CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The last month was pure chaos for quarterback Brendon Kay and the Cincinnati Bearcats.
That made Thursday night’s Belk Bowl victory all the more rewarding.
Duke running back Josh Snead fumbled at the Cincinnati 5 with 1:20 left and Kay threw an 83-yard touchdown pass to tight end Travis Kelce with 44 seconds to go, lifting the Bearcats to an improbable 48-34 win over the Blue Devils.
The Bearcats won without former head coach Butch Jones and both coordinators who helped guided them to the postseason.
“It’s really been chaos for the last month … pure chaos,” Kay said. “We’ve played it off as it hasn’t been but it was pure chaos from the time we found out (Jones) he was leaving.”
Almost as chaotic as their latest win.
With the score tied at 34 and Duke driving for a go-ahead score, Snead fumbled and Kay capitalized with his go-ahead scoring pass to Kelce. Nick Temple capped the wild finish with a 55-yard interception return with 14 seconds left.
“We were figuring we might get one more shot as an offense and when we got the fumble we looked at each other and said we’ve worked way too hard to quit now,” Kay said.
Kay quickly took advantage of the change in momentum after the Snead fumble, finding Kelce down the middle on a seam route. Kelce got behind the Duke defense and caught the ball in stride, racing the final 60 yards to the end zone as Blue Devils fans looked on in stunned silence.
It was a play called Left Texas 60, Y Go Burst, with three receivers running seam routes.
“I threw the ball and I was just hoping he would turn and look,” Kay said. “He wasn’t looking until the last second and it worked out great.”
Kay also threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Ralph David Abernathy, and 25-yard scoring strikes to Anthony McClung and Chris Moore. George Winn also ran for a 46-yard touchdown for Cincinnati.
“I felt like a point guard dishing out the ball,” Kay said. “The guys were making plays.”
Cincinnati (10-3) finished with its fifth 10-win season in six years.