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.