With all of the expectations being heaped on the 2010 Houston Cougar football team, even mentioning the possibility that Case Keenum, the key cog of the nation's top offense, might get injured was considered a taboo topic.
On Saturday, the nightmare became a reality, as Keenum suffered concussion-like symptoms after attempting to make a tackle on an interception runback. It could have been much worse. The game was already well in hand for the Cougars, and head coach Kevin Sumlin had a reasonably positive outlook on the situation on Sunday:
[Keenum's] condition has improved dramatically...Like every college and pro team in America, we have a concussion management plan that we have followed since Saturday morning. I'm not going to go into the details of what that plan entails. But I will say his prognosis for the week is day-to-day.
UH fans will certainly be hoping to see Keenum calling the shots on Saturday at the Rose Bowl when the Cougars face off against UCLA, but there really should be absolutely no hurry to get Keenum back into action. Consider:
-While it's always a good thing to win non-conference match-ups against BCS-quality opponents, Saturday's contest is just that: non-conference. Houston hasn't won a Conference-USA title since the days of Kevin Kolb and Art Briles, and ultimately, that should be priority number one.
-Houston can probably win its next two games without him. Cotton Turner looked more than capable in relief of Keenum on Friday, completing nine of 10 passes. His only incompletion was a drop by the usually sure-handed James Cleveland. (Turner also completed 30-of-40 for 373 yards, three touchdowns and no picks in mop-up duty last year.) And keep in mind that the next schools Houston faces are UCLA and Tulane. The Bruins are in absolute disarray to begin the year, and Tulane is one of the ten worst teams in the country. The Cougars have enough talent to win both of those games behind Turner, and have a bye week after that. So if Keenum's status is uncertain, you could give him 29 days off, and have him fresh and ready for a tough Mississippi State team.
-Even the most trivial reason for keeping him in - his potential Heisman candidacy - might be a moot point by now, anyway. Let's face it. The Heisman voters will go to any lengths to avoid giving the trophy away to a non-BCS player. Keenum's only chance was to have a(nother) season in which he utterly blows away the entire country statistically, and for Houston to have an undefeated regular season. The latter is still a possibility, but with Houston having a huge amount of success running the ball, and Keenum putting up two sub-300 yard games already, something he did only once last year, the statistical dominance might not be quite what it was a year ago. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. I'd rather have a team built around playing decent defense, a team that can run the ball as well as it passes it, and a team that can frequently afford to rest its quarterback in the second half, than watching Keenum try to single-handedly outscore the opponent every week.
So yes, we all want to see Keenum back. Best case scenario is that he is 100% healthy by Saturday. But in anything short of best case, I say let's get behind Cotton Turner.