The Texas Tech game in 2009 was a major event for the Houston Cougars and the city. It was the first time in 18 years that UH had been ranked, coming a week after UH’s improbable win over #5 Oklahoma State in Stillwater.
Tailgating began on Friday afternoon with RVs showing up and fans meeting up for drinks, to socialize, and to talk about their high-powered offense. Could the Cougars beat a Big 12 team for the 2nd week in a row?
The Tech game offered multiple fascinating layers:
- The game was the first against Texas Tech since the break-up of the Southwest Conference;
- After the Oklahoma State win, national talk began to include UH breaking into the BCS. If the Coogs could beat Tech perhaps they could be the BCS crashers of 2009;
- Cougar fans sold out Robertson Stadium 8 days before the game – even before UH’s win at Oklahoma State. It was the 1st sellout in Robertson Stadium history;
- Tech coach Mike Leach was featured on the cover of the current Texas Monthly. The oddball, yet fascinating, Tech coach had gone mainstream.
Opening Kickoff – 8:27 p.m.
Texas Tech received the opening kick but fumbled on the 3rd play of the game. Taking over at the Tech 34, Keenum led an 8-play drive that ended with a six-yard touchdown pass to James Cleveland, the first TD catch of his career.
Tech scored on the next drive to make it 7-7. Tyron Carrier returned the ensuing kickoff 61 yards to the Tech 38 but the Cougar drive stalled and Jordan Mannisto missed a 40-yard FG. Mannisto would hit from 30 yards midway through the 2nd quarter to make it a 10-7 UH lead.
After the UH score, Tech put together two sustained drives and scored on each. The Red Raiders led 21-10 before Keenum got the ball back with 59 seconds to go in the half. The junior QB orchestrated a quick drive to the Tech 27 before a delay of game pushed them back to the 32. Mannisto made a career-long 50 yarder as the half ended to get UH within eight points.
Halftime: Texas Tech 21, Houston 13
After the half, the teams traded unsuccessful drives before Houston went on a 7-play, 85 yard drive for their 2nd TD of the game. Bryce Beall took it in from a yard out to get the Coogs within a point at 21-20. Tech responded with a 75 yard TD drive to increase their lead to 28-20 with 4:19 left in the 3rd quarter.
It would be the last time they scored.
With 3:15 left in the quarter, the Red Raiders started to mount. But on a 1st & 10 play, DT David Hunter stripped and CJ Cavness recovered an Eric Stephens fumble. 11 plays later, having marched to the 4 yard line, Mannisto would add his 3rd field goal – this one 21 yards – to make the score 28-23.
This is the most glaring example of how Kevin Sumlin out-coached Leach that night. When he could take the points, Sumlin did. Mannisto would attempt 5 field goals that night compared to 0 for Texas Tech. That fact would come back to bite the Red Raiders.
Tech started the next drive just before the 4th quarter began. Matt Nicholson intercepted the first play of the drive but a personal foul call negated the turnover. On the next play, Brandon Brinkley forced a fumble but the ball trickled out of bounds and the Red Raiders retained possession. The quarter ended and a disheveled Tech breathed a sigh of relief.
The 4th Quarter Offers Lots Of Drama
Tech came out more composed in the 4th and started to move the ball deep into UH territory. A Baron Batch rush to the 7 gave Tech a first & goal to potentially put the game away. Batch ran for 3 and then 2 more to get it to 3rd & goal from the 2. Leach elected to hand it off to a backup running back who got a yard before Marcus McGraw stood him up at the 1.
On 4th down, with most everyone in the stadium expecting a FG to extend the lead to 8 points, Leach bucked convention and went for it. QB Taylor Potts attempted a QB sneak but was stopped by Kris Johnston and David Hunter. Turnover on downs. Somehow, the UH defense had held.
“We needed to score and had a half of a yard, but in hindsight, I should have called for a field goal,” Leach said after the game.
Starting from his own 1 yard line, Case Keenum directed an 11-play drive into Tech territory. But in his only mistake of the night, Keenum was picked off by Tech’s Will Ford at the 34. The defense would need to hold again.
And they did. Tech hit a 12-yarder on the first play of the drive but could not pick up another first down. Tech punted and downed the ball at the UH 5. With 5:47 left in the game, it was now or never for the Cougars. Tension inside Robertson Stadium was the highest it had ever been.
95 yards from a potential win, Keenum and OC Dana Holgorsen methodically picked apart the Tech defense. For my money, that drive was the most amazing I’ve witnessed in 20 years following the Cougars. After missing Cleveland on a deep ball, the Coogs picked up a couple quick first downs before Keenum scrambled for another on a 3rd & 10 play.
Charles Sims was dropped for a loss on 1st down and Beall picked up 2 yards on 2nd down. Facing 3rd & long, Holgorsen had a plan. Instead of trying to pick up 9 yards for a first down, he would be patient and believe in his offense. On third down, the freshman Sims ran for 6 yards on a draw play. On 4th & 3, with the game on the line, Keenum hit Patrick Edwards on a sideline pass for 7 yards and the first down.
That was my favorite sequence in the game. Craig James wasn’t impressed, though:
On the ensuing first down, Beall went over the left tackle for 12 yards. On the next play, Keenum stepped up to avoid pressure and hit Tyron Carrier over the middle for 23 yards. First and goal for the Coogs on the 7.
Bryce Beall went right for 3 yards before UH called timeout with 53 seconds left.
On 2nd and goal from the 4 yard line, the Coogs came out in an empty set. Holgorsen spread Tech all over the field. With just 3 defenders rushing, Keenum ran a QB draw and snuck in for a touchdown. An anxious stadium exploded.
In his final words before the touchdown, ESPN’s Mike Patrick said, “Remember, Keenum can run.”
UH went for two but were unable to convert. 29-28 Cougars.
But the game wasn’t over – Tech got the ball back with 49 seconds left. The Red Raiders moved the ball to the UH 43 before a motion penalty set them back 5 yards. With 2 seconds left, their only shot was a Hail Mary. Potts heaved it as far as he could but it was knocked away at the 6 yard line.
The Cougars had beaten the Red Raiders 29-28. The game ended after midnight but the party had just begun. UH fans rushed the field in their uncontrolled excitement.
UH had won an epic on the back of Case Keenum. During the 16-play, 95-yard winning drive, Keenum was 4/7 for 43 yards and also rushed for 22 yards (and two first downs) on 3 carries. For the game, he was 38 of 58 for 435 yards and 2 TDs (1 pass, 1 rush).
Case achieved several milestones in the win over Tech:
- Keenum had his 17th career 300-yard passing day. He moved into a tie with Kevin Kolb for the most in school history.
- With 435 passing yards, Keenum recorded the sixth 400-yard passing game of his career. He tied with Andre Ware for the second most 400-yard passing in UH career history.
- With his two touchdowns responsible for (1 pass, 1 rush), Keenum moved past Andre Ware into third place in UH career history with 84.
- Keenum became the 5th player in school history to reach 8,000 passing yards, joining Kevin Kolb, David Klinger, Jason McKinley, and Andre Ware in that group.
- With two touchdowns responsible for (1 pass, 1 rush), Keenum moved into a tie with Shaun King for touchdowns responsible in C-USA history.
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