Cougars beat Penn State in TicketCity Bowl
DALLAS (AP) — Case Keenum finished his record-setting career with another performance for the history books.
The sixth-year senior threw for 532 yards and three touchdowns, leading No. 20 Houston to 30-14 victory against No. 24 Penn State in the TicketCity Bowl on Monday.
The Cougars (13-1) finished with a school record for victories and made Tony Levine a winner in his debut as Houston coach. Levine took over when Kevin Sumlin left to take the Texas A&M job after the regular season.
Keenum came into the game as the NCAA’s career leader in yards passing and touchdowns passes, then set a bowl record with 227 yards passing in the first quarter.
“I’m biased, obviously. I’d put him right at the top,” Levin said when asked where Keenum ranks among the best college quarterbacks of all time. “You don’t win 12 games by accident and I don’t think you don’t break the records he broke by accident, either.”
Keenum wasn’t concerned with his place. He leaves Houston as the school career leader with 37 wins, and that’s what he chose to focus on.
“As far as rankings and all that goes, I’m concerned with our team ranking and how we end up,” Keenum said. “Thirteen and one, I hope we end up in the top 15 in the country.”
The loss put to rest Penn State’s tumultuous year with three losses in the last four games. Hall of Fame coach Joe Paterno was fired as part of a child sex-abuse scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky that shook college sports.
“I thought the guys came out and they played hard. It’s been a difficult year for them,” Penn State interim coach Tom Bradley said. “It just didn’t go our way.”
The Nittany Lions (9-4) were picked apart by Keenum. Penn State was allowing 162 yards passing per game, but Keenum threw for more than double that by halftime.
The Cougars raced out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter behind Keenum’s record-setting period.
According to TicketCity officials, Louisville’s Browning Nagle had the old mark with 223 yards against Alabama in the first quarter of the 1991 Fiesta Bowl.
Keenum worked the spread offense to perfection, with five different Cougars catching at least five balls. Patrick Edwards, one of the country’s leading receivers, had 228 yards and two scores in the last game of his collegiate career. Justin Johnson had 12 catches for 148 yards.
Keenum is the ninth player in bowl history to pass for at least 500 yards. He thought he could have done better.
“We left a lot out there,” Keenum said. “There were a lot of throws I missed.”
Houston came into the game determined to end the season on a high note having its BCS Bowl hopes dashed on Dec. 3. The undefeated Cougars fell to Southern Miss in the Conference USA championship game, costing UH a shot at the school’s first BCS bid.
“That was the fluke,” Levine said of the lone loss, “and not the 12 wins leading up to it.”
Penn State quarterback Rob Bolden finished 7 of 26 passing for 137 yards, with three interceptions. Houston wanted Bolden, the backup quarterback all season, to air it out as much as possible.
“We know they were going to try to run the ball,” Cougars linebacker Marcus McGraw said. “We just wanted to get them in second and long, third and long, and wanted them to pass the ball knowing they had a second string quarterback.”
Keenum said he’s ready for his next stop — the NFL.
“I rate my chances good,” he said. “I’m very confident in my abilities. I’ve been playing this game a long time and I’m not going to change my game.”