference USA history. Rice intercepted Keenum and returned a Keenum fumble for a touchdown to jump out to a stunning 17-7 lead before Keenum threw the first of his nine touchdown passes on the final play of the first quarter, a 57-yard completion to Patrick Edwards.
Rice kicked a field goal early in the second quarter to take a 20-14 lead and that is when Keenum and the Cougars went off. Keenum threw three touchdowns in the second quarter, tying the career touchdown mark. Houston would score five touchdowns before Rice got back on the scoreboard, and with a 66-34 lead going in to the fourth quarter the Cougars were still throwing the football looking for more. Keenum’s final touchdown came on a 47-yard pass play to Edwards, who ended his night with five touchdown receptions, early in the fourth quarter.
“It’s always fun to be a part of Case’s records,” Edwards said. “We’re just out there doing our job and making him look good.”
“Patrick having five of them with more than 300 yards receiving is crazy as well,” Keenum said after the game. “I told the guys before the game, I kind of like playing in the game. I told the guys to keep playing hard and no matter what, rain, sleet, snow, hail, we got to roll with it.” The game started with some poor weather creeping in for the first quarter, which may have led to a couple miscues early on for Houston, including Keenum’s two turnovers and a missed field goal attempt by Rice as kicker Chris Boswell fell to the ground when his left foot failed to plant on he ground and slipped.
“You know he played very well, but let’s remember Patrick Edwards played pretty well too and so did Tyron Carrier,” Houston coach Kevin Sumlin said after the game. “For Carrier, that week off you knew he was limping off and playing hurt the last couple of weeks and now he has turned it up since he’s been healthy. He (Carrier) started it off with the opening kick-off for a touchdown. We weathered the storm, it was raining, and we turned over the ball twice to put our defense in bad positions to give up 14 points, and held them to 2 field goals for the rest of the first half. After that we were very efficient from that point on. As for Case and the offense, there was protection involved, they blitzed him again, which was the same game plan we saw last weekend and we can get the ball downfield.”
Keenum set the NCAA record for most career offensive yards last week and now has the NCAA career passing record in his eyesights. Keenum is just 267 yards shy of Hawaii quarterback Timmy Chang’s record of 16,910 career passing yards. Keenum has passed for at least 300 yards in every game of the season, so it should not take long for Keenum to grab the record next week when Houston plays at UAB. Houston has four games remaining this season, plus a possible Conference USA championship game and a bowl game. As long as Keenum remains healthy he will shatter the NCAA career passing record.
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