Brendon Kay arrives
NOV 15, 2012 2:10p ET
Now, he's the starter for a team that's very much alive in the race for a Big East title and a BCS bowl game.
Brendon Kay, this is your life.
Finally, this is your time.
Kay threw a touchdown pass in backup duty two weeks ago as the Cincinnati Bearcats held off Syracuse. It wasn't until last Saturday morning that Bearcats coach Butch Jones told Kay he'd be making his first career start at Temple, and a few hours later Kay and the Bearcats not only had a win, but Louisville's loss at Syracuse opened the door for a wild finish to the Big East season.
Suddenly, the fortunes of a quarterback long in waiting and the team have changed. Saturday, Cincinnati hosts No. 22 Rutgers, marking the first home start for a guy who's been on campus since 2008 and a chance for Cincinnati (7-2, 3-1) to keep its hopes of winning the Big East alive.
All the scenarios add up to the Bearcats having a chance to hand Rutgers its first conference loss and grab at least a share of the Big East title by winning out.
For Kay, it's a start, a finish -- with an asterisk -- and the chapter he's been waiting to write. A fifth-year senior who's working on a master's degree after graduating last June, he's actually waiting to hear from the NCAA on his request for a sixth year of eligibility after a second major knee surgery cost him last season. He wasn't healthy enough to go when Cincinnati starter Zach Collaros went down last November, and he also watched Munchie Legaux quarterback the Bearcats through most of the first eight games this season.
But Jones turned to Kay after Legaux threw too many interceptions, and now the old guy in the quarterback room is the new guy -- and the guy in the spotlight as the Bearcats look to turn their new lease on BCS life into a strong finish.
"It's definitely a big factor," Kay said. "For us it's an extra motivational factor. We just have to keep winning. We have to handle our business.
"Knowing that Louisville lost and that we can get (to the BCS) if things fall our way, that helps. But we can only worry about the stuff we can affect."
Kay's 13 completions last week at Temple match the number of passes he'd thrown, total, before this season. He went 13-of-21 last week for 244 yards and a pair of touchdowns, also running for 71 yards and directing an offense that ran up 472 yards at an average of 7.7 per play.
The challenges presented by Rutgers defense will be steeper, but Kay should be more prepared. Jones said Kay "left some throws on the field last week," but that game experience will help with his confidence level against a live rush and changing defenses going forward.
Pardon Kay's rust. Before last weekend, he had last started a game on November 24, 2007, when he led Marine City (MI) High School to a state title at Detroit's Ford Field. Cincinnati play-by-play voice Dan Hoard did the math; Kay went 1,813 days between starts.
Now, he can say it's been a really long time since he lost one.
"Everything is more comfortable this week," Kay said. "Those early jitters and nerves are gone. Last week was the unexpected a bit. It definitely helps."
Kay hit Kenbrell Thompkins for a 75-yard touchdown late in the first quarter last week, a play that sparked what became a Cincinnati rout but also showed what all involved hope the 6'4, 233-pound Kay can bring to the Bearcats offense the rest of the season. Cincinnati's running game has been consistently good, and the threat of the deep ball could add another dimension.
"It's a confidence boost to get out there and actually do it," Kay said. "You do it so many times in practice."
For so long, Kay waited and wondered. He said the hardest part of his long wait to actually get on the field was "preparing every week...and you never know when it's going to come. You have to be a self-motivator. You can't afford to slack off."
Now, his team is in the same spot. All the Bearcats can do in regard to the Big East standings is win out. All Kay can do is hope he can lead the team and make the most of whatever remaining opportunities he has, make them worth the wait.
"It wasn't easy," Kay said. "We put in so many hours. My story is different than a lot of them, but we all prepare together. You want to win because you've worked so hard to get there."
On next year and his petition for an extra year of eligibility, Kay said he has "no idea. I have no control over it, so there's no sense worrying about it. I'm going to play these next three games like they're my last."