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September 26, 2007

Keenum makes his case to lead the Cougars

Case Keenum, QB, Houston

Houston quarterback Case Keenum made his case to fill the shoes of Kevin Kolb, the school's all-time leading passer.

Keenum came off the bench against Colorado State to lead the Cougars to a come-from-behind 38-27 win and earn a starting nod this week against East Carolina. For his efforts, Rivals.com named Keenum its National Freshman of the Week.

In the first quarter against Colorado State, starting quarterback Blake Joseph struggled as the Cougars fell behind 14-3.

Keenum, a redshirt freshman from Abilene, Texas, entered with 11 minutes left in the second quarter and promptly completed his first 12 passes. He was responsible for four of Houston's five second-half touchdowns and finished 18-of-22 for 197 yards. He added 57 rushing yards.

"We hoped we had a little better performance in the first half, but we wound up scoring 35 points in the second half to go ahead and win," Keenum said. "The defense held when the offense wasn't clicking, and they held on just long enough for us to get the lead."

His second half performance, which included two rushing touchdowns and two passing TDs, earned him the starting nod. But Keenum has been here before. Joseph started the Week One loss to Oregon before giving way to Keenum on Sept. 8 against Tulane. Keenum, in turn, gave way to Joseph for the Colorado State game. The backup has outperformed the starter in each game.

"We have a trend where the starter goes in and struggles to get the offense going and the next guy comes in and helps out," Keenum said. "It's kind of a funny deal; me and Blake have gone back and forth with that."

The inconsistency could be attributed to inexperience. Going into the season, Keenum hadn't played a varsity game and Joseph - a sophomore - had attempted only eight passes.

For now, though, Keenum has the advantage.

"Case's most positive attributes are he has a calm confidence about him that is very critical at that position," Houston coach Art Briles said. "He has good vision, he understands what is going on on the football field, he understands what's going on within the plays that are called and he has good people around him."

One of those people around him is fellow redshirt freshman L.J. Castile. The two began their college careers as quarterbacks on Houston's scout team. But when coaches watched them throw the ball together, it was clear who would be the quarterback and who would move to receiver.

Against Colorado State, Keenum found his old scout-team pal for a 30-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to narrow Houston's deficit to 17-10. After that third-quarter touchdown pass, Keenum completed the Cougars' comeback with a 27-yard touchdown pass and scoring runs of 8 yards and 1 yard.

It was an encouraging three quarters for the Cougars, but Keenum is keenly aware he won't make anybody forget Kolb anytime soon.

Kolb left Houston the same program that fielded Heisman winner Andre Ware and David Klingler as the school's leading career passer. Last season, he led Houston to its first Conference USA title since 1996 - the Cougars' first year in the league.

Keenum isn't forgetting Kolb, either. Though Kolb now is with the Philadelphia Eagles, Keenum still has a chance to learn from the second-round draft choice.

"He still helps me. I still go back and watch film on him and watch his fundamentals and decision-making," Keenum said. "It's one of those where he left a lasting impression on people that's going to be here for a long time."


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