The Cincinnati Bearcats put a bow on back to back 10 win seasons with an amazing win in the Belk Bowl last night, 48-34. The Duke Blue Devils were certainly a game team. Maybe on another day they win this game and they win it going away. But they were not going to beat this Bearcats team like that. No way. This team has shown so much heart, so much dedication, so much effort all season long that they were not going to go down the way of a blowout. The way the Bearcats fought back after being down 16-0 was great. The way they never stopped going for the turnover ended up being very great. It doesn't need to be said that they caught the break of all breaks when Duke's running back ran into Brandon Mills' back and fumbled the ball. You can't fight destiny.
In case I don't write a postseason recap, what a strange season this was. On one hand, you have a 10 win team. On the other, the only thing that seems to stand out to people are the losses. All 3 of them were what if games. What if they make that pass play against Louisville, what if the flag on Toledo stays on the field, what if they remember that they could play offense against Rutgers. What if they went with Brendon Kay sooner is another one. It's not really fair to the team to look at things this way. It's a twist of fate that Cincinnati ends the season making the other team wonder what if.
I don't think the game could have started any worse. Duke marches right down the field for a TD. POD shanks a punt that sets up a field goal and a minute later you get a punt blocked for a score. The play that changed the game was this.
Duke is about to go up 23-3 and Greg Blair makes a tremendous play to strip the ball and recover it. It looks like Blair couldn't even see the ball judging from that picture. It was a great play by a guy who has been making great plays all season long. Thank you, Greg Blair.
Brendon Kay was absolutely tremendous last night. He finished the game 17-25 for 332 yards, 4 TDs and 0 INTs. He also ran for 76 yards. That included a couple of big 3rd down conversions. Kay threw absolutely beautiful passes on all 4 of his touchdowns. The throw to McClung was great. The throw to RDA was great. The throw to Moore was great. The throw to Kelce was greater. This would have been a hell of a game for Kay to go out with, but the fact he's going to get the chance to do something like this next year has me very happy. Yay Kay.
Anthony McClung had the type of game that we were waiting for all season. He had 110 yards and 1 TD. He had 14 rushing yards. McClung looked like an All-Big East receiver last night. His numbers since he came back following the Louisville game were very good, minus a couple of 1 catch games. McClung is going to be a big part of the offense next season. I think he's going to shine.
2 bowl games, 2 TD catches for Anthony McClung. He has a streak going.
Duke's offense was something else last night. Sean Renfree was as accurate as advertised. The running game was very balanced. Those receivers, damn. Any offense that hangs 560 yards is having a great day. No shit. Duke's offense was rolling. I hope that Duke gets some better players, especially on defense, because I wouldn't mind watching a David Cutcliffe team be good at football.
The defense had a rough game. I'm pretty sure they would admit to that. I already talked about 2 of the turnovers. Let's talk about another one. Arryn Chenault ended a Duke drive with a pick on a deep pass. He returned the ball to the 40. That set up Cincinnati in great field position. They went up 27-16.
Cincinnati finished that drive with a 46 yard TD run by George Winn. Winn only had 16 carries, but he picked up 130 yards. He got his 13th rushing TD of the season. The TD run looked almost just like the opening run of the season. He had a huge hole up the middle and he was gone. The speed of George Winn is very underrated. When he takes off, he takes off. It was great to see him get a big one last night. I'm going to miss watching 32 in the backfield.
Travis Kelce, like Winn, is someone I'm really going to miss watch play. He had 5 catches for 123 yards and his score. Kelce had the most out of nowhere season I can recall. He had 153 yards IN HIS CAREER before this season. He finished with 722 yards and 8 TDs. Just incredible. His catch and run up the seam is going down in UC history. I hope you get a crack at the next level.
Ralph David Abernathy IV didn't get a carry last night. UC only ran 28 times. The play call for him on the TD was beautiful. It was a play action to him and RDA ran a wheel route. The linebacker for Duke had no chance in hell at staying with him. His speed is something else. I wouldn't be opposed to him just running quick routes all season and having Kay throw him passes. Some could be 5 yard throws, some could be 50 yard throws. I'm interested to see how Eddie Gran gets the ball into his hands next year.
The 79 yard punt by Will Monday was one of the most amazing punts I've ever seen. I don't know how that ball didn't go out of bounds. I don't know how it somehow curled at the 1 and a half so the guy could push it back to the 2. That was a punt to remember.
That's right, this game was so awesome that there were punts that stood out.
I talked pretty much all season about the receivers having to make plays. They clearly did that last night. The top 4 guys in yardage all had a score. That includes Chris Moore. Moore made a tremendous catch on a 25 yard throw to put UC up 34-31. The last 2 catches Chris Moore made this season went for touchdowns. 1 + 5 = 6.
I don't think I yelled "GO GO GO GO GO," as much in the one minute span from when Kelce caught the TD and Nick Temple took the INT to the house. It was an exciting time in my house.
Nick Temple is going to be a stud next season. He was a stud the second half of this season. I can't wait to see what the future has in store for this young man.
Tony Miliano, the Golden Toe, was 2-2 on field goals and 6-6 on extra points. He hit a 45 yarder.
Miliano got so much Belk last night.
We end the 2012 football season on a high note. Thanks to Cincinnati.com for the photos today and the photos all season long. Thanks to everyone who has followed along, whether on the site or on twitter. This has been a fun season to write about and especially to watch. It wouldn't have been the same without all of you. Thank you.