Conference USA‘s top team looks for another big game from their star quarterback, Case Keenum. Can Houston avoid a Conference USA upset against UTEP Thursday night?
UTEP (2-2, 1-0 Conference USA) vs. Houston (4-0)
8 p.m. Eastern, CBS Sports Network
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Houston’s Case Keenum was thought of as a Heisman candidate in 2010 before suffering a season ending knee injury in a game against UCLA. A year later, the Heisman campaign is trying to build up some steam once again with Keenum looking like he never lost a step on the field.
Keenum has already passed for 1,534 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. That is more passing touchdowns than all but 11 college football teams in the nation and more passing yards than every program except Oklahoma State. But for Keenum to work his way in to the Heisman conversation he will need to keep piling up some big numbers and help Houston avoid the loss column. The Cougars are on the verge of cracking the top 25 polls and may just be a win or two from doing so.
“As far as right now, Case has done a lot statistically and obviously he is going to go down as one of the great quarterbacks in college football,” Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin said of his quarterback. “Each week he plays, he is passing someone in the top five of college football. From an individual standpoint, he is one of the best that as ever played. As far as the University, he is a great spokesperson and a great face for the program. He has done everything right and has put our University in a great light. I can’t say enough on how he has been able to handle the national media and some adverse times. I’ve watched him grow and he’s been able to handle some things and to get to a peak and to a valley when he was injured.”
Keenum is also eyeing the NCAA career passing record, sitting just 1,790 yards away from the record of 16,910 passing yards currently held by Hawaii quarterback Timmy Chang. At the current pace he is on now, Keenum could pass the record in the next five games. UTEP is allowing 216.8 passing yards per game (64th in the nation) and will have their hands full against Houston.
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“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” Keenum said about the pursuit of the passing record. “That’s something that would be pretty cool. Hopefully you’ll be able to ask me that afterwards, but that’s not something anybody in our locker room is thinking about and especially not me. That’s something that I’ve always said is secondary when it comes. If you win football games and take care of the ball all that stuff comes with it. That’s hopefully something I can look back on one day and think about a little bit more.”
But Houston’s offense is not all about Keenum and the passing game. The Cougars running game is averaging 138.8 yards per game (72nd in the nation) with a rushing average of 4.08 yards per rush (fourth in Conference USA) and considering the focus tends to be on offense, these are not terrible numbers at all.
The last time Houston played in El Paso they were in the top 25 but dropped out following a high-scoring 58-41 loss to the Miners. UTEP is off to a 2-2 start this season and is expecting to have four starters back from injury Thursday night to look for another upset of the Cougars. Quarterback Nick Lamaison injured his shoulder against SMU two weeks ago but should return to the field along with offensive lineman James Nelson. On defense, the Miners look for the returns of senior defensive back Travaun Nixon and sophomore defensive lineman Germard Reed.
This could be another high-scoring affair, but Houston’s Keenum will keep his team on top this time around.
Houston 52, UTEP 38
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