Posted by Adam Jacobi
HOUSTON WON. Case Keenum became just the ninth player to top 500 yards passing in a bowl game by going 45-69 for 532 yards and three touchdowns, and Houston coasted to a 30-14 victory. Keenum and Patrick Edwards hooked up for their 19th and 20th touchdowns of the year, and Edwards finished with nine catches for 228 yards and two TDs in the winning effort.
HOW HOUSTON WON: All Houston had to do was score a couple touchdowns and Penn State wasn't going to outscore them. Houston took care of that in the opening quarter, where Case Keenum led the Cougars to 17 points and over 200 yards of offense. From there, it wasn't hard to keep Rob Bolden and the Penn State offense in check, and Houston eased off on the gas pedal accordingly.
WHEN HOUSTON WON: Houston held a double-digit lead for the vast majority of the game, but Penn State's ability to keep the Cougars out of the end zone in the second half meant that this was still a two-possession game for most of the 4th quarter, and even for PSU, two scores in 5-10 minutes isn't completely out of the question. Indeed, Rob Bolden had speedy wideout Devon Smith open on a fly route late in the fourth quarter, and Smith could only get one hand on the pass. If he catches it and PSU converts the two-point conversion, this would have been a one-score game. Smith let the pass fall, Rob Bolden threw a horrific interception on his very next throw, and the game was effectively over.
WHAT HOUSTON WON: Houston landed a huge blow to the common refrain that the Cougars were undeserving of major bowl consideration by whacking a nationally ranked team from an automatic qualifier conference. Yes, Penn State had its own issues, but none of those issues had anything to do with the Nittany Lion pass defense, and Keenum absolutely torched that D. PSU had a top-five pass defense coming into the game. Had.
WHAT PENN STATE LOST: Undoubtedly, Penn State and its fans just wanted this season to be over, and now it is. Rob Bolden was tantalizing on deep throws but utterly lost on the routine ones, so he blew an opportunity to make a case for starting over Matt McGloin (who missed the game after suffering a head injury in a fight with WR Curtis Drake) next year. Similarly, Tom Bradley's 1-3 record as interim head coach may likely have precluded him from being the lead candidate for the job. There really weren't any positives for this season by the end of it, and now it's time for Penn State to address its larger issues off the field.
THAT WAS CRAZY: Not only was Case Keenum's performance close to record-setting, it could have been so much worse. 380 of Keenum's 532 passing yards came in the first half, which led most to believe that a 600-yard performace was upcoming. Only 152 passing yards in the second half? Outrage! Disappointment!
FINAL GRADE: C-. It would be wrong to turn one's nose up at a 500-yard passing performance, so congratulations to Keenum and Houston for that, but this game was basically never competitive; Houston spent over 54 minutes of game time with a double-digit lead, and Penn State's offense was so anemic that a 10-point lead may as well have been 50 points.