EL PASO, Texas (AP)—Case Keenum’s career night couldn’t save the Cougars.
Donald Buckram and Texas-El Paso ran all over Houston’s BCS-busting ambition, knocking off the 12th-ranked Cougars in a 58-41 shootout Saturday night.
Keenum completed 51 of 76 passes for 536 yards and five touchdowns. Against the Miners, it just wasn’t enough.
A week after knocking off their second Big 12 opponent, Houston’s high-flying offense couldn’t keep pace with Buckram’s 262 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
“The most I ever imagined was 150,” Buckram said. “It was a fantastic feeling.”
Ranked for the first time since 1991, the Cougars (3-1, 0-1 Conference USA) were coming off impressive wins over Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.
With the game tied at halftime, the Miners outscored Houston 20-3 in the third quarter and then hung on while Keenum tried to deliver another comeback as he did the week before to knock off the Red Raiders.
“We had a chance to take control of the game in the first half,” Houston coach Kevin Sumlin said. “Any time you’re on the road you’ve got to be able to score touchdowns when you have the chance.”
Even though Keenum threw three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter, the Miners got three of their own: two on 8- and 27-yard runs by Buckram, and another on Roddray Walker’s 70-yard fumble return with 3:25 to play.
“We felt like we were moving the ball well, but were just not getting any points,” Keenum said. “They did a good job of playing hard.”
Houston outgained UTEP 664-581, but lost two fumbles and twice settled for field goals.
The Cougars got out to a quick 10-0 lead, but after the Miners kicked a field goal, they stopped Houston’s potent offense on fourth down at the UTEP 8.
The Miners tied it when they recovered a fumble near midfield and scored on a 4-yard pass from Trevor Vittatoe to Tufick Shadrawy.
Vittatoe was 19 of 30 for 276 yards and two touchdowns. He threw his other scoring pass in the third quarter, a 74-yarder to Jeff Moturi.
Moturi finished with six catches for 127 yards.
Houston’s James Cleveland had 14 catches for 147 yards and two touchdowns in a game that featured more than 1,200 yards of total offense and 99 total points.
“It was a blast,” UTEP coach Mike Price said. “We haven’t had enough fun. It was long, it was tiring, and it was fun.”