DALLAS, TX - JANUARY 02: Case Keenum #7 of the Houston Cougars carries the TicketCity Bowl trophy after a 30-14 win against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Cotton Bowl Stadium on January 2, 2012 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
The stats that mattered from Houston's 30-14 win over Penn State in the TicketCity Bowl, from Derek Moye's goose egg, to Case Keenum's gunslinging, to Rob Bolden's perfect form on short-hoppers.
0: Combined catches by Derek Moye and tackles by Devon Still. Give me those two numbers, and I'm going to assume Penn State lost by 50. It only felt that way. Moye, one of the least efficient No. 1 receivers in the country, partook in a masterpiece of inefficiency; beleaguered quarterback Rob Bolden targeted him seven times, but Moye ended up with as many catches as I did. (That Bolden also completed only 37 percent of his passes not aimed at Moye probably tells you all you need to know about his day.)
Meanwhile, Stlil's stat line tells you all you need to know about the defense's day. The All-American tackle was as frazzled and overwhelmed as the rest of the Penn State defense. The only reason he got in the box score at all was because he logged a quarterback hurry. Penn State barely laid a finger on Case Keenum, and whatever advantage Penn State had on the line was very much negated by the fact that they were completely unfamiliar with Houston's offensive style and took quite a while to adjust.
14: Times in which a Penn State opponent passed more than 40 times in a game against the Nittany Lions. An opponent had passed over 50 times twice in that span, over 60 times once. Houston, meanwhile, went over 40 passes 13 times this year, over 50 five times, and over 60 twice. There are quite a few different ways to play football, eh? For the game, Keenum threw 69 passes, 38 to Patrick Edwards and Justin Johnson alone. They each caught more passes than Penn State's entire team.
20: Plays in which it seemed like Penn State had a chance. Five plays on Houston's opening drive and 15 in the second quarter. Case Keenum looked a bit pressured and uncomfortable in the pocket on Houston's opening drive, and as Houston faced a 3rd-and-8 from Penn State 40, it still felt like Penn State's defense might know what it was doing. And then Keenum found a wide open Patrick Edwards for a 40-yard touchdown. Penn State went three-and-out on each of its first three drives, Houston scored twice more, and it was 17-0 after one quarter. Still, the defense stabilized a bit (eventually), and when Devon Smith reeled in a 43-yard prayer midway through the second quarter, the Nittany Lions found some life. They scored a touchdown to cut the lead to 17-7, forced a turnover on downs, and looked as if they might actually claw back into the game. And then the offense went three-and-out again (replete with a near-pick six), and a scrambling Keenum found Edwards uncovered for a 75-yard touchdown, and that was the ballgame.
27: Rob Bolden's completion percentage. He was 7-for-26 for 137 yards, one long touchdown and three interceptions. Watching Rob Bolden is a jarring, sad experience. He has the mechanics and poise of a solid quarterback, but the results just aren't there. With solid form, he calmly throws a 14-yard short-hopper to a receiver 20 yards down field. With the poise of a senior, he steps into the pocket and throws a pick into triple coverage. You cannot read what is about to happen by watching Bolden; but after two years, it is, to put it kindly, easy to wonder about his potential.
211: Yardage margin after each team's first five drives. Houston gained 255 yards on 36 plays (7.1 per play), scored 17 points and missed a field goal; Penn State gained 34 yards on 17 plays (2.0) and punted five times. For the rest of the game, things were mostly even (points: Penn State 14, Houston 13; yards: Houston 345, Penn State 272), but only one team was prepared out of the gates. In the game preview, I mentioned that Houston needed to strike early before Penn State adapted to their style. To say the least, they did.