Memphis Falls To No. 24 Houston, 55-14
Nov. 21, 2009
HOUSTON (AP) -Houston needed a win to stay alive in the Conference USA race.
Case Keenum engineered it in record-setting fashion.
Keenum threw for 405 yards and five touchdowns in just more than two quarters as Houston beat Memphis 55-14 on Saturday. The quarterback also set a school record for career touchdown passes with 94, surpassing David Klingler's 91.
"We felt that we haven't played our best football game yet and honestly I'd say that we're still striving for that," Keenum said.
Keenum gave way to Cotton Turner after an 18-yard pass to L.J. Castile put Houston (9-2, 5-2) ahead 49-14 early in the third quarter.
It was an easy win for a team trying to get back on track after last week's surprising loss to Central Florida, which left the Cougars in second place in the West division. Houston must win next week against Rice and hope for at least one loss by SMU to make it to the conference championship game.
"We can't be worried about what everybody else is doing or what's going on," Houston coach Kevin Sumlin said. "If they feel pressure, they feel pressure.
"If we come out next week and play like we did (Saturday), then there will be some good stuff out there for us if we handle our business and worry about us."
Memphis (2-9, 1-6) was led by Curtis Steele, who had 160 yards rushing and two touchdowns. With 160 yards, Steele moved into fifth place for career rushing yards at the University of Memphis. He now has 2,230 yards in his two-year career. Steele surpassed Larry Porter, who rushed for 2,194 yards in his career, and Paul Gowen, who rushed for 2,227 yards. Steele is the only player in the Top 10 of the career rushing chart to have only played two years at the U of M.
Steele also surpassed the 1,000-yard milestone with his rushing performance on Saturday. He becomes only the second Memphis running back to rush for 1,000 yards in multiple seasons. Current Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams is the only other Tiger to do so. Williams rushed for 6,026 yards in 44 games for the Tigers.
Steele's two rushing touchdowns mark the third-straight game that he has rushed for multiple touchdowns. He has had five games this season in which he has rushed for multiple touchdowns. Steele's first touchdown came on a direct snap that he took from two yards out into the end zone. He accounted for 48 of the team's 65 yards on the drive. Steele followed with his second touchdown in the second quarter on a 25 yard run.
Charles Sims ran for 90 yards and two scores and Chaz Rodriguez had 98 yards receiving and a touchdown for Houston.
The scoring didn't stop after Keenum and most of the starters went to the bench. Turner completed his first eight passes and made it 55-14 with an 18-yard toss to Fendi Onobun with about 6 minutes left in the third quarter. The Cougars missed the extra point.
"I thought that we came out and had some intensity from the beginning," Sumlin said. "I don't know if a coach is ever completely happy with a game, but our guys responded well coming off of last week."
The struggling Tigers, whose difficult season has already led to the dismissal of coach Tommy West, were overmatched from the start of this one.
Keenum's first scoring throw came on a 7-yard pass to Castile with almost 13 minutes left in the first quarter. The pass extended his streak with at least one touchdown throw to 27 straight games.
Sims' first score, a 13-yard run, made it 14-0 less than 3 minutes later, and his 5-yard touchdown run just before halftime made it 42-14.
Houston pushed the lead to 21-0 when Keenum found Tim Monroe for a 9-yard score later in the first quarter. That drive was kept alive when an interception by the Tigers was wiped out by defensive holding.
The Tigers didn't get a first down until there were about 5 minutes left in the first quarter, when they started direct snapping to Steele in a wildcat formation. Steele put Memphis on the board with a 2-yard run that made it 21-7 late in the first quarter.
"We wanted to continue to run the ball to try to keep their offense off the field because they have a high-powered offense that can score any time they want," Steele said. "We just weren't clicking on all cylinders."
Keenum broke Klingler's record for career touchdown passes when he hit Rodriguez for a 4-yard score early in the second quarter.
"It's definitely an honor with the quarterbacks that have played here," Keenum said. "We're definitely not finished yet. Anytime I get mentioned with those guys from the past that have blazed the trail ahead of us ... it's pretty cool."
His fourth TD pass came on a 57-yard pass to Patrick Edwards later in the second. It made up for what happened a few plays earlier, when Edwards was wide open but dropped what would have been a long reception.
The Tigers had a chance for another score in the fourth quarter but Duke Calhoun was hit in the air in the end zone and lost the ball which was intercepted by the Cougars.
Steele said they will try to stay positive as they end the season next week at Tulsa.
"We can never give up," he said. "We just have to go into this game knowing that we can win. We've got to do whatever we can to finish with a win."