Oct. 31, 2009
HOUSTON - Case Keenum's 28-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Edwards with just 21 seconds remaining broke a 43-43 deadlock and lifted No. 15 Houston to a 50-43 win over upset-minded Southern Miss at Robertson Stadium Saturday afternoon. The offensive shootout was marked by 1,358 yards of combined total offense, including a season-high 750 by the Cougars, who improved to 7-1 on the year and 3-1 in Conference USA play.
Keenum's performance was highlighted by five touchdowns and a career-best 559 yards as the junior signal caller from Abilene completed 44-of-54 passing attempts. The 500-yard passing performance was the second of his career and surpassed his previous best of 536 set on Oct. 3 at UTEP.
Junior wide receiver James Cleveland also enjoyed a career game, setting personal best marks with 13 catches and 190 yards to go along with a pair of touchdowns.
The game got off to a rough start for the Cougars, as on the first play from scrimmage sophomore running back Bryce Beall coughed up a fumble that was quickly pounced on by USM's Korey Williams. The miscue, the first turnover for UH since Oct. 10's contest at Mississippi State, set the Golden Eagles up with a first-and-10 at the Houston 21-yard line.
Southern Miss (5-4, 3-1 C-USA) did not let the opportunity go to waste as after an incompletion on first down, three straight runs by Damion Fletcher put the ball in the end zone. The extra point attempt, however, was unsuccessful as UH's Fendi Onobun got a hand on the kick.
Fletcher was solid in the ground game, contributing to USM's cause with a game-high 136 yards on 26 carries.
On their third possession of the ball game, the Cougars got their first score, when they marched 86 yards on seven plays to cash in on 31-yard run from Charles Sims. A successful extra point made it 7-6.
A miscommunication in coverage was the problem for the Cougars on a big play for the Golden Eagles, giving USM a 13-7 lead. After pulling off a play fake that lured in the UH defensive backs, USM's Martevious Young found a wide open Gerald Baptiste who streaked 70 yards untouched for the score with just a minute remaining in the first quarter.
Keenum and the Cougar offense answered quickly, finding A.J. Dugat for a 33-yard touchdown. The score was the first of Dugat's career and marked the 24th consecutive game that Keenum has thrown a touchdown.
The aerial assault continued on the next drive, as senior Tim Monroe pulled down a career-long, 55-yard touchdown reception from Keenum to leave the score 21-13 with 11:41 to play in the half.
Southern Miss got back in the end zone via the ground game, scoring on a one-year run by Young, but again problems with the kicking game cost the visitors. The extra point attempt was again blocked by Onobun. The loose ball was scooped up by UH safety Nick Saenz who raced from his own goal line all the way down the length of the field to give Houston two points. The rapid fire action made the score 23-19 in favor of the Cougars.
A 29-yard field goal by Daniel Hrapmann pulled Southern Miss within one point a 23-22 with 2:28 to go before intermission.
Keenum's third touchdown pass of the half, a 14-yard strike to James Cleveland gave the first half its final score and sent the team's to the locker room with UH leading 30-22.
After the fireworks of the first half, there was a lone field goal during the game's third quarter; a 34-yard field goal from UH's Matt Hogan that made it 33-22.
Keenum and Cleveland hooked up for the second time on the afternoon during the Cougar's first drive of the fourth quarter. Cleveland hauled in a 17-yard toss to cap off a nine-play, 98-yard scoring drive.
The Golden Eagles would not fade so easily, responding after the Cleveland score with a 10-play, 70-yard scoring drive of their own to cut the Cougar lead to 40-28 with 8:54 to play.
Following another Hogan field goal, the Southern Miss comeback gained more momentum, as Baptiste hauled in his second touchdown pass of the afternoon to pull his team within a score at 43-36 and 5:25 left in the contest.
Young and Baptiste found each other one more time to complete the comeback as with just 57 seconds remaining in the contest, a 13-yard touchdown pass made it 43-43. The drive was set up by Beall's second fumble of the day, as Houston was moving into the Golden Eagle red zone.
For the Golden Eagles, Young finished 20-of-34 passing for 334 yards and three touchdowns, while Baptiste enjoyed a career day, hauling down eight catches for 186 yards and three scores.
Getting the ball back with under a minute left, UH was aided by a 23-year return and a facemask penalty against USM to get out of its own side of the field. However, it was Keenum who was a perfect 5-of-5 on the final drive and made the decisive play to find Edwards for the game-winning score.
The Cougars' defense prevented the Golden Eagles from pulling out the improbable, knocking three deep passes on the game's final three plays harmlessly to the ground.
Houston hits the road next weekend when it travels to Tulsa to take on the Golden Hurricane during a 6:30 p.m. match up which will be televised nationally on CBS College Sports.