|Houston quarterback Case Keenum throws a pass during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Rice on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011, in Houston. Houston won 73-34. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)|
Keenum tosses 9 TDs as No. 18 Houston beats Rice
HOUSTON—For a quarter and a half, Rice took advantage of rain and sloppy play by No. 18 Houston to lead the Cougars.
Then, the rain stopped and Houston's Case Keenum had one of the best games of his career.
Keenum threw a career-high nine touchdown passes to set the Football Bowl Subdivision record for career TD tosses as the Cougars overcame a slow start in a 73-34 win over Rice Thursday night.
Bryce Callahan intercepted Keenum, and Cameron Nwosu recovered a Keenum fumble and returned it 12 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter in heavy rain as Rice built a 17-7 lead.
The rain subsided and Keenum and the Cougars got going after that. They outscored Rice 45-3 to take a 52-20 lead by early in the third quarter and cruised to the easy victory to remain undefeated.
"The rain slowed down a little bit," Rice linebacker Justin Allen said. "I think the rain affected him. We got into his face a little in the first half. I wished it would have rained all game. It stopped, and they got things cranked up. There was no looking back for them."
Keenum, who became the FBS career leader in total offense last week, has 139 career touchdown passes.
On Thursday he abused Rice's 115th ranked defense by throwing TD passes of 57, 21, 64, 18, 41, 20, 37, 22 and 47 yards to break former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell's record of 134.
He was 24 of 37 for 534 yards before he was replaced by backup Cotton Turner with eight minutes remaining.
"He knows the offense by now and runs it great and the stats prove it," Allen said of Keenum. "Those are video game numbers, something we couldn't get stopped."
Tyler Smith had 170 yards rushing and two rushing and one receiving touchdown for Rice (2-6, 1-4). That included a 97-yard scoring run which was the longest TD run in school history.
"I know I had a pretty breakout game today, but it's pretty tough because we lost," Smith said. "We had things going our way. It was trying to stay consistent and have that fast start. That is what we have been working on is trying to get out of the gate, so we don't have to come from behind early on."
Tyron Carrier tied the NCAA record for career kickoff returns for touchdowns with seven by returning the opening kickoff 100 yards for a score.
Rice made it 7-3 with a 51-yard field goal by Chris Boswell early in the first quarter.
The Owls used a squib kick on the ensuing kickoff to keep the ball away from Carrier and defensive lineman Austin Lunsford fielded it and fumbled and Rice recovered.
Rice took advantage of the miscue on a 1-yard touchdown run by Smith that made it 10-7.
Rice finished with 359 yards rushing as a team, with Turner Petersen rushing for 140 yards working out of the wildcat formation.
"That is what we wanted to do was to start him and run the football and hopefully, move it down every time and get points," Rice coach David Bailiff said. "We ran the ball effectively. We didn't throw it very good tonight. I thought our offensive game plan was good. We have to continue to work on our execution."
After Callahan's interception, the Owls came up empty on the ensuing drive when Boswell slipped on the rain-slicked grass and missed a 38-yard field goal attempt.
The rain had let up when Houston (8-0, 4-0 Conference USA) got the ball back and Keenum found Edwards for his first touchdown pass. The teams exchanged field goals at the beginning of the second quarter to leave Rice up 20-17 with 10 minutes remaining in the half.
Keenum then threw three touchdown passes in a six minute span at the end of the first half to put Houston on top 38-20 and tie the touchdown passes record.
He set the record on a 41-yard pass to Charles Sims early in the third quarter to push the lead to 45-20.
Patrick Edwards had seven receptions for 318 yards receiving and five touchdowns for Houston.
"We had some opportunities but didn't get it done," Bailiff said. "Offensively, we had a big night running the football but had a lot of missed opportunities out there where we made some mistakes that we didn't need to make to stay in it."