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Culture / Sporting Life

Case Keenum Plays Like Tom Brady, Proves Bill O’Brien and 610 AM Mafia Wrong Again

UH Icon Earns a Game Ball and a New Start

BY // 09.25.17

With the doubters howling at him, with his team in a tougher spot than David Blaine puts himself into, Case Keenum came through again. The University of Houston legend continues to show that his supposed shortcomings as an NFL quarterback are highly exaggerated.

In his first real chance with his new team the Minnesota Vikings — the first instance in which the Vikes coaching staff geared a gameplan around his strengths — Keenum throws for 369 yards and three touchdowns. He befuddles the favored Tampa Bay Buccaneers — a trendy rising NFL power pick from guys like Bill Simmons (seemingly largely because Jameis Winston acted like a cool guy on Hard Knocks) — by putting deep ball after deep ball right on the money.

You know the kind of throw that everyone claimed Keenum could never make coming out of UH.

After he completes 25 of 33 passes overall, Keenum gets handed the game ball by Vikings coach Mike Zimmer — and is soon enveloped in a mob of happy teammates. Keenum gets more back slaps than Tom Cruise at a Scientology convention. (Watch the locker room video here.)

“He looked like the best player in the NFL again today,” Bucs coach Dirk Koetter says in his postgame news conference, shown on ESPNews.

On this September Sunday of unrest, Koetter is not far off. Keenum’s 369 passing yards trails only the 378 Tom Brady puts up on that super hyped Houston Texans defense and the 373 yards Russell Wilson compiles in a frantic, futile comeback attempt against Tennessee.

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Brady, Wilson… Keenum?

Maybe it’s time to start believing in the guy who broke a horde of all-time NCAA passing records at Houston. Just a bit. Case Keenum knows a little something about playing quarterback.

That Keenum does this on the same day Deshaun Watson proves that the Texans and Bill O’Brien have finally found a game-changing quarterback everyone is on the same page about does not erase the truth. For Case Keenum is continuing to prove O’Brien, who unceremoniously jettisoned him twice, wrong too.

Deshaun Watson looks like a future NFL star. If only the critics paid attention to what matters.

Yes, the Texans are clearly better off with Watson, a superstar-to-be in fast training, now. But they’d just as clearly have been better off with Keenum than Brock Osweiler or Brian Hoyer.

That’s for the past though. The 29-year-old Keenum is already changing his future. He signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Vikings last March, but his next deal should provide more stability. Not many NFL backups can step in and throw for 369 yards in a pinch.

With Vikings starter (and former No. 1 pick) Sam Bradford out with a knee injury that could sideline him for more than a month and Minnesota staring at a 1-2 start, Keenum saves the day. If not the season. Now 2-1, Minnesota remains on track to achieve its contender visions.

“Case Keenum played outstanding,’’ Vikings coach Mike Zimmer says in his own press conference. “I usually don’t give out game balls (right) after a game.”

But Keenum’s play prompted Zimmer to break his own rule and hand a game ball right to his backup quarterback in the happy chaos of the locker room. Keenum always could play more than his howling critics — including the anti-UH mafia at 610 AM — would have you believe. He gave Bill Belichick a fit in a heartbreaking three-point loss years before Deshaun Watson did. He won a game that put the Texans in the playoffs a few days after stepping out of a deer blind. He threw for 321 yards and three touchdowns against the playoff-bound Detroit Lions last year.

Case Keenum’s Future

Now Keenum has something of a signature performance — and the chance to put at least a few more on tape before Bradford gets back.

Keenum’s never had the kind of weapons he has in Minnesota before (not when Arian Foster got hurt minutes into his first Texans start in Kansas City). Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen give him two big-time playmakers to utilize. Zimmer admits the Vikings didn’t adjust the gameplan to Keenum the way they should have in the Week 2 dud at Pittsburgh, but they are now.

Really, no one should be surprised when Case Keenum plays well in the NFL anymore. Certainly not anyone who watched him during his time at the University of Houston. Keenum’s faced down more doubts than he ever should have had to, but he’s still here.

Still firing darts. Still making plays. Still winning. Sounds about right.

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