Sept. 27, 2009
Junior quarterback Case Keenum made sure a Robertson Stadium record crowd of 32,114 went home ecstatic as he lead a touchdown drive in the final minutes of a 29-28 victory over visiting Texas Tech, giving No. 17 Houston a second straight win over a opponent from the Big 12 Conference.
The signal caller from Abilene, Texas, completed 38-of-58 passes for 435 yards, but his biggest stat of the night was the lone rushing touchdown he accounted for; a four-yard dash that put the Cougars up by one with just 49 ticks left on the fourth quarter scoreboard.
"It was a great victory in light of what was happening in our stadium," head coach Kevin Sumlin said. "For it to be the largest crowd since we moved from the Astrodome, to do it for the alumni, the fans who showed up, for the students who lined up Monday, for the fans who were there when we showed up this morning. It means a lot to win this game in the last few seconds in front of them to a in-state rival."
Houston's victory improves their record to 3-0 on the season, marking the first time the Cougars started a season 3-0 since their run to the Conference USA Championship during the 2006 campaign.
During the early minutes of the contest, which was touted as an offensive shootout, it was the Cougar defense that made it presence felt, as on just the third play from scrimmage UH's David Hunter was able to reach Tech quarterback Taylor Potts and force and recover a fumble that gave the ball to the Cougars on the Tech 34-yard line.
Keenum made the Red Raiders pay for the miscue, finding James Cleveland for a six-yard touchdown reception that gave UH a 7-0 advantage.
Houston's defense which forced two turnovers from the Red Raiders on the night was led by sophomore linebacker Marcus McGraw who racked a game-high 19 stops to go along with a sack.
The Cougars quick score was countered by the Red Raiders high-powered offense as Tech running back Baron Batch found pay dirt to cap a nine-play, 75-yard scoring drive. As a team, Tech ran for a season-best 163 yards on the ground, led by Batch's 114-yard, two-touchdown performance.
Following the early fireworks, both teams settled into a groove defensively, resulting in six straight combined scoreless possessions until Jordan Mannisto's 30-yard field goal at the 8:52 mark of the second quarter put UH up 10-7.
The lead did not last for long as Red Raiders marched down the field, and Batch made his second visit to the end zone, this time from 11 yards to give the visitors from Lubbock their first lead of the night at 14-10.
A third rushing touchdown of the half gave the Red Raiders a 21-10 lead as Harrison Jeffers scampered 13 yards over right tackle with just 59 seconds remaining before intermission, putting the finishing touches on a eight-play, 59-yard march down the field.
With under a minute to work with, Keenum and the UH offense moved the ball into Tech territory, allowing Mannisto to boot a career-long 50-yard field goal as time expired, sending the teams to the locker room with Tech ahead 21-13.
After a missed field- goal attempt, Keenum engineered a seven-play, 87 yard drive allowing sophomore Bryce Beall to put the Cougars within a point at 21-20 with a one-yard touchdown plunge.
Beall paced the UH ground game with 76 yards on 19 carries, while fellow running back Charles Sims was a big factor in the Cougar passing attack, hauling down a game-high 10 catches for 122 yards.
Potts and the Red Raiders countered as the junior gunslinger found Tramain Swindall, who weaved his way past several Cougar defenders and into the end zone, recapturing the 8-point visitor advantage at 28-20.
Another Abilene quarterback product, Potts completed 30-of-45 passes for 321 yards and one score.
In the waning seconds of the third quarter a career-best third Mannisto field goal, this one from 21 yards out, put the Cougars within a score of the lead at 28-23, but the Red Raider appeared on the verge of extending that lead to its biggest of the night when they drove down to the doorstep of the UH end zone. However, a valiant stand by the Cougars, highlighted by a goal line stop on a fourth down, as Potts' sneak attempt was stuffed by Kris Johnston, David Hunter and a slew of UH defenders to put the ball back in Keenum's hands.
No stranger to late game comebacks, Keenum saved his most poised performance for last, as the Cougars got the ball, still trailing by five, with 5:47 to play in the contest. The junior signal-caller led the Cougars on an epic 11-play, 65-yard drive and put the exclamation point on the march by calling his own number by scrambling into the end zone.
The second half comeback is the second for Keenum and the Cougars in as many games.
Houston will try to keep its early season roll on track next weekend when they travel to El Paso, Texas, to kick off Conference USA play with a date against UTEP.