No. 11 Houston storms past Tulane, 73-17

Houston is proving there’s a lot more to the 11th-ranked Cougars

than record-setting quarterback Case Keenum.

Charles Sims rushed for a career-high 207 yards, including

touchdown runs of 72 and 52 yards, and Houston returned two punts

for touchdowns in a 73-17 victory over Tulane on Thursday night

that continued the best start in Cougars history.

”We are manufacturing points all kinds of ways,” said Houston

coach Kevin Sumlin, whose team has scored a season-high 73 points

twice in its last three games. ”Everyone is getting in on the act.

You know at this time of year, you need that.”

Keenum passed for 325 yards, a pedestrian total by his

standards, before he was given the rest of the night off in the

third quarter after Houston (10-0, 6-0 Conference USA) took a 52-10

lead.

His three touchdown passed went for 66, 23 and 8 yards to

Patrick Edwards, who also scored on a 70-yard punt return.

Houston, which is 10-0 for the first time, will finish its

season against SMU and Tulsa. Wins over both would not only put the

Cougars in the conference title game, but also keep alive an

outside chance of a BCS bowl bid.

”I remember coming into the season and just thinking I want to

win 10 games,” Keenum said. ”That looks good. That’s where a lot

of teams want to be at this time of the year and we still have a

lot in front of us.”

Houston, which came in averaging 52.7 points per game, was held

without a point in the first quarter, snapping a streak of 19

straight quarters with a score.

The Cougars responded with five touchdowns in the second

quarter, beginning with Bryce Beall’s 11-yard scoring run that was

set up by Sims’ 56-yard scamper.

Orleans Darkwa rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns for

Tulane (2-9, 1-6), which closed out its home schedule with its

eighth straight loss.

”When you get beat 73-17, you are embarrassed, you are

humiliated, you are disappointed, you are frustrated,” Tulane

interim coach Mark Hutson said. ”But we have two games left to

take the bitterness and the disappointment out. We need to go to

Houston on (Nov. 19) and play well against Rice.”

Sims’ longest run through the first nine games was 50 yards,

which he surpassed three times in the second quarter alone in

helping Houston take a 35-10 halftime lead despite the fact that

Keenum had passed for only one TD to that point.

”We just needed someone to step up and make plays,” Sims said.

”It felt real good just to get down field and start scoring.”

Keenum, who last week became the NCAA’s all-time leading passer,

increased his career total 17,537 yards.

He threw for his final two TDs in the third quarter and was

given the rest of the night off. Keenum finished 22-of-29 passing

and kept alive his streak of more than 300 yards passing in every

game this season.

It was also the 35th 300-yard game of Keenum’s career, which

ranks second in NCAA history, right behind the 36 of former Hawaii

quarterback Timmy Chang.

Keenum now needs only 49 yards passing to become the second

player in NCAA history – along with Chang – to have three

4,000-yard seasons. Houston still has two more regular season

games, and a bowl game, in which Keenum could potentially become

the first NCAA player ever to have three 5,000-yard seasons.

Keenum’s departure from the game did not slow down the Cougars

as backup quarterback Cotton Turner led two scoring drives, which

included his 27-yard scoring pass and his 35-yard touchdown

scramble.

Damian Payne added a 76-yard punt return for a score, which was

Houston’s second touchdown on a punt return in the game.

Taking it all in from a suite in the Superdome was former

Michigan and West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez, the offensive

coordinator at Tulane under Tommy Bowden in 1998, when the Green

Wave went 12-0.

Rodriguez saw firsthand how much work he’d have to do should he

decide to return to head coaching at Tulane.

Tulane was as close as 14-7 in the second quarter, when Darkwa

muscled into the end zone from 3 yards out, one play after he had

been caught from behind on a 66-yard run.

However, it took only four plays before Houston was back up by

two TDs on Sims’ 52-yard scoring run.