University of Houston quarterback Case Keenum isn’t much into talking about himself and records.
The sixth-year senior leaves that up to everyone else.
While people are talking, Keenum is continuing his assault on the NCAA record books. The quarterback who none of us may have never heard of had Robert Griffin not changed his verbal commitment from Houston to Baylor, became the NCAA All-Time leader in total offense and touchdowns (passing and running) last weekend.
Now when the 18th-ranked Cougars host Rice in the Bayou Bucket on Thursday night, the program’s winningest quarterback takes aim at the NCAA all-time passing touchdowns mark and the all-time passing yards marks. It all means that Keenum has put together a brilliant career at Houston, but his focus remains on keeping the 7-0 Cougars on track for a Conference USA championship and the way outside chance of a BCS bowl.
“My career is not over so it’s hard to put things in perspective like that,” Keenum said. “I would hope it’s not over and that it will continue to get better. I hope this isn’t where it ends up because I think there is a lot more out there for this team and for myself. I’m excited to get out there and continue on with the season and get going.”
In most years with the numbers Keenum is putting up combined with the dominating year the Cougars are having, there would be serious talk of the Heisman Trophy. But the country’s top college football award already has Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck’s name engraved on it.
That fact doesn’t preclude Keenum’s name from being part of the conversation for the Heisman Trophy and the other top quarterback awards, which is something of a victory because his career could have been over after just three games last year when he went down with an ACL injury. The NCAA, however, saw fit to give him a rare extra year of eligibility.
Keenum’s extraordinary ability and play have returned him to the national spotlight once again.
“That comes with winning,” said Houston coach Kevin Sumlin. “You can see the maturity level with him now as opposed to two years ago. He’s always been a grounded person and a steady guy who is really a tremendous leader.
“I can’t say enough about how he has approached this year seeing where he was in January to seeing him out there out there with that football, I’m really really happy for him.”
What has made Keenum’s accomplishments so impressive is that none of us ever saw this coming. He wasn’t a heralded recruit and even by Sumlin’s own admission, Keenum first won the Cougars quarterback job in a controversial decision over Blake Joseph.
Yet here he is, setting the stage to be remembered in college football for years to come.
Keenum came into Saturday’s game against Marshall needing 129 yards to surpass Hawaii’s Timmy Chang for the total offense record. What might have taken most quarterbacks at least a half to do, Keenum accomplished in less than a quarter. Once the day was complete, Keenum had amassed 17,173 yards and surpassed Central Michigan’s Dan LeFevour for the all-time touchdowns lead with 150.
What made the day really special is that Keenum accomplished the marks by completing 24 of 28 passes for 376 yards and a career-tying six touchdown passes during a 63-28 win and then he was able to celebrate his achievements with his teammates.
“It’ an incredible honor,” he said. “But being there with all the guys around me, it was very special. To be in a place like this at Robertston Stadium in front of the home crowd, nobody else has been able to do that. It’s very special and it means a lot to me.”
He will certainly come closer to the next two high-water achievements on Thursday night against Rice, but if he has a really good night then the career touchdown passing mark will be his. Keenum needs five touchdown passes to remove Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell as the all-time touchdown passing leader.
For most quarterbacks in most offenses that might require two games to achieve. But for Keenum and the Cougars nation-leading aerial attack, he could hit five touchdowns in the first half against the country’s 26th-ranked passing defense.
Keenum still needs 801 passing yards to become the NCAA all-time passing leader.
What’s interesting is that Keenum seems the least bit interested in personal achievements. He’s pointed out in the past that his past and current teammates have been just as responsible for his numbers, making that point that he has thrown to some 30 receivers during his UH career and that 20 of them have caught touchdown passes.
Hearing Keenum give so much credit to his teammates in Sumlin’s eyes really shows his talent as a quarterback and leader more than numbers and records.
“Watching him grow over the last few years and him being able to handle a lot of different things, I am really really happy for him,” Sumlin said. “I think you can see that our whole team is happy for him. I feel real good about our team chemistry.
“When we talk about individual awards being team awards there a bunch of guys who caught short passes and ran like hell. That makes it all worthwhile.
“To watch him grow as a person, go through what he’s gone through, the ups and downs personally and with the team,” Sumlin continued. “You couldn’t be happier for a person. “