Bryce Beall, Chris Thompson and James Cleveland celebrate Cleveland's first-quarter touchdown.
Nov. 7, 2009
TULSA, Oklahoma (AP) - Case Keenum walked off the field, his hands on his helmet, as Houston (No. 15 BCS, No. 13 AP) appeared destined for defeat.
Moments later, the Cougars' prolific quarterback was given a second chance. And he came through with another comeback to add to his Heisman Trophy resume.
Keenum hit back-to-back passes to put Houston in field-goal range and Matt Hogan kicked a 51-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Cougars to a 46-45 victory against Tulsa on Saturday night.
It was the latest addition to a series of wild finishes for Keenum and the Cougars.
"This tops the craziest one," Keenum said.
After getting sacked on a potential tying 2-point conversion with 21 seconds left, Keenum bounced back to complete a 14-yard pass to James Cleveland and a 13-yarder to Tyron Carrier to set up Hogan's kick with just 3 seconds left. He drilled the ball just inside the left upright, igniting the Cougars' celebration.
The Cougars (8-1, 4-1 Conference USA) rushed onto the field and hoisted Hogan into the air after he connected on the longest kick of his career. He hadn't made a field goal of longer than 34 yards before his game-winner.
Tulsa (4-5, 2-3) players splayed out on the field after suffering their fourth straight loss.
"It was just chaos," Cleveland said. "They were sprinting on the field, and I just had to sit there for a minute. I didn't go sprinting on the field. I just had to let it soak in."
Keenum finished with 522 yards on 40 for 60 passing with three touchdown passes. It was the second straight game with more than 500 yards passing for the nation's most productive passer.
"Our team believes in him," Houston coach Kevin Sumlin said. "Offensively, defensively, everybody does, that no matter what the score is, we're never out of the game."
Charles Clay scored four touchdowns, and G.J. Kinne threw for a career-best 334 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for a career-high 100 yards for Tulsa (4-5, 2-3). The Golden Hurricane had kept Houston out of the conference championship game the last two years as West Division champions.
The Cougars remained tied for the West lead with SMU with the win, but only after more heroics from Keenum. Last week against Southern Miss, he threw for a career-high 559 yards and five touchdowns -- including the game-winner with 21 seconds left, coincidentally.
"We played two ranked teams down to the wire," said Tulsa coach Todd Graham, whose team also lost 28-21 to undefeated Boise State earlier this year. "This one hurts really bad for our players. I thought our guys outplayed them in all three phases."
Patrick Edwards had 11 catches for a career-high 176 yards and Cleveland had 12 catches for 167 yards and three scores. Carrier had a kickoff return for a touchdown for the second straight year against Tulsa, but also had a muffed punt that allowed Tulsa to take a 38-27 lead in the third quarter.
The teams combined for 1,229 yards of total offense -- Houston with 695 and Tulsa a season-high 534. The Cougars lead the nation in total offense this year, while Tulsa did so the past two seasons.
The Golden Hurricane had kept the Cougars at bay in the fourth quarter, getting a goal-line stand and then forcing Keenum & Co. to settle for a field goal on their first two drives.
Keenum handed off four straight times after reaching first-and-goal at the 10 with a chance to take the lead. Tanner Antle and Dexter McCoil stood up Bryce Beall on fourth-and-goal from the 1 to get the ball back, but Tulsa then went three and out.
Keenum found Cleveland for a 19-yard pickup on third-and-20 on the next drive, and Sumlin settled for Hogan's 26-yard field goal to get within 38-37 with 8:08 to play.
Clay jumped into the end zone from 1 yard out to put the Golden Hurricane ahead by eight in the final 3 1/2 minutes, but that only set the stage for Keenum and Hogan.
Keenum led a 61-yard scoring drive, capped by his 1-yard TD throw to Cleveland, then tried to roll to his right to avoid the unblocked Antle.
"I was pretty mad at myself after that play. I should have seen the blitz coming," Keenum said, crediting his offensive line for picking up everyone they were supposed to block.
Tim Monroe recovered the onside kick, after it bounced off of McCoil.
"At that point, you've just got to make one play at a time," Keenum said. "You've got to just keep leaving yourself a chance. Keep pressing forward and see what happens.
"Matt made the biggest play of the game."