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Thursday, September 28, 2023


QB comes up big in clutch

The down, the distance, the time remaining or the opponent does not matter to quarterback Case Keenum.

From game to game, he’s the same player.

He hardly ever gets rattled, always knows where the line of scrimmage is and he has great chemistry with his running backs and wide receivers. He can struggle in the first three quartera and still make all the big plays in the fourth.

A lot of college football analysts were probably amazed to see Keenum make the plays he did in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s come-from-behind 29-28 win over Texas Tech, but people who know Keenum best weren’t surprised at all.

That includes UH head coach Kevin Sumlin, the coaching staff and Keenum’s teammates.

When Keenum was intercepted by Texas Tech’s Will Ford at the Red Raiders’ 34-yard line with 7:12 left in the game and the Cougars trailing 28-23, the UH sideline held onto hope. The defense knew that if it could stop the Red Raiders and give No. 7 another possession, the Cougars would have a chance.

The Cougars forced a punt that gave them possession at their own 5-yard line with 5:47 remaining. Sixteen plays, 95 yards and 4:58 later, Keenum rewarded his teammates’ faith by barreling into the endzone on a 4-yard run for the go-ahead score.

During the drive, he converted two third-down attempts, one with his arm and one with his legs. His biggest moment before the touchdown run came when he completed a 7-yard pass to Patrick Edwards on a fourth-and-3 attempt to keep the drive alive.

Apparently, Keenum felt no ill effects from the interception.

‘He walked off the field, and none of us panicked,’ Sumlin said. ‘I’ve been around him enough to know he was upset after the interception, but I told him we’re going to have an opportunity to win the game. I said it’s going to be a lot more interesting to win with seven minutes left.

‘We have great confidence in him and the people around him. We don’t want to put the pressure on him every week like that but we’ll take it if we can get it, particularly in light of the situation on how the game went back and forth.’

Whether Keenum wants the pressure or not, he’s had to battle it for the last three seasons. The Cougars have a habit of playing from behind in most of their games, needing miraculous fourth-quarter performances to escape with wins. Keenum has answered the call on nearly every occasion.

Some quarterbacks would be worn down with the pressure of having to lead fourth-quarter comebacks nearly every week.

Not Keenum.

‘If you don’t look forward to that and have some type of nervousness and excitement, then you’re not alive, you’re not human,’ Keenum said. ‘If you don’t feel something in these type of games and love the adrenaline, then you’re not living. It’s a lot of fun. I’d like to do this every week.’

Some would argue that Keenum is a leading contender for the Heisman Trophy, but that’s not important at the moment. The Cougars are 3-0, ranked No. 12 in the Associated Press poll and are heading into Saturday’s Conference USA opener against UTEP with waves of momentum.

Is Keenum still thinking about his performance against Texas Tech? Perhaps a little. But those thoughts will all be gone come Saturday.

UTEP will present another challenge, and Keenum might have to pull another rabbit out of his hat.

He seems to be pretty good at doing that.’

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