CINCINNATI — Brendon Kay has guts. He might not have any ribs, ankles, a right shoulder or anything else necessary for a human being to stand upright, let alone play quarterback, but he definitely has guts.
Even Kay’s determination wasn’t enough for the Cincinnati Bearcats to overcome a brilliant fourth quarter by Louisville’s preseason Heisman candidate Teddy Bridgewater in the final Keg of Nails game.
It should be plenty to place him in Bearcat lore.
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Kay completed 22 of 40 passes for 304 yards and ran for two touchdowns in a 31-24 overtime loss. He was intercepted on each of UC’s first two possessions but rallied his team back from an early 10-point deficit as well as responding to two Louisville scoring drives in the fourth quarter by leading the Bearcats to two scoring drives of their own to force overtime.
He was so banged up after the game that he was unavailable to the media because doctors were attending to him and he was due to have a MRI exam.
“I don’t know what he threw for (but) I tell you what, that kid competed and he did it on one leg,” said UC coach Tommy Tuberville. “His ankle is so bad. He’s been wanting to play and push through it, and it’s been that way for six weeks. He’s only practiced one or two days a week and doesn’t throw the ball much because his shoulder is so banged up. But he’s a warrior and he competed tonight.”
No other UC players were made available after the game because so many of them were also being treated by doctors. Offensive lineman Sam Longo suffered a fractured left ankle on the final play of the third quarter.
Doctors have been treating Kay all season. The sixth-year senior had a limited preseason training camp because of a bad shoulder. That bad shoulder is part of the reason Tuberville and his staff had Munchie Legaux starting the first two games of the season, inserting Kay sporadically against Purdue in the opener and then at Illinois. Legaux’s season-ending knee injury at Illinois ended that plan. Redshirt freshman Bennie Coney wasn’t ready to be thrown into the fire.
Kay has taken shot after shot this season. His second touchdown Thursday, a 2-yard run in the third quarter on what looked like a designed quarterback draw was actually improvised. The original call was for a fade pass but Kay saw his receiver covered and took care of getting the points himself. He took a big shot after he crossed the goal line.
He eventually got up and the Bearcats had their first lead of the game, 14-10.
“We had a pretty good situation when we had both he and Munchie together,” said Tuberville. “We could take the pressure off the other one. We could let them play and if somebody got beat up a little bit let the other guy go, but when Munchie went down we were in a world of hurt.
“You just can’t say enough about Brendon, dodging guys, running for his life, throwing sidearm. The touchdown, we were going to throw the fade on the touchdown run. He sees the guy is covered, pulls the ball down and runs it and takes a huge lick in the end zone for the touchdown. He’s a battler. He’s the kind you want to go to war with every week. I’m proud he was my quarterback the last nine games.”
Unfortunately for UC, Bridgewater is made of the same makeup.
Bridgewater’s stat line in the fourth quarter shows he completed nine of 12 passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns. What it doesn’t show is how Bridgewater did his best Ben Roethlisberger imitation on two key plays in the fourth quarter after the UC defense had held him in check the first 45 minutes.
Facing a fourth-and-12 from the UC 38, Bridgewater somehow fought off linebacker Nick Temple — who had sacked him on the previous play — and scrambled for 14 yards and a first down. Two plays later he avoided the Bearcats’ pass rush again just long enough to throw a pass up into the corner of the end zone that wide receiver Damian Copeland hauled in for 22-yard touchdown and a 17-14 Louisville lead.
Kay and the Bearcats responded with a two-play, 72-yard touchdown drive to regain the lead. Mekale McKay caught a crossing pattern and ended up with 57 yards before being brought down at the Louisville 15. Ralph David Abernathy IV, playing in his final game at Nippert, found a hole through the Louisville defense to run for his fourth touchdown of the season.
The Bearcats had 2:26 left after Bridgewater threw his third touchdown pass of the game, a 4-yarder to DeVante Parker, to put Louisville back on top, 24-21. It took Kay just six plays to get the Bearcats down to the Louisville 13. The drive stalled and overtime came after Tony Miliano made a 26-yard field goal.
Kay and Bearcats didn’t have a final answer after Louisville scored on its first possession of overtime. A final pass by Kay, one of those scrambling sidearm efforts which would have converted a fourth-and-14 for a first down, went off the hands of Anthony McClung.
The Bearcats end the regular season 9-3. They’ll get a chance for a 10th win in a bowl game. For the second straight year it looks like they’ll play in Charlotte in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 28.
That should be plenty of time to put Brendon Kay back together again.