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Houston beats Rice 73-14


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HOUSTON -- Case Keenum threw for 323 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another in the first half and No. 25 Houston cruised to a 73-14 win over Rice on Saturday night to capture the Conference USA West Division title.

The win avenges last year's 56-42 loss to the rival Owls which kept the Cougars out of the C-USA Championship Game.

Tyron Carrier returned the opening kickoff 99 yards for a score and Houston tied a school record with 59 first-half points to get its place in next Saturday's title game at East Carolina. With this one wrapped up at halftime, Keenum and many of Houston's other starters didn't play after the break.

Charles Sims added a pair of scores for Houston (10-2, 6-2) and Carrier scored on a 37-yard run in the second quarter to break a two-game winning streak for Rice (2-10, 2-6) which opened the season 0-9.

Houston scored on each of its seven possessions in the first half. The Cougars' 59 first-half points eclipsed their previous season-high for points in a game and set a school record.

Houston's 1989 team, including Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware, which previously held the mark for most first-half points was honored at halftime. Those Cougars set the record in a 95-21 defeat of a just-back-from-the-NCAA-death-penalty SMU team.

The Cougars had more touchdowns (eight) than Rice had first downs (five) before halftime and Houston outgained the Owls 465-144 in the first two quarters. The Owls' first-half passing yards (53) were less than Houston's score.

Tyler Smith ran for 113 yards for the Owls and freshman Charles Ross 105 yards rushing and both Rice touchdowns.

The Cougars scoring slowed in the second half with backups playing, but they added a pair of scores with Cotton Turner at quarterback to make it 73-14 early in the fourth. Sumlin put third-stringer Austin Elrod in at quarterback after that and Houston didn't score again.

After Carrier put Houston ahead early, Keenum made it 14-0 with a 1-yard run with about 10 minutes left in the first quarter.

Brandon Brinkley returned the first of three first-half interceptions by the Cougars defense 45 yards for a touchdown to push the lead to 21-0 later in the first quarter. He dashed a few yards before stutter-stepping to avoid a couple of defenders and then bulling in for the touchdown.

Jamal Robinson had the two other interceptions, one off Nick Fanuzzi and the other from backup Ryan Lewis.

Houston was already ahead 24-0 after a field goal by Matt Hogan when Rice finally got a first down with 2½ minutes left in the first quarter. Fanuzzi found Ross on a short pass that he turned into a 30-yard gain. They couldn't get anything going after that run and had to punt.

Fanuzzi was 16 of 30 for 132 yards and with two interceptions.

Ross had a 48-yard run to get the Owls to the Houston 26 early in the second quarter, but Fanuzzi threw his second interception three plays later to kill that drive.

Keenum extended his streak of consecutive game with a touchdown pass to 28 when he hit Patrick Edwards in the end zone for a 39-yard touchdown pass that made it 38-0 about 11 minutes before halftime. Keenum also threw a 5-yard touchdown to L.J. Castile that made it 59-0 just before halftime.

Turner threw for 112 yards and a touchdown after replacing Keenum before he was relieved by Elrod.

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