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Houston's Keenum closing in on Chang's NCAA records

By Ferd Lewis

LAST UPDATED: 2:02 a.m. HST, Aug 2, 2011

When Tim Chang set the NCAA career record for passing yardage in 2004, it seemed a mark likely to endure for decades.

And a lot of people said as much, including then-University of Hawaii head football coach June Jones, who predicted it would remain on the books at least "45 years."

Jones was not alone in imagining that Chang's 17,072 yards -- nearly 14 percent above the previous career passing mark -- would be the untouched standard for a great while.

Now, as we look ahead to the approaching 2011 football season, you can't help but wonder if either of Chang's two most celebrated records -- NCAA career passing and career total offense -- will even make it to this Christmas.

Because another UH -- the University of Houston, that is -- quarterback, Case Keenum, is closing fast.

Well, maybe not fast but definitely with persistence.

Keenum, you see, will be around for his sixth season when the Cougars host UCLA on Sept. 3, thanks to an NCAA ruling. With 13,586 yards, Keenum needs 3,487 to break Chang's career passing mark and 2,463 yards to shatter the career total offense record.

With two 5,000-yard seasons already (5,020 in 2008 and 5,671 in '09) and four senior receivers returning, the potential is there for Keenum, who has averaged 315.9 yards per game.

It was a strong right arm, an uncanny understanding of a unique, aerial-based offense and what seemed a once-in-a-blue-moon set of circumstances that helped Chang surpass Ty Detmer's 13-year-old records (15,031 passing yards, 14,665 total offense) in 2004.

Chang's mark was compiled over 53 games, compared with Detmer's 48, and came in part because the NCAA gave Chang back a year for the 2001 campaign in which he suffered a season-ending injury. Chang also benefitted from two rule changes, the number of permissible regular-season games was expanded to 13 in 2002 and a policy change permitted bowl game statistics to be counted.

It was an alignment of stars and circumstance that didn't figure to be repeated any time soon. Until now, with Keenum looking at the possibility of playing 52-54 games.

"The extra year will definitely help (Keenum)," said Jones, whose Southern Methodist team competes against Houston in Conference USA. Jones said Keenum shares some of Colt Brennan's attributes, "he's very accurate, athletic and extremely competitive." Said Jones, "If he stays healthy, he'll most likely do it."

"Healthy" being the operative word for Keenum, who won an appeal for a sixth year precisely because of debilitating injuries -- a severe shoulder separation in 2005 and a torn knee ligament last season -- that cost him two years. Though rare, the NCAA can award medical hardship waivers if an athlete misses two seasons due to injury.

Houston has a 12-game regular-season schedule but perhaps as many as 14 if they go to the Conference USA title game and a bowl.

Which, were it to play out that way, could make for an interesting Sheraton Hawaii Bowl -- if Keenum and the Cougars showed up here to play UH as C-USA's representative in the Dec. 24 game.

Reach Ferd Lewis at

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