ORLANDO, Fla. --
Keenum didn't see the referee pointing in the opposite direction. After another patented Keenum fourth-quarter touchdown drive, Houston had tried an onside kick. The Cougars had recovered, but the ball had traveled just nine yards. Keenum retreated to the sideline. Central Florida quarterback
Certainly, Keenum's 377 passing yards and three touchdown passes will look fabulous when Houston's sports information director sends his weekly "Case for the Heisman" e-mail to national media members later this week. But anyone who watched the game will know almost 200 of those yards came with UCF playing in a prevent defense with the game well in hand.
"We just never really got it kicking there when we needed to," Keenum said.
Keenum came out blazing in the first quarter, throwing for 179 yards and a touchdown. The Cougars led 10-0 and would have led by more had tailback
All week, UCF coaches told their players not to worry about how many yards Houston gained. Worry instead, they said, about how many plays the Cougars run.
That said, UCF coach
In that fateful second quarter, Houston ran four plays and gained exactly zero passing yards. Yes, part of the reason was a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Cougars cornerback
By the time the Cougars got the ball back in the third quarter, the Knights had figured out an offense that still might eclipse 6,000 passing yards this season. Even if that happens, what transpired Saturday should eliminate Keenum from contention for the Heisman. UCF played mostly nickel, sliding 253-pound defensive end
"They turned it into a physical game," Houston coach
But a Heisman Trophy-caliber quarterback should lift his team even when his teammates falter. It would have been forgivable if Keenum had seven Alabama defenders in coverage. But the Knights entered Saturday ranked No. 114 out of 120 FBS teams in pass defense. A Heisman winner would have picked the Knights apart in spite of everything.
That's the conundrum with Keenum. It's not his fault he is two inches shorter than the BCS-conference quarterback archetype. It's not his fault most college coaches have as little imagination as their NFL brethren when recruiting players who don't have the "correct" measureables. Former Houston coach
If Keenum played at Texas A&M or Arkansas, would his numbers be as good? Certainly, the Heisman statistical standard wouldn't be as high if he played in the Big 12 or in the SEC, but would he reach that standard playing with BCS-conference teammates against BCS-conference defenses? His wins against Oklahoma State and Texas Tech this season -- with non-BCS teammates, mind you -- suggest so. Still, in spite of those wins, voters won't get past the losses to UTEP and UCF.
Keenum obviously is a great quarterback. The way he kept his teammates up in the face of certain defeat was nothing short of phenomenal. If my life depended on an offense marching 80 yards in two minutes or less, I'd probably still choose Keenum as my quarterback. But I can't, in good conscience, recommend him for the Heisman Trophy when so many players are great against better competition.
That's a crowded list, but Keenum could have played his way onto it by shredding his remaining Conference USA opponents. He plays in a gadget offense, but it's his go-go-gadget arm and never-say-die attitude that make the offense work.
But in the end, none of the gaudy numbers will matter when Heisman voters call up Keenum's résumé. All that will matter is that Keenum got beat by UTEP and UCF. Heisman winners can lose to only a few acronym schools. They can lose to LSU. They can lose to USC. They cannot lose to UTEP and UCF.