Sept. 5, 2009
HOUSTON - Junior quarterback Case Keenum threw for 359 yards and accounted for five touchdowns in just more than one half of action as the University of Houston football team opened its 2009 campaign with a 55-7 victory against Northwestern State at Robertson Stadium on Saturday.
"As I told these guys, I thought as a team, we came out and started fast," said head coach Kevin Sumlin. "It was about four or five straight possessions that we scored. That was an improvement over last year. We did not sustain it; we started mixing up the lineups. There were some young guys out there getting baptized and some of them didn't like it."
On its first possession of the night, the Cougar offense picked up right where it did during the 2008 season when it finished second nationally in total offense. Keenum orchestrated a five-play, 86-yard drive that was capped off by a 23-yard touchdown reception by freshman running back Charles Sims.
Sims enjoyed a breakout night in his Cougar debut, catching a team-high six passes for 128 yards through the air.
The offensive fireworks did not stop there with three more touchdown passes in the first half, including one to sophomore running back Bryce Beall, who reached the end zone on a 17-yard rush. Keenum finished the half 17-of-21 passing for 293 yards, while Beall lead the way with 51 yards on the ground.
UH's defense was stout in the first half, limiting the Demons to only 149 yards of offense in the first half. Most of that on their lone scoring drive after converting a 16-play, 97-drive with a 1-yard touchdown toss from quarterback John Hundley to Justin Aldredge.
Following the intermission, Keenum went back to work, picking apart the Demon defense and finding senior Chaz Rodriguez on an 8-yard score to cap an 11-play, 90-yard march down the field on the half's opening possession.
Keenum, who was pulled early in the third quarter, finished the contest 23-of-30 for 359 yards and four touchdowns to turn in his 14th 300+ yard passing game in his last 15 contests. The Abliene, Texas, native also rushed for a score.
Freshman linebacker Phillip Steward made an impact in his first contest in the scarlet and white, pacing the UH defense with 13 tackles.
"Things were happening fast but we need it, and it was a learning experience for a lot of players," Sumlin said. "We played a bunch of guys and it's obvious that we've added some depth in youth. We have to grow up as a team. There are still some plays out there for us. All and all, I liked the way we started the game with our first units. That's an improvement from last year and we have to improve on that. Certainly we have to come back this week and get our younger guys and backup guys playing at that level that we need."
The Cougars will face their first road test of the season Saturday, Sept. 12 when they travel to Stillwater, Okla., to face No. 9 Oklahoma State.