Keenum earns NCAA all-time passing mark
At long last, Case Keenum is college football's all-time passing leader.
The sixth-year senior quarterback completed a mind-boggling 39-of-44 passes last Saturday at UAB for 407 passing yards to go along with two touchdown passes and two rushing touchdowns. More importantly for the history books, however, is that he now has 17,212 career passing yards, passing former NCAA record holder Timmy Chang (Hawaii, 2000-04) who had 17,072 yards.
Keenum now holds college football's all-time passing, total offense and passing touchdowns records.
"I'm having a blast playing football right now," Keenum said, before his usual refocus on the team. "It has been a very special season and we still have a lot of special things out in front of us. It was a great team win tonight, and UAB has some of the most hard-hitting guys that we've played against thus far."
Keenum's exploits have helped the Cougars jump out to a school-record 9-0 start for the season (5-0 in C-USA play). On the year, Keenum's numbers are the things most video games wouldn't even allow to happen. He has completed 257-of-347 passes (74.1 percent) for 3,626 yards (402.9 per game), 34 passing touchdowns to three interceptions.
"He has had a record every week for the last three weeks, and that is a big deal," Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin said.
Now that the last of Keenum's major milestones have been passed, he and Sumlin both hope the focus of the team can be on a strong finish to the regular season as some quality opponents (finally) are on the upcoming schedule, including C-USA West Division hopefuls Tulsa and SMU and a possible showdown in the C-USA title game with nationally-ranked Southern Miss in the C-USA title game.
Sumlin has always been more than happy to let his senior leader get all the praise, but the coach also is now trying to remind the masses that this is a complete team, at least on offense, and one worthy of more national respect in the polls.
"In order for all these records to take place," Sumlin said, "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."
--You can't blame a coach for talking up his team. And really, what do reporters expect Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin to say when asked every week about how his team might actually stack up to some decent competition instead of the rather mediocre schedule his Cougars have managed to obliterate through nine games this year?
But when Sumlin was asked that same old question after last Saturday's win over UAB, he seemed to get caught up in some revisionist history.
"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."
If Sumlin is referring to this year, the Cougars only played one BCS foe, beating UCLA 38-34 in the season opener. Last year, the Cougars went 0-3 against BCS opponents, losing by an average score of 38-19. In Sumlin's career at Houston, the Cougars are 4-4 against BCS teams that had a so-so combined record of 58-40 in those seasons (that includes this year's UCLA record of 5-4).
The Houston offense is clicking as well as any team in the nation and maybe Sumlin believes it would against any team in the nation, but it is a bit of a stretch to infer they've had anything but moderate success against BCS teams that were not in contention of league titles the season Houston played them.
--With a 56-13 road win over UAB last Saturday, Houston has its best start (9-0) in school history. The previous school record of an 8-0 start happened twice (1979 and 1990).
The win also gives Houston its first 5-0 start in C-USA play. The Cougars' previous three 5-0 starts in league action came while playing in the Southwest Conference (1978, 1979 and 1990).
--The Houston Cougars are still by far the lowest ranked unbeaten FBS team in the nation, but the unbelievable exploits of the offense seem to be gradually gaining the confidence of the national pollsters.
In both Sunday's AP and USA Today Coaches Top 25 polls, the Cougars moved up from No. 14 to No. 11. That's still six spots behind the next unbeaten team, Boise State, which is No. 5 in both polls.
The three teams Houston passed in this week's polls are South Carolina, Nebraska and Michigan, all coming off losses.
KEEP AN EYE ON: RB Michael Hayes and RB Charles Sims -- The running back by committee at Houston seems to be without RB Bryce Beall (he's been out since Oct. 8). But Hayes and Sims are doing just fine. Last Saturday at UAB, it was Hayes' turn to lead the way with 16 carries for 93 yards and a touchdown while Sims had 14 carries, 71 yards and a touchdown.
LOOKING GOOD: Houston's offense isn't just scoring a lot, it's doing it in record time. So far this season, Houston has 33 scoring drives of six or fewer plays and has already scored on 35 drives that ate up two minutes or fewer of game clock. The team's win last Saturday at UAB was the fourth time in as many games the team has scored at least 56 points. Houston leads the nation in scoring offense (52.7 points per game), total offense (617.0 yards per game) and passing offense (457.1 passing yards per game). Even its rushing attack isn't all that bad, ranking No. 58 in the nation at 159.9 yards on the ground per game.
STILL NEEDS WORK: The Houston defense wasn't bad, but it let an outmanned UAB team hang around into the third quarter of a game that many feel should have been long over by halftime. "Once our defense settled down early, we played well," Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin said. "The disappointing thing was that we extended some of their drives with penalties."
The Cougars' biggest tests of the season still await them with a game vs. high-powered SMU on Nov. 19, at high-powered Tulsa on Nov. 25 and, if they survive, the Cougars will likely face high-powered, and nationally ranked Southern Miss in the C-USA title game. The Cougars have not yet faced an offense all season as good as any of those three teams.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Hopefully I will have a lot more to celebrate after the season than just the records." -- Houston senior QB Case Keenum.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--WR Tyron Carrier caught a career-high 12 passes for 105 yards and one touchdown last Saturday at UAB. It extended his national-leading streak of 48 games with a reception and was his first 100-yard receiving game since posting 138 yards in the season opening win over UCLA on Sept. 3.
--WR Justin Johnson, another senior, had a career-high seven receptions at UAB last Saturday. He has caught a touchdown in three straight games.
--RB Charles Sims had 14 carries for 71 rushing yards at UAB last Saturday, marking the sixth consecutive game the sophomore has scored at least one touchdown.
--LB Sammy Brown had three tackles for loss against the Blazers, giving him 41.5 TFL for his career and pulling him within 1.5 of No. 4 all-time at Houston. His 21.5 tackles for loss this season leads the nation.
--RB Bryce Beall has not played since the team's Oct. 8 game vs. East Carolina with an undisclosed injury. Fellow RB's Michael Hayes and Charles Sims have carried the rushing load just fine in his absence.
--SS Colton Valencia's action was limited at UAB last Saturday. He had two tackles. He sustained a concussion Sept. 29 at UTEP.