by Brian Hilderbrand for www.ticketcitybowl.com
January 2, 2012
Dallas, Texas - This one was an instant classic.
Don’t be surprised if the second annual TicketCity Bowl turns up on the ESPN Classic network in the next few days. Thanks to the right arm of quarterback Case Keenum and the sure hands of receivers Patrick Edwards and Justin Johnson, Houston’s 30-14 victory over Penn State on Monday at Cotton Bowl Stadium was one for the book.
The record books, that is.
Keenum took center stage from the opening drive and proceeded to set an NCAA record for most passing yards in a quarter (227 in the first) and seven stadium passing records. His yards passing (532), attempts (69), completions (45) and total offense (542 yards) all ranked in the top five in NCAA bowl history.
Edwards hauled in 10 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns – including a 75-yard scoring pass in the second quarter – and Johnson had 12 receptions for 148 yards and a touchdown.
Although Keenum was voted the game’s Most Valuable Player, the senior said the credit needs to be shared with his receivers and his offensive line.
"I didn't get hit a whole lot," Keenum said of his protection. "You have to give my offensive line a lot of credit because obviously they've got a very, very talented defensive line. (Penn State defensive tackle) Devon Still … there are a lot of other guys that rush the quarterback and are great defensive linemen. I thought (our linemen) did a great job of picking up blitzes, picking up the rush. That allowed us to operate and be successful."
And made it look easy for Keenum and the Houston offense.
"Well, I think it's a combination of us preparing very well (and) putting in the right work," Keenum said. "I mean, I've been running this offense for four years now. I've been throwing the ball to (Edwards) for four or five years. That's just what we did. That's what we do (and) we did it today.
And the Cougars (13-1) did it against a Penn State defense that was ranked 10th in total defense and fourth in passing defense.
Penn State interim head coach Tom Bradley said before the game that it was imperative that Penn State survive the first quarter and get accustomed to Houston’s up-tempo offense. That didn’t happen.
Houston drove 76 yards in six plays on the opening drive, added a Matt Hogan field goal to go up 10-0 and drove what would prove to be the final nail in Penn State’s coffin with a five-play, 50-yards scoring drive to take a 17-0 lead with 2:35 remaining in the opening quarter.
"That's the one thing about bowl games, you have to get caught up to speed as fast as you can," Bradley said. "You can't duplicate it because you haven't played in five weeks. That's the one thing that always worries you – you’ve got to get caught up, and we didn't today. Since I've been in all those bowl games here, I know the games we win are because we come out first quarter at least even or close to it.
"I think the 75-yard (scoring play) just broke our back."
Penn State (9-4) cut the Cougars’ lead to 17-7 midway through the second quarter on a 21-yard scoring run by Stephfon Green, but Houston answered with the 75-yard scoring pass and took a 24-7 lead into halftime.
Houston increased its lead to 27-7 on a 38-yard Hogan field goal with 4:21 remaining in the third quarter before Penn State closed to 27-14 two minutes later on a 69-yard scoring pass from quarterback Rob Bolden to Justin Brown.
Houston made it 30-14 on Hogan’s third field goal of the game, a 22-yarder just 8 seconds into the fourth quarter – the only scoring in the period.
The victory served as a point of vindication for Houston, which was coming off a 49-28 loss to Southern Miss in the Conference USA championship game that ruined the Cougars’ perfect season.
"Our kids wanted to go out against a really, really tremendous opponent in a January bowl game on a national stage and show the country that our loss a month ago in the championship game was not the norm," Houston head coach Tony Levine said. That (loss) was a fluke, not the 12 wins leading up to it."
57.1% of CollegeFootballPoll.com voters picked Houston to win and the Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com forecasted an 8.36-point victory for the Cougars.