Houston 41

(2-3, 1-0 American)

(23) East Carolina 24

(3-2, 1-1 American)

Coverage: CBS Sports Network

3:30 PM ET, September 27, 2008

Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Greenville, NC

1 2 3 4 T
HOU 14 7 3 1741
#23ECU 7 3 7 724

Top Performers

Passing: C. Keenum (HOU) - 401 YDS, 3 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: B. Beall (HOU) - 21 CAR, 130 YDS, 2 TD

Receiving: P. Edwards (HOU) - 11 REC, 146 YDS, 1 TD

Houston earns first win against ranked opponent in 12 years

Associated Press

GREENVILLE, N.C. -- Case Keenum and the Houston offense barely stopped long enough to call a play, much less allow No. 23 East Carolina to catch its breath. Now the Cougars are celebrating their first win against a ranked opponent in a dozen years.

Fast Facts

• East Carolina climbed into the Top 25 with consecutive wins over ranked opponents to open the season, but the Pirates have now lost two straight to unranked opponents.

• Patrick Pinkney, who was brilliant during ECU's early success, struggled in this game. He completed just 50 percent of his passes and commited two turnovers (one interception, one fumble).

• ECU fell to 1-3 in conference home openers under head coach Skip Holtz.

• Houston continues to dominate Conference USA with its 16th win in its last 19 conference games.

-- ESPN research

Keenum threw for 399 yards and three touchdowns and the Cougars rolled up 621 total yards in a 41-24 win Saturday, ending an 18-game losing streak against ranked teams and sending the Pirates to a second straight deflating loss.

Patrick Edwards had 11 catches for 146 yards and a score for the Cougars (2-3, 1-0 Conference USA), whose last win against a ranked team was a 56-49 overtime victory against then-No. 20 Southern Mississippi in November 1996. It was Houston's first road win against a ranked foe since beating No. 3 Texas 29-15 in November 1984.

Houston had lost its past two games to Air Force -- which was moved to Dallas due to Hurricane Ike -- and Colorado State by three points each time. But the Cougars never trailed in this one, building a 21-10 halftime lead and then getting a long touchdown catch from Kierrie Johnson early in the fourth quarter to turn away the Pirates' rally hopes.

"We're a fast-tempo offense and we were able to get on them pretty quick," Keenum said. "Every time you looked up, somebody was making a clutch play."

Bryce Beall ran for 132 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Cougars' ground attack, which had not produced a 100-yard rusher all season and became the first to do it against East Carolina (3-2, 1-1). Houston's 621 yards were the fourth-most ever allowed by the Pirates and most since coach Skip Holtz took over before the 2005 season.

"Being on the road wasn't a big deal," Houston coach Kevin Sumlin said. "I liked our energy all week. I liked our energy in pregame. That carried over to the game. I think you can see the potential that is in this team."

East Carolina had upset Virginia Tech and West Virginia to open the season and earn a national ranking for the first time in nine years. But the Pirates lost last weekend in overtime to rival North Carolina State, ending all the crash-the-BCS talk and challenging them to regroup quickly enough to handle Houston's high-powered offense.

It wasn't the performance Holtz had hoped to see. East Carolina managed little offense and even less resistance on defense as the Cougars marched up and down the field, sending the Pirates into their bye week looking like a worn-out club.

"I thought overall we just didn't play with the same fire and the same enthusiasm and emotion," Holtz said. "I see guys who are putting it out on the field. But I don't think there was the same emotion or passion that we've had some other games this year."

The Cougars had something to do with that, starting with the way Keenum directed a no-huddle offense that looked ready to snap the ball as soon as it was spotted all day.

"After they'd run the first play, they'd hurry right back up to the line and run that next play," Pirates safety Van Eskridge said. "Sometimes it kind of caught us off guard and took us a while to get adjusted to it."

In fact, Houston's mistakes were the main thing keeping the Pirates in the game, with Keenum fumbling away the ball while diving at East Carolina's goal line in the first quarter then throwing an interception that Emanuel Davis returned 11 yards for a score later in the period.

East Carolina managed 275 total yards, with much of that coming after the Cougars had built a big lead in the final period. Its offense was so ineffective that Holtz pulled starting quarterback Patrick Pinkney at halftime in favor of backup Rob Kass, who directed a 70-yard scoring drive that ended with Brandon Simmons' 4-yard scoring run that made it 21-17 with 6:02 left in the third.

But the Cougars answered with a long drive to set up Ben Bell's 24-yard field goal. Then, after Houston forced a three-and-out, Keenum scrambled away from pressure to his right side and heaved a pass to Johnson -- who had somehow slipped behind the defense -- for an easy 84-yard score and a 31-17 lead with 14:06 left.

Houston essentially sealed the game a few minutes later, picking off Kass to set up Beall's 5-yard touchdown run for a 38-17 lead with 12:04 left.

"We wanted to get the season turned around on this game," Cougars defensive end Phillip Hunt said. "We knew they were a good team. They were ranked. We just wanted to set ourselves up for the rest of the season by coming out with a win this time."

Pinkney returned in the fourth quarter and threw for 100 yards and a meaningless late score for East Carolina.


Team Stat Comparison

1st Downs2513
Total Yards621275
3rd Down Conversions6-161-13
4th Down Conversions0-11-2

Passing Leaders


Rushing Leaders


Receiving Leaders


Scoring Summary

TD09:52Patrick Edwards 24 Yd Pass From Case Keenum (Ben Bell Kick) 70
TD06:28Emanuel Davis 11 Yd Interception Return (Ben Hartman Kick) 77
TD04:30Bryce Beall 21 Yd Run (Ben Bell Kick) 147
FG14:57Ben Hartman 26 Yd 1410
TD00:11Mark Hafner 11 Yd Pass From Case Keenum (Ben Bell Kick) 2110
TD06:02Brandon Simmons 4 Yd Run (Ben Hartman Kick) 2117
FG01:32Ben Bell 24 Yd 2417
TD14:06Kierrie Johnson 84 Yd Pass From Case Keenum (Ben Bell Kick) 3117
TD12:04Bryce Beall 5 Yd Run (Ben Bell Kick) 3817
TD08:06Jamar Bryant 12 Yd Pass From Patrick Pinkney (Ben Hartman Kick) 3824
FG03:48Ben Bell 32 Yd 4124