DALLAS - Houston didn't attempt a running play until there was one minute left in the first quarter and it already had a 17-0 lead.
The Cougars came in with a game plan that they were going to throw on almost every down and see if they could take advantage of Penn State's soft cover-two scheme.
It obviously worked.
Case Keenum shredded the Nittany Lion defense for 532 yards, completing 45-of-69 passes, and on most of his completions the receiver had a cushion of at least a couple of yards.
"They had a good plan," Penn State co-defensive coordinator Larry Johnson said. "They weren't going to run the ball, and they decided early just bubbles [screens] and make us run to the football and try to wear us out."
Keenum executed the plan to perfection, throwing for 227 yards in the first quarter alone, the most ever in an opening quarter of any bowl game.
"Great game plan," Keenum said. "We had that game plan from the first week we watched film."
Keenum credited co-offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury for the game plan and added, "Our offensive coaches did a great job of getting our guys in space, mixing up our quick game, then taking a few shots down the field, then being able to jump off some short screens."
Keenum spread the wealth to his receivers as Patrick Edwards caught 10 passes for 228 yards and two TDs, Justin Johnson 12 passes for 148 yards and one score and Tyron Carrier nine passes for 44 yards.
Carrier was Houston's third-leading receiver and still caught more passes than all of Penn State's receivers combined (7).
"We felt going in that the strength of their defense was their defensive line," Houston coach Tony Levine said. "We felt like our tempo offensively might give them problems based on they really hadn't played anybody similar to us all season. It's hard to prepare for us."
It's even harder when you don't get pressure on Keenum, which Penn State failed to do as it had just two sacks despite him dropping back to pass more than 70 times.
"He's got a quick release. He got it out quick a lot of times," Johnson said. "We hit him but just couldn't get to him fast enough to stop the ball."
Houston finished 13-1 but did not get to showcase its offense in a BCS bowl game because it lost in the Conference USA title game to Southern Miss, 49-28.
"I feel like if we play our game, we can win every game," Levine said. "Obviously the game we lost, we didn't come out and play our game as we were supposed to play it."
The Cougars run a great offensive system that would make a lot of quarterbacks look good, and Keenum took full advantage of it during a record-setting career that saw him set virtually every NCAA passing record.
"I'd put him right up at the top," Levine said of Keenum's place among the all-time great college quarterbacks.