It wasn’t the easiest of months for Brendon Kay or anyone involved with the Cincinnati program. It wasn’t about winning or losing, but mostly about finding out their head coach for the past three seasons is moving on to bigger and better. Still, the Belk Bowl was the perfect chance to put everything behind them.
The senior quarterback threw for 332 yards and four touchdowns, including the 83 yard touchdown, connecting with Tight End Travis Kelce for the longest touchdown in Belk Bowl history, giving Cincinnati a 41-34 lead that only grew bigger as the fourth quarter drew on. Duke, who hardly know what playing in a Bowl game feels like, had the Bearcats chasing them all game long, but it was the turnovers that ruined their run in the end.
The Blue Devils has somewhat of a historic season in terms of the football program, eventually finishing it 6-7 and without a Bowl win. Their last came in the 1961 Cotton Bowl. Since then, Duke have won more basketball national titles than appeared in football bowl games. Despite building a 16-0 lead in the first quarter and some great plays by their special teams throughout the game, four turnovers, including two in the red zone, were too much to overcome. Quarterback Sean Renfree was intercepted twice and Josh Snead, with the game tied at 34-34, dropped a big one before Cincinnati made their big play to win the game.
That, and Cincinnati lighting up the Blue Devils’ defense. For one quarter, Duke managed to control one of the best rushing attacks in the country, but that soon faded away. Cincinnati finished with 222 yards on the ground, including another big day for George Winn with 130 yards and a touchdown. The Senior finished his CFB career with his his first season as a starter, compiling 1334 yards and 13 touchdowns.
The Duke defense gave up nine plays of 25 yards or more during the game, although they did gain more yards (560-554) than Cincinnati. The Blue Devils are the only team to allow nine or more 25-yard plays in multiple games this season. They also allowed nine such plays against Clemson. Including this game, Duke has allowed 66 plays of 25+ yards this season. No other team in the nation has allowed more than 52 such plays.
Brendon Kay felt that all too easily on the day. The senior hasn’t been a starter until this season, and his final game as a Bearcat was the best of his career.
I felt like a point guard dishing out the ball. Everyone kept making plays every time I got them the ball.
He threw four touchdowns to four different receivers, all of them to 25 yards or more. Travis Kelce finished with 123 yards and a touchdown, Anthony McClung (who caught a touchdown pass in the second quarter) finished with 110 yards in the air. Duke also had an impressive day from one of their receivers – Conner Vernon, with 119 yards and a touchdown.
There was some feeling of a payback for Cincy. Not against Duke, but something of a need to prove the head coach that left them after winning 19 games in two seasons that it wasn’t all about him. They probably expected to have an easier time about it against Duke, but eventually they got what they came looking for.