(Friday, November 25th)
Final Score: (8) Houston 48, Tulsa 16
Tulsa, OK (Sports Network) - Case Keenum passed for 457 yards and five touchdowns, as No. 8 Houston used a dominant second half to beat Tulsa, 48-16, and win the Conference USA West Division title.
Three of Keenum's touchdown throws came during the second half, including two during a game-ending 28-0 run that the Cougars (12-0, 8-0 C-USA) used to cement the victory.
Houston set a school record for wins and will host the conference championship next Saturday at Robertson Stadium. The Cougars will face either Southern Mississippi or Marshall in that contest.
G.J. Kinne threw for 176 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for Tulsa (8-4, 7-1). All of the Golden Hurricane's losses this season have come against teams ranked in the top-10 at the time of the contest.
"We played for three quarters, and you don't get to win championships if you don't play four," said Tulsa head coach Bill Blankenship.
Tulsa began the season with a 47-14 loss at Oklahoma and fell to Oklahoma State two weeks later. The Golden Hurricane fell to 1-3 following a defeat at Boise State, but had rattled off seven consecutive victories since then.
They stayed close in the first half and were within 20-16 after a pair of Kevin Fitzpatrick field goals in the third quarter.
"They did a great job of getting us off our stuff, getting us off our rhythm, our routine. They had a couple scoring drives early and that's not where we wanted to be," Keenum said.
But the Cougars scored the first of four consecutive touchdowns with 1:23 left in the third quarter to start pulling away. Keenum connected with Patrick Edwards for a 38-yard score, completing a nine-play, 80-yard drive.
After Tulsa went three-and-out, Houston went on another extended scoring drive. Michael Hayes plunged one yard across the goal line nearly four minutes into the fourth quarter to cap the 10-play, 73-yard march.
The scores made it a 34-16 contest, and moreover broke the game open. Houston gained more and more control with each following possession.
Tulsa turned the ball over on downs, and it wasn't long before Houston got back into the end zone. Keenum's 51-yard pass to Edwards put the ball at the Golden Hurricane 12, and two plays later he hit Justin Johnson with an eight- yard TD.
Kinne was intercepted two plays into Tulsa's next drive, giving Houston the ball at the Golden Hurricane 21. Cotton Turner put a punctuation mark on the victory by running for seven yards before finding Edwards for a score.
Tulsa led throughout the first quarter, when it forced Houston to punt before scoring on its first possession. Kinne's 11-yard TD to Willie Carter ended a 10-play, 76-yard drive.
Keenum then led Houston to a score, completing all six passes during an 80- yard drive that ended with a five-yard TD to Edwards.
But the Cougars missed the extra point, and Fitzpatrick's 52-yarder with 1:14 left in the period made it a 10-6 game.
However, Houston went in front by scoring the only touchdown of the second quarter. Keenum found Charles Sims for a 20-yard TD with 4:13 to go, and the Cougars went into the break with a 13-10 edge.
Nearly three minutes into the third, Keenum's 33-yard TD to Edwards put Houston up by 10.
Houston improved to 20-17 all-time vs. Tulsa...Cougars wide receiver Tyron Carrier recorded nine catches and became the Conference USA leader in career receptions, with 307. He passed former Louisville WR Arnold Jackson, who had 300 from 1997-2000...Edwards finished with eight catches for 181 yards. He has three games this season with three or more TD catches.
11/25 18:08:32 ET