Before today, Brendon Kay hadn’t started a football game since 2007.
In his first start since his time at Marine City High School in Michigan, Cincinnati’s redshirt-senior quarterback threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 71 yards in the Bearcats’ 34-10 romping of Temple.
“I think it shows you the poise he has, and he’s been through a lot and I think he paid his dues to get the opportunity,” Cincinnati coach Butch Jones said.
Kay was a part of a balanced Cincinnati running attack that finished that with 228 yards on the ground. Along with Kay, senior running back George Winn finished the game with 83 yards and two touchdowns.
“The difference today was the incredibly quick explosives that happened with the ball going way down the field,” Addazio said. “That happened. That’s real.”
The Bearcats finished the game with 472 total offensive yards, 205 yards more than Temple. Of the four touchdowns scored by Cincinnati, two of them came on plays of 65 yards or more.
“The game came down to four or five plays where we had a second chance to stop the other team,” senior defensive end John Youboty said. “It would have been a completely different game.”
But from the start of the game, Temple’s offense could not get moving. The Owls received the kickoff and went three and out on their first possession.
Temple mustered up 130 yards and three points in the first half, with 74 yards rushing and junior-quarterback Chris Coyer throwing for 56 yards and one interception.
“We had a couple beautiful looking drives,” Addazio said. “I thought [offensive coordinator Ryan Day] just did a phenomenal job with the play calls and both of them were just exactly what you want to happen but we didn’t connect on them.”
After Temple punted on their first possession, Cincinnati drove down the field 74 yards and scored on a one yard run by Winn.
Temple responded to the Bearcats’ score with a drive of its own, going 72 yards on 12 plays and ending with a field goal by senior placekicker Brandon McManus.
Throughout much of Temple’s first scoring drive, Addazio’s offense brought out new plays that the Owls haven’t run very much.
The wildcat formation, with sophomore receiver Jalen Fitzpartrick at quarterback, was mixed in along with more play action passing.
“I thought [Fitzpatrick] did a great job,” Addazio said. “We’re trying to get [Fitzpatrick], trying to get our playmakers involved – every week we sit there and say ‘How do we get the ball in the hands of certain guys’.”
Cincinnati struck again on a 75-yard touchdown strike down the sideline to senior wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins, giving the Bearcats a 14-3 lead with two minutes left in the first quarter.
The Bearcats jumped out to a 21-3 lead on the following possession, driving down the field 80 yards, and scoring on a one-yard run by Winn.
Down 21-3, the Temple offense sputtered once again.
Coyer threw an interception to senior safety Drew Frey, giving Cincinnati the ball with less than a minute left in the first half.
“There were definitely a few throws I wish I could have back,” Coyer said about his performance. “But I can’t.”
The Bearcats then drove 38 yards and kicked a field goal, putting Cincinnati up 24-3 before halftime.
Temple switched quarterbacks to junior Clinton “Juice” Granger at halftime, the fourth consecutive game that Coyer has been pulled.
“We came in and made the adjustments that we wanted to make,” Coyer said. “I was told that [Granger] was going into the game
Granger completed his second throw for a gain of 17 yards to freshman receiver Romond Deloatch, who finished the game with four catches for 42 yards.
“We wanted to get [Deloatch] really activated, and I thought [Day] did a really great job getting him activated today,” Addazio said.
A few plays later, Granger threw his first career touchdown to junior tight end Cody Booth.
“I got comfortable out there,” Granger said. “I kind of knew the defense and I just made plays.”
The touchdown capped off an eight-play, 75-yard drive and pulled the Owls within two touchdowns with less than nine minutes left in the third quarter.
With McManus adding the extra point, he finished the day with four points, putting him only four more points away from former Temple running back Bernard Pierce’s all-time school record 324 points.
With the ball on their own six-yard line after a 44-yard punt from McManus, Cincinnati drove 94 yards on six plays for a touchdown.
Freshman wide receiver Chris Moore caught his first career touchdown on 65-yard pass from Kay, putting Cincinnati up 31-10 heading into the fourth quarter.
After consecutive punts by both teams, Temple took the ball on the Cincinnati 48-yard line with 14 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The Owls were unable to convert on a fourth and six, gave the ball back to Cincinnati.
The Bearcats then began a clock-eating drive that went 13 plays for 71 yards for a field goal, putting Cincinnati up 34-10 and putting the game away.
With the ball back in Temple’s hands, Addazio sent out his third quarterback of the day, junior Kevin Newsome.
“I thought [Newsome] threw a nice ball at the end of the day,” Addazaio said. “I can’t wait to see [Newsome] play a little more too. I’m excited about that.”
Cincinnati improves to 3-1 in Big East conference play, and Temple drops to 2-4 in the Big East.
This loss puts Temple’s bowl eligibility up in the air for this season.
With only two scheduled games remaining the Owls can only finish the season with five wins, one away from being bowl eligible.
But Addazio said that he doesn’t care about their eligibility, and that he is more focused on getting his team better.
“Bottom line with that is just keep faith,” Addazio said. “You never know what’s going to happen. You never know what’s going to pop up.”
Up next for the Owls will be a game in West Point, N.Y., against Army. The Black Knights are 2-8 on the season, and coming off a 28-7 loss to Rutgers.
With only two games remaining and their bowl future on the brink, Addazio stayed optimistic.
“It’s frustrating and it’s trying, but it’s also exciting,” Addazio said. “Our day will come. It’ll happen because we’ve got the right pieces in the foundation.”
Colin Tansits can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @colin_tansits.