Houston brings two-QB system into Tuscaloosa
By Josh Cooper
TUSCALOOSA — Houston coach Art Briles gave a throaty chuckle when asked about the importance of the quarterback in his offense.
It is kind of funny for Briles, considering that in his offensive system, a premium is placed on quarterback play and decision-making from behind center.
"That's the guy that makes you go," Briles said. "When we're rolling at that position, we're at good shape because he has a lot of decisions to make on each play."
The success of his quarterback will be at a premium for the Cougars (2-2, 1-1 C-USA) as they come to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama (3-2, 2-1 SEC) for homecoming Saturday as Briles is trying to replace record-setting QB Kevin Kolb.
According to Houston quarterback Blake Joseph, there are no statues of Kolb or "shrines" but his legacy as a Cougar rings loud and clear.
From 2003-06, Kolb started 50 games for the Cougars and finished his career ranked No. 4 in Division I-A history in passing yards with 12,964.
He was the Conference USA player of the year last season in leading the Cougars to the division title. The Philadelphia Eagles thought enough of Kolb’s talents to draft him No. 36 overall in the 2007 NFL draft.
In replacing Kolb, Briles has relied on two quarterbacks, Joseph, a redshirt sophomore, and redshirt freshman Case Keenum.
Joseph started Houston’s season-opening game against Oregon, then gave way to Keenum.
Then against Tulane on Sept. 15, Keenum started and Joseph finished. In the Cougars’ most recent game, a 37-35 loss to East Carolina, Keenum left the game in the second quarter with a bruised throwing hand allowing Joseph to play again. Essentially, the two have realized that starting a game doesn’t exactly mean you are going to finish it.
“It seems like that every week,” Joseph said. “Whoever comes in second sparks the offense, and we start flowing better.”
Joseph is 46 of 61 for 464 yards and four touchdowns, while Keenum is 51 of 81 for 656 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions.
Briles is cautious to say that one quarterback does something better than the other by lauding both. Keenum says Joseph has a “cannon” of an arm. But their coach sees more to the position than just physical tools.
“They are both equal as far as both of them do a good job of playing it,” Briles said. “The thing I like about them is that both of them are very unselfish, and
driven to succeed. That is what I appreciate. It’s not a concern about how their stats look or anything along those lines. They are going to help us win.”
Keenum says that watching Kolb’s old games have helped him better understand Houston’s offense and have made for a smooth transition into an everyday player.
“It was cool being around him and seeing the guy he was, the kind of leader that he was. I have a lot of respect for him,” Keenum said. “I know he’s going to do great in the future. I am glad that I got to spend time around him while he was here.”
Five things you may not know about Houston
Houston coach Art Briles is 3-8 against schools from BCS conferences. The Cougars last played an SEC school Dec. 29, 2006, when they lost to South Carolina 44-36 in the Liberty Bowl.
According to the Houston game notes, Cougars wide receiver Donnie Avery runs the 40-yard dash in 4.25 seconds.
Last season, eight of Houston’s 10 victories were comebacks. The Cougars overcame deficits against Rice, Grambling State, Oklahoma State, UTEP, UCF, Tulsa, SMU and Southern Miss.
Houston is ranked No. 15 in the NCAA in total offense and scores on average 33.50 points per game. Last season, Houston was ranked No. 7 in total offense.
Kevin Kolb, now playing for the Philadelphia Eagles, is not the only highly touted Houston quarterback. Both David Klingler and Andre Ware were former Cougars who were drafted in the first round of the NFL draft. Ware was drafted No. 7 in 1990 by the Detroit Lions and Klingler sixth overall in 1992 by the Cincinnati Bengals.
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