Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 12/3/11
HOUSTON Back in August, when the knee was still sore and the jubilation of getting the sixth season was still fresh, it was all in front of Case Keenum. The records. The BCS. The Heisman. It would take something extraordinary to get all that, but it was possible. Yet Keenum, granted a sixth season by the NCAA after blowing out his knee last year, did not allow himself to dream about those things. Maybe it happens, maybe it doesn't. What he really wanted, he said at the time, was a Conference USA championship. Turned out, that was one of the few things that eluded him. "It's very devastating," Keenum said. "I've been in this position twice now, and it's not any fun. I told that to the young guys. This was right in our grasp, and we let it slip away." No. 23 Southern Miss (11-2) beat No. 6 Houston (12-1) 49-28 Saturday at UH's Robertson Stadium, denying the Cougars their first conference title since 2006 and separating Keenum and the Cougars from the only thing they felt they could control. "Keep winning," coach Kevin Sumlin kept telling them, "and you won't be ignored." They did, and they weren't. Unranked when the season began, the Cougars launched a methodical climb in the polls. Saturday, the stakes were this: Win, and you become the first Conference USA team to play in a BCS bowl. Lose, and somebody else gets a trophy. It was that trophy, and the moment that comes with it, Keenum had wanted so badly. He wanted to raise a trophy in front of the fans. He is always talking about those fans. Every game, it seems, he ends up thanking the fans. Instead it all ended in front of an draining stadium. The pep band was still blaring and Keenum was still flinging, but for the most part all those fans off to their Saturday nights. The ones that stuck around until the end got to stretch out a little and watch Keenum throw one last touchdown pass at Robertson, his 152nd. They stood and cheered when the game ended. "I thought the fans were incredible," Keenum said, once again. That was the kind of thing he liked. It was being part of this big thing, he and his teammates and his classmates all in it together. That always got Keenum's juices flowing. He never liked talking about the records, even after he broke them all. He is the NCAA's career leader in passing yards, touchdowns and total offense, all records he set weeks ago. Mentally, he threw them in his closet. Someday, he kept saying, he would be able to appreciate them in a way he could not at the moment, when there was so much still to play for. Suddenly, it was gone. "We had a great season," linebacker Marcus McGraw said. "We didn't finish the way we wanted to, but when you look at all we've done, we had a great season. We set the bar high for the younger guys." There will still be a bowl game, and it is still the winningest season in school history, but this season will have to feel like a disappointment for a while, until the pain of what could have been fades and the romance of nostalgia settles in. It was a good season, an excellent one. But you can only have a great season if you play great when it matters the most, and Houston didn't. The nation's No. 1 offense belched and sputtered in a scoreless first quarter. A vastly improved defense suddenly couldn't stop the run and couldn't get off the field on third down. Houston receivers slipped after catches, and dropped wide open passes. Keenum threw his fourth interception of the year on a snap from the Southern Miss 1-yard line. He threw his fifth in the fourth quarter. Southern Miss blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown. This had been a team that did whatever it wanted on offense all year, and then punted seven times in the season's most important game. Southern Miss outgained Houston 207-55 on the ground and stopped the Cougars on 14 of 20 third downs. The blocked punt put Southern Miss up 14 early in the third quarter, and according to Sumlin was the game's biggest play. Houston was on its heels. Within 11 minutes the Golden Eagles were up 21, and that was that. A red-eyed Keenum faced the press after the game. He was a little emotional, and a little defiant, even piping in to answer a question directed at Sumlin. "I know we're winners," he said. "I'm not going to accept this. I know we're all winners."
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Dale Earnhardt Jr. to retire after 2017 season

Watson warns teams against picking Mitchell over him

Bonds to have street named after him in San Francisco

Report: Blount, Giants have 'mutual interest'

Adrian Peterson confirms he will sign with Saints

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

The Warriors just trucked the Blazers with 8 threes, 45 points in the first quarter

Serena Williams fires back at Ilie Nastase’s racist comment about her child

Magic Johnson will represent the Lakers at NBA Draft Lottery

Red Sox pitcher Matt Barnes suspended, fined for throwing at Manny Machado

Jerry Jones happy Tony Romo isn’t playing for another NFL team

George told teammates he has dreamed of playing for Lakers?

Box Score 4/25: 'So long, sleeves'

NBA Weekend Awards: Who takes home the Wilt Chamberlain Trophy?

Everything you need for the 2017 NFL Draft

Where it went wrong: Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 1 exits

20 of the best NFL Draft red carpet looks

Getaway Day: Wild, wacky and weird week in MLB (and that's just the injuries)

11 names you need to know for the NFL Draft

Most inspirational sports movies, series and docs available for streaming

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The 'It's not good to play the King' quiz

Best of Yardbarker: David Fizdale and the Grizzlies won't go down quietly

Three Up, Three Down: Home run hitters are heating up

College Football News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

NBA Weekend Awards: Who takes home the Wilt Chamberlain Trophy?

Everything you need for the 2017 NFL Draft

Where it went wrong: Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 1 exits

Getaway Day: Wild, wacky and weird week in MLB

11 names you need to know for the NFL Draft

Most inspirational sports movies, series and docs available for streaming

The 10 best sports docs available for streaming

The 'It's not good to play the King' quiz

Three Up, Three Down: Home run hitters are heating up

The 'Even the Browns can't mess this one up' quiz

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker