HOUSTON -- After Houston thwarted two fourth-down attempts and recovered a fumble in the first quarter, the Cougars had to know it was going to be a good night.
They couldn't have predicted it would be this good.
Case Keenum threw a career-high six touchdowns and ran for another score to help Houston stun No. 23 Tulsa 70-30 on Saturday night.
"Obviously, any team that is averaging 52 points per game, any time you can stop them, that is big," Houston coach Kevin Sumlin said. "Our defense really rose to the occasion. I thought we had a great plan on both sides of the ball and our kids executed it."
The Cougars (6-4, 5-1 C-USA) took advantage of Tulsa's miscues to jump out to a 14-0 lead and never trailed.
Keenum threw five TD passes in the first half. Two were to Tyron Carrier, who added a third touchdown on a 93-yard punt return.
Houston sophomore Loyce Means had three interceptions, one of which he returned 69 yards for a touchdown.
It is the second straight loss for Tulsa (8-2, 5-1) after it started the season with eight straight wins. The Golden Hurricane were uncharacteristically sloppy Saturday and finished with five turnovers.
"When we take the ball away and score, that's a great momentum swing," Means said. "Tulsa's a great team, so you need to take advantage of your opportunities."
The win left Houston, Tulsa and Rice tied for the C-USA West Division lead.
"It was an embarrassing loss for us," Tulsa coach Todd Graham said, but "as bad as it is, we're still tied for first place."
The two high-powered offenses combined for 1,142 yards of offense and 59 first downs.
Keenum was 24-of-37 for 402 yards, his school-record 11th straight 300-yard passing game. He has thrown a touchdown in 13 straight games and has 60 for his career.
"This win is huge," Keenum said. "This is just step two of our four-game season. This is another step of clinching the West. That is our goal right now."
The Cougars led 42-17 at halftime and scored touchdowns on their first three possessions of the second half, adding a fourth on Means' interception return to push the lead to 70-30 early in the fourth quarter.
Keenum had a 6-yard run early in the fourth quarter before he was replaced by Blake Joseph.
Tulsa, which entered the game leading the Bowl Subdivision in total offense and scoring, looked off from the outset. Two failed fourth down attempts and a fumble in the first quarter kept the Golden Hurricane scoreless in the opening quarter for the first time this season.
"It just didn't seem like things were going our way," Johnson said. "We just played absolutely horrible tonight ... they shut us down offensively and really confused us a little bit at times."
Carrier's first touchdown reception gave the Cougars a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Carrier finished with six receptions for 127 yards. Means intercepted a wobbly pass on a fake punt by punter Michael Such to set up that score.
"It was there and we made a bad throw," Graham said. "That was kind of indicative of how the night was going to go. Bad call probably on our part. Everybody had a hand in tonight. It just wasn't our night."
Tulsa went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 on the next possession and the Cougars got to Johnson and forced him to throw the ball away.
Houston's 70 points were the most Tulsa has allowed since an 82-28 loss to Houston in 1988.
Carrier finished with six receptions for 127 yards. Means intercepted a wobbly pass on a fake punt by punter Michael Such to set up that score.
Carrier's punt return just before halftime made it 42-17. He evaded the first wave of defenders before shaking off three tackles and tight-roping the sideline for the score.
"Tulsa is a really good team and this really surprised me," Carrier said. "Everything was just clicking tonight. Just like the goal line stand. That showed them that we could play with them. That showed them that we came to play."