2011 Prediction & Game Story
Week 11 - Houston at Tulane
Conference USA Fearless Predictions &
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Nov. 10 Houston 73 … at Tulane 17
(AP) NEW ORLEANS -- While Case Keenum got off to an uncharacteristically slow start, running back Charles Sims broke off enough long runs to ensure 11th-ranked Houston would post yet another lopsided victory.
Sims rushed for a career-high 207 yards, including touchdown runs of 72 and 52 yards, and Houston continued its best start in school history with a 73-17 victory on Thursday night that matched a season-high in points.
"He's a special, really talented player and just a lot of fun to watch," Keenum said of Sims. "It's nice to have him in the backfield right there next to me."
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. His three touchdown passed went for 66, 23 and 8 yards to Patrick Edwards, who also scored on a 70-yard punt return.
Houston (10-0, 6-0 Conference USA), 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.
"After the first quarter, we were able to run the ball and mix up some passes pretty well," Keenum said. "Just a good game plan, good coaching. ... It's just execution. When we are executing and not making mental mistakes, silly mistakes, we're able to roll."
Orleans Darkwa rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns for Tulane (2-9, 1-6).
Sims, the Conference USA freshman of the year in 2009, missed all of 2010 with what Houston said was a retroactive transcript matter with the NCAA. He returned this season as part of a three-man running back rotation with Beall and Michael Hayes, and came into the game second on the squad in rushing with 451 yards.
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 with Houston leading 52-10. 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 only 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 did not end the Houston onslaught, as backup quarterback Cotton Turner led two scoring drives, which included his 27-yard scoring pass and his 35-yard touchdown scramble.
Tulane interim coach Mark Hutson said the Green Wave's defense made plenty of mistakes, but would have had trouble slowing down Houston's passing game no matter what.
"Their receivers -- I watched the instant replay -- they made some unbelievable catches," Hutson said.
Damian Payne added a 76-yard punt return for a score, which was Houston's second touchdown on a punt return in the game.
Houston might have set a new season high score if coach Kevin Sumlin hadn't ordered the Cougars to run out the clock on their last offensive series, drawing groans from traveling fans wearing red behind Houston's bench.
"When you get beat 73-17, you are embarrassed, you are humiliated, you are disappointed, you are frustrated," 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."
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.
The Green Wave opened the game with a nearly seven-minute drive that covered 66 yards in 15 plays, including three conversions on third down and another on fourth-and-short, only to come up empty when Ryan Griffin was intercepted by Phillip Steward on an underthrown ball in the end zone.
Tulane got 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.
Houston (9-0) at Tulane (2-8) Nov. 10, 8:00, CBS Sports Network
Here’s The Deal … With just three regular season games remaining, there appears to be no sign of let-up for Houston, now a program-best No. 11 in the BCS rankings. The school with a history of gagging at least once a year has remained on course for a perfect record, blowing out its last four victims by no less than five touchdowns. And while the Cougars can’t help but dream about becoming the first Conference USA team to do better than a Liberty Bowl invite, their focus at this time is on winning a West Division that’s still up for grabs.
For upset-minded Tulane, this represents an opportunity to sell a few more tickets to those locals hoping to get a glimpse of the league’s hottest show. Sure, the Green Wave would love to make national headlines by knocking off one of the five outstanding unbeaten teams, it would take a Herculean turnaround to make that happen. The rudderless school hasn’t won a game since Sept. 17, or even been close in more than a month.
Why Houston Might Win: For Tulane, its defense versus the Houston attack indoors is a rather imperfect storm. The Green Wave has been unable to slow down the likes of Duke, Army or UTEP this fall, making this weekend’s challenge insurmountable. The Case Keenum-led Cougars have been chugging through opponents like a locomotive, averaging an FBS-best 617 yards and 52 points a game. Their teeming with weapons, such as RB Michael Hayes and WR Patrick Edwards, and have actually gotten more prolific as the season has unfolded. Over the last six games, no one has been able to hold Houston below 49 points or 572 yards.
Why Tulane Might Win: Any chance for an upset—or even a competitive game—on Thursday night will require Houston to have its head in the clouds, dreaming of a longshot BCS bowl bid. From a pure matchup standpoint, this is obviously a wretched draw for the home team. The Green Wave hopes to catch the Cougars D napping, attacking it with a blend of the running of Orleans Darkwa and the passing of Ryan Griffin. Back at full strength, Griffin has thrown a dozen touchdown passes this fall, while developing better chemistry over time with true freshmen receivers Justyn Shackelford and Xavier Rush.
What To Watch Out For: Has anyone been paying attention to the play of the Cougars defense? Sure, it’s still the weaker link, and prone to allowing yards, but it’s compensating in 2011 with turnovers and stops for minus yards. The attacking style of the linebackers, namely Sammy Brown, has helped make Houston a more complete team than at any point during head coach Kevin Sumlin’s tenure. The D is generating all kinds of heat, even getting four tackles for loss and three sacks last Saturday from backup DE Lloyd Allen, a first-year transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
What Will Happen: Houston has shown no signs of going through the motions against weaker competition this fall, and isn’t about to begin this week. Sumlin and the assistants have the Cougars executing with passion and precision on both sides of the ball, a one-two punch that’ll be too much for a Tulane squad that’s been flat-lining for more than a month. Houston will follow a familiar blueprint to win No. 10, jumping out early, and running circles around an overmatched and undermanned Green Wave defense.
CFN Prediction: Houston 58 … Tulane 17
Click For Latest Line From ATS: Houston -33.5 O/U: 71
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