- Associated Press - Sunday, September 11, 2011

DENTON, TEXAS (AP) - Next weekend will mark one year since the devastating knee injury to Houston quarterback Case Keenum that could have ended his college career.

Now, two games into a rare sixth season of NCAA eligibility, Keenum is getting back into his passing groove.

While Keenum insists he’s still readapting to the routine of preparing and then playing games, he threw for 458 yards and five touchdowns in a 48-23 victory at North Texas on Saturday night. That included 284 yards and four TDs on the only drives he played after halftime as the Cougars pushed a three-point lead to 48-17.

“I didn’t come in with quite the mindset, the preparation that I would have liked to. Obviously that showed kind of there in the first half,” Keenum said. “It’s been a while. … As we go along, I’m going to get better and I think our team is going to get better, too.”

Just consider how much Keenum and the Cougars (2-0) improved from the first half to the second Saturday night while spoiling North Texas’ debut in its new campus stadium.

Houston led the Mean Green (0-2) only 20-17 at halftime after a late field goal. Keenum was 9-of-19 passing with one TD, several overthrows and a few drops.

Keenum then hit 17 of 22 passes in the second half. His last throw, a 21-yard score to Michael Hayes with nearly 14 minutes left in the game, made it 48-17.

“Obviously, he made plays when we needed to have them made,” coach Kevin Sumlin said. “After less than a year, he’s not where he was physically, but I think his experience and his leadership was critical, and how he responded really in the third quarter. … That’s the guy that we know.”

With his 26th victory as Houston’s starter, Keenum matched Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb for the most in school history. It was his 27th game with at least 300 yards passing, including both this year.

Keenum overtook Colt Brennan for fourth on the FBS career passing list with 14,354 yards. He equaled 1996 Heisman Trophy winner Danny Weurffel for sixth with 114 TDs, and is only seven short of matching Ty Detmer, the 1990 Heisman winner, for third in the group led by Graham Harrell’s 134.

The Cougars play next Saturday at Louisiana Tech, where Tim Rattay threw for 115 TDs from 1997-99.

That game will take place a day before the one-year anniversary of when Keenum tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while attempting a tackle in a loss at UCLA on Sept. 18.

A month later, Houston began seeking another year for Keenum, who had a medical redshirt in 2006 because of a separated shoulder sustained late in his high school career. It wasn’t until mid-January that the NCAA said the quarterback could come back.

When he returned in Houston’s season opener against UCLA, Keenum hit 30 of 40 passes for 310 yards and two TDs in a 38-34 victory.

“I don’t even remember half of the plays against UCLA. They just kind of happened,” Keenum said after the North Texas game. “This was one of the first times we really had to grind out and get some drives going and make some plays. It was good. … The good thing, we can get better.”

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