Player performance reviewed
Offensive MVP: sophomore quarterback Case Keenum
After splitting time with junior Blake Joseph last season, Keenum won the starting job in fall camp, making an immediate impact.
He finished the season with 5,020 passing yards (second in the nation behind Texas Tech senior Graham Harrell) and 44 touchdowns, including seven rushing scores.
He threw for over 300 yards in all but one game and was named Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year.
Defensive MVP: senior defensive end Phillip Hunt
The 6-2, 260-pound Hunt was the most consistent player on a largely inconsistent defense.
He recorded 14 sacks (second-most in the nation), 18.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles. He was also named C-USA’s Defensive Player of the Year.
Special Teams MVP: junior punter Chase Turner
Turner averaged 45.5 yards on 41 punts with a long of 71 yards. His yards-per-punt average would have been fourth in the nation if he had earned enough punts to qualify.
Best Game: UH 70, Tulsa 30 (Nov. 15)
The Cougars jumped on then-No. 24 Tulsa and never let up en route to their dominant win at Robertson Stadium.
In avenging a 56-7 loss at the hands of the Golden Hurricane in 2007, the Cougars racked up 641 yards of total offense. Keenum tossed a career-high six touchdown passes to lead the Cougars’ onslaught.
It was UH’s second win over a Top 25 team in 2008. The other came against East Carolina on Sept. 27.
Worst Game: Marshall 37, UH 23 (Oct. 28)
Neither the offense nor defense showed up for this game. The Cougars trailed by as many as 28 points, committed three costly turnovers and lost standout freshman wideout Patrick Edwards to a broken leg during a bizarre play in the endzone in the second half. Considering that Marshall went on to finish 4-8, this loss was devastating.
Case Keenum hit redshirt freshman wideout Tyron Carrier for a game-winning 26-yard touchdown pass with 24 seconds remaining in a 44-38 win over Southern Methodist on Oct. 18.
Trailing Marshall 16-3 in the third quarter, the Cougars were at their opponent’s 1-yard line when backup quarterback Blake Joseph and freshman running back Bryce Beall had a bad exchange on a handoff and lost the ball.
The fumble was recovered by Marshall’s Maurice Kitchens, who returned it 80 yards in the other direction to set up a touchdown that put the Thundering Herd ahead 23-3, giving the Cougars an embarrassing loss.
Best Individual Performance: Offense
Case Keenum threw a career-high six touchdown passes and ran for another score in the Cougars’ 70-30 thrashing of Tulsa.
Best Individual Performance: Defense
Sophomore cornerback Loyce Means had three interceptions, including one that was returned 69 yards for a touchdown, six tackles and two pass breakups in the Cougars’ win over Tulsa.
Best Coaching Decision
Defensive coordinator Larry Skladany sent a blitz on a third-and-4 play against SMU at its 34-yard line with the Cougars trailing 38-36 late in the fourth quarter.
The blitz caused SMU freshman quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell to rush a pass that fell incomplete, and after the punt, the Cougars’ offense took over at its own 15 with 1:58 remaining. Eight plays later, Case Keenum hit Tyron Carrier for the game-winning touchdown pass.
Worst Coaching Decision
Head coach Kevin Sumlin opted to go for the win instead of settling for a game-tying field goal in the closing seconds of the Cougars’ 28-25 loss to Colorado State.
The Cougars had driven to the CSU 15-yard line with eight seconds remaining, and Sumlin rolled the dice. But the gamble failed, as Case Keenum’s fade route floater to sophomore wideout L.J. Castile was intercepted by Colorado State’s Clint Kubiak with two seconds left. That decision led directly to the Cougars’ third consecutive loss and a 1-3 start.
Running back Bryce Beall excelled after moving into the starting role following injuries to the top two backs, finishing with 1,247 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns with another 496 yards and four scores receiving. He was named C-USA Freshman of the Year.
The team suffered a disappointment when it lost starting defensive tackle Ell Ash and offensive tackle SirVincent Rogers to season-ending injuries in the first half of the campaign. Both seniors would have been difference-makers had they managed to stay healthy.
Unsung offensive coach
Running back coach Clarence McKinney did a superb job supervising the development of Bryce Beall.
Unsung defensive coach
Defensive line coach Jim Jeffcoat kept his unit from crumbling despite the loss of tackle Ell Ash. He also oversaw the continued development of Phillip Hunt as C-USA’s top pass rusher.
Best offensive stat
The Cougars were second in the nation behind Tulsa in total offense with 562.77 yards per game.
Worst offensive stat
The Cougars committed 28 turnovers, which landed them in a five-way tie for 93rd-most in the nation.
Best defensive stat
The Cougars held opponents to a paltry average of 5.3 points in the fourth quarter.
Worst defensive stat
The Cougars surrendered an average of 413.46 yards per game.