Secret's out: Keenum starting first home game

Secret's out: Keenum starting first home game
October 29, 2013, 6:00 am
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Case Keenum on playing in Houston

Case Keenum knew for almost a week.

The rest of Houston, however, wasn’t let in on the secret until Monday, just before noon, when Gary Kubiak made the announcement.

“I had to swear some people to secrecy,” Keenum said with a smile in front of his locker a little later Monday, “and maybe not tell some people that maybe I knew weren’t going to be able to keep it a secret.”

The secret: Keenum will be the team’s starting quarterback for the game against the Colts on Sunday.

Now, it’s out.

Sunday will mark the second start of his career and the first at home. Kubiak told Keenum and Matt Schaub the news last Tuesday during the bye week and told the rest of the team on Monday morning before practice. Schaub, the team’s starter for the last six-plus seasons, will be the backup.

Keenum started his first career game against Kansas City before the bye week and did well, completing 15 of 25 passes for 271 yards and a touchdown. That was good enough for Kubiak to want to see more of the University of Houston product, who has been a fan favorite since he was setting passing records with the Cougars.

“I imagine I’ll have a few more goose bumps than I did last week,” Keenum said. “Obviously, it was a very cool atmosphere last week, but, to play in Houston, to play in Reliant, I know this atmosphere, I know what it’s like and I know Sunday night it’s going to be very special. I’m really excited to play in Houston.”

The game will be an important one. Really, every game the Texans (2-5) play from here on out will be the most important game of the season. Last year, the worst record of a playoff team was 10-6; the Texans would need to go 8-1 to get there and they’re entrusting a 25-year-old with one NFL start under his belt instead of a two-time Pro Bowler.

But the Texans found a spark in their one-point loss against Kansas City and that was reason enough for Kubiak to stick with Keenum in hopes that it ignites the team.

Keenum has been named the starter for the upcoming game, not the rest of the season. But it’s reasonable and safe to assume that if he plays well, it’ll be his job for the rest of the year. Schaub was disappointed by the decision but will now switch his focus to helping prepare Keenum for the Colts.

“Well, we’re all in this together,” Schaub said. “We’re a football team. It’s a long season. We’ve just got to go prepare to play the next one.”

Keenum said he and Schaub have a strong relationship and that all three quarterbacks, T.J. Yates included, root for each other. Schaub, Keenum remembered, was one of the first people to call him after he went undrafted and the Texans signed him.

More recently, Arian Foster said he had a conversation with Keenum, before the young quarterback had ever started an NFL game. The two talked about “dreams, goals, aspirations,” according to Foster, who was an undrafted rookie free agent once too. He took his opportunity and became one of the best running backs in football.

“Obviously, it’s a great opportunity for him, so hopefully he does well with it,” Foster said. “I’m a big fan of his game.”

And Keenum has plenty of other fans too, especially in Houston. Since training camp, UH supporters, students and alums clamored for Keenum to get a chance, first as the team’s backup quarterback and more recently (and louder) for him to become the team’s starter.

Finally, they’ve gotten their wish and have heard the news. They’ll get to watch Keenum start at home, in Reliant Stadium, on Sunday. And Keenum is already getting inundated with ticket request from family and friends. Just how many?

“More than I can get,” he said.

Well, yeah. The secret’s out.

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