84F Robertson Stadium, Houston, TX
Case Keenum is approaching a number of NCAA records, but the only numbers concerning the Houston quarterback and his coach are wins and losses.
So far, the 21st-ranked Cougars couldn't be any more pleased.
Keenum tries to lead Houston to its first 7-0 start in 21 years Saturday when it hosts a Marshall team that could use two quarterbacks to try to win two straight for the first time this year.
Granted a sixth year of eligibility after a torn ACL limited him to three games in 2010, Keenum is on pace to become the first player in NCAA history with three 5,000-yard passing seasons. He has completed 71.4 percent of his throws for 2,309 yards with 17 touchdowns and two interceptions in 2011, and is the driving force behind the Cougars (6-0, 2-0 Conference USA) getting off to their best start since opening with eight wins in 1990.
Team success is what motivates Keenum, not being 130 yards shy of passing Timmy Chang (16,910) for the NCAA career total offense record, 1,178 yards from Chang's passing yardage mark (17,072) or needing 11 touchdown passes to surpass former Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell (134) for first place in that category.
"I will have the rest of my life to look back," said Keenum, who completed 30 of 37 passes for 304 yards and three scores in Houston's last game, a 56-3 win over East Carolina on Oct. 8. "I'd rather take the time now and focus on what's important I can reflect on records later on in life."
Cougars coach Kevin Sumlin can't say enough about how Keenum has developed since arriving on campus, but he also knows none of those accolades would be possible without the contributions of senior wide receivers Patrick Edwards, Tyron Carrier and Justin Johnson, as well as many others on both sides of the ball.
"Any record about total offense leads to the team on a larger scale," Sumlin said. "Any kind of national awards we've been involved with, they're team awards."
While Keenum is the unquestioned leader of the nation's top-ranked offense (603.7 yards per game) and passing attack (435.5), Marshall (3-4, 2-1) is merely hoping one of its quarterbacks will grab hold of the starting job.
Making his first career start in last Saturday's 24-20 victory over Rice after true freshman Rakeem Cato started the first six contests, sophomore A.J. Graham completed just 12 of 23 passes for 110 yards with an interception.
However, Graham provided a huge lift to the Thundering Herd's 103rd-ranked rushing offense (104.3 yards per game), producing 129 yards and two scores on his own.
"Both of those kids bring a lot of positives to this football team. As a staff, we have to take advantage to what both of those kids can do," coach Doc Holliday said of Graham and Cato. "We'll take this week to focus on both their talents and make a decision prior to Saturday. Both could play."
Marshall senior defensive end Vinny Curry played last week just days after his mother passed away, and forced a fumble, recovered another, recorded 3 1/2 sacks and had four tackles for loss.
Curry is second in the FBS with 9 1/2 sacks, with 6 1/2 coming in the last three games, but Keenum denies he's concerned.
"I have faith in those guys (on the offensive line) and I'm going to trust them," said Keenum, who has been sacked six times in the last four games. "He's a good player but we have good players too."
Sammy Brown is one of the Cougars' best on defense. The senior linebacker had a career-high 2 1/2 sacks against East Carolina as Houston finished with nine sacks and four interceptions - both season highs.
This is the third meeting between these schools, with the home team having won the previous two.
Keenum went 22 for 41 for 317 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in Houston's 37-23 loss to Marshall on Oct. 28, 2008.