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Houston's Sumlin defends Keenum

Houston coach Kevin Sumlin didn’t have many answers for his team’s performance in a 47-20 loss to Air Force in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, but the one thing he wasn’t about to do was lay all the blame on his quarterback, Case Keenum.

“As a coach, first of all, I've got to do a better job based on the results today. It starts with me,” Sumlin said. “I'm not going to make any kind of generalization based on the overall numbers in the last two games for [Keenum]. He's a damn good player, has been, and will continue to be for us.”

Keenum threw a career-high six interceptions on Thursday and a season-low 222 yards. Keenum becomes the first quarterback to throw six interceptions in a bowl game since Bruce Lee did it for Arizona in the 1968 Sun Bowl.

In Keenum’s last two games -- the Armed Forces Bowl and Conference USA championship game -- he’s thrown nine interceptions. He had just six all of the regular season.

“Obviously we were a little off, but [Air Force] had a lot to do with that, too,” Sumlin said. “You look back at all of our losses this year, it's been directly turnover-related, inability to get off the field on third down.”

Air Force set a school record for points in a bowl game and earned its first bowl win since 2000. The Falcons rushed for 400 yards, the most the Cougars allowed all season. The Mountain West Conference is now 4-0 in bowl games with just TCU’s appearance in the Fiesta Bowl remaining.

Sumlin, whose team won 10 games this season and spent most of the year ranked in the Top 25, said he didn’t know what happened to his quarterback. Keenum came into the game as the nation’s best passer and the Houston offense was the best in the country. But against the nation’s top passing defense in Air Force, Keenum couldn’t catch a break. He threw two interceptions on Houston’s first two series and both were off tips. As he tried to get his team back in the game in the second half, he pressed too hard and threw four more picks. Keenum never seemed to get comfortable and it showed throughout the game.

“No, he wasn't sharp today,” Sumlin said. “We weren't sharp today at all. I think that's pretty obvious. The layoff may have hurt him. I don't know. We had a longer layoff last year that didn't hurt him that much, so .... You know, every time something like this happens, you're always looking for a reason why.”

Now, Houston will play a waiting game while Keenum decides whether to return for his senior season. Earlier this month, Keenum said that he asked for an evaluation from the NFL underclassman advisory board.