CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Brendon Kay wasn’t sure if he’d get another shot. When he did, he made the most of it.
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 on Thursday night.
Kay threw for 332 yards and his four scoring passes were a Belk Bowl record.
Duke appeared to have the game in hand and was driving for the go-ahead score – and its first bowl victory since 1961 – but the final 80 seconds proved disastrous. With the game tied at 34, Snead fumbled and Bearcats defensive lineman John Williams recovered.
Kay quickly took advantage of the change in momentum, connecting with Kelce down the middle for the go-ahead score. Kelce got behind the Duke defense on a seam route, caught the ball in stride and raced the final 60 yards to the end zone as Blue Devils fans looked on in stunned silence.
Cincinnati (10-3) sealed it on the next series when Maalik Bomar came crashing into Duke quarterback Sean Renfree, forcing a deflection that Nick Temple returned 55 yards for a touchdown.
Renfree threw for 358 yards – another Belk Bowl record – for the Blue Devils (6-7). Conner Vernon, the ACC’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards, had 190 catches for 119 yards and a touchdown.