Keenum makes history in UH victory
Through two quarters, UAB did not resemble a one-win team. But the Cougars could only be contained for so long.
The Cougars won 56-13, but the Blazers gave all they had. UAB took the lead in the first quarter, but was down 21-10 at halftime.
In the words of Blazers head coach Neil Callaway, things eventually got out of hand and UH (9-0, 5-0 Conference USA) finished the game with five unanswered touchdowns.
Quarterback Case Keenum threw five incomplete passes, completed 39 and finished with 407 passing yards and four scores — two rushing and two throwing.
For the third straight week he broke an NCAA record, passing Hawaii quarterback Timmy Chang as the all-time leader in passing yards.
It was nine games in the making, but Keenum won’t have to answer any more questions about the prospect of breaking individual records.
He can now focus solely on the Cougars’ unaccomplished aspirations.
“I don’t take any of these things lightly, and I know for a fact that this is a very special honor,” Keenum said. “I’m not going to fully enjoy it and celebrate it until after the season. Hopefully I will have a lot more to celebrate after the season than just the records.
“I’m having a blast playing football right now. It has been a very special season and we still have a lot of special things out in front of us.”
Perhaps Keenum’s gaudy statistics can make his season special enough to receive an invitation to the 77th Annual Heisman Trophy ceremony on Dec. 10 in New York.
It’s clear that an accolade for Keenum is a triumph for UH as a whole. He may have targeted his favorite senior receivers in Tyron Carrier, Patrick Edwards and Justin Johnson often, but there were unlikely players who filled in — like juniors Dewayne Peace and Gino Collins.
The UH Athletics Facebook account posted head coach Kevin Sumlin and his players jubilantly celebrating Keenum’s achievement by hoisting him in the air — clearly, he is the Cougars’ undisputed leader.
“He has had a record every week for the last three weeks, and that is a big deal,” Sumlin said. “A lot of great players have played this game. In order for all these records to take place, it takes 10 other guys in protection, running after the catch, and catching footballs, so our team is as happy as he is.
“Our team takes great pride in everybody’s individual success because they understand that it is a team effort. That is why they play so hard.”
Hayden stars for UH on defense
For the defense, it was the same story. The unit became more active throughout the course of the game, and gained momentum when it started utilizing more blitzes in the second half. One of the night’s standout plays was junior cornerback D.J. Hayden’s 54-yard interception return for a score to make it 49-13.
“Once our defense settled down early, we played well,” Sumlin said. “The disappointing thing was that we extended some of their drives with penalties. We had a turnover really early in the game that really shut us down. They (UAB) did a good job, and they are a well-coached team.”
For the third time this season, the Cougars will have a four-day rest period before their next contest Thursday.
Cougars will be challenged to close season
It is the first time in program history that UH has been 9-0, and it is a safe prediction that the Cougars will handle the Tulane Green Wave (2-8, 1-5). But the race for the C-USA West Division is even between UH and Tulsa (6-3, 5-0).
It appeared SMU would be the Cougars’ biggest challenge in the division, but is the Golden Hurricane who have revealed themselves to be a threat — setting the stage for the regular-season finale Nov. 25 in Tulsa, Okla.
UH improved from No. 13 to No. 11 in Sunday’s BCS rankings and is also No. 11 in both the AP Poll and USA Today/Coaches’ Poll. But the Cougars will have plenty more obstacles to keep their attention before worrying about their postseason fate.
“We’ve played Pac-12, Big-12 and SEC opponents, and our style of playing seems to be working just fine,” Sumlin said. “We’ve stepped outside of our league and have been fairly successful in playing outside our league. All we can do is win our games and see what happens after that.”