EAST HARTFORD, Conn. – A quarterback and tight end tandem worked flawlessly together during senior night at Rentschler Field, but unfortunately for Connecticut, the pair played for Cincinnati.
In a 34-17 win over Connecticut, Cincinnati’s tight end Travis Kelce had five catches for 69 yards and two touchdowns. Quarterback Brendon Kay finished 245 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
The two players even swapped roles for one play as Kelce completed a 39 yard touchdown pass to Kay in the second quarter. The play, simply known by Cincinnati as “Bengal”, had Kelce receiving a backwards screen pass from Kay. Kelce then threw the ball across the field to Kay, who took the ball 39 yards down the right side of the field for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
According to Cincinnati coach Butch Jones, Cincinnati has been working on this play for three years now and after a week of continually practicing it, they finally displayed it in a game.
“We’ve been practicing that play for God knows how long, so we’ve been able to connect on it pretty well,” Kelce said. “I got pretty excited after the throw.”
“Well I got one to you and you got one to me,” said Kay, who joked about the play with Kelce after throwing a touchdown to him in the first quarter. “We’re even.”
The two players share a friendship that started before they played a down for Cincinnati, according to Kay. Both Kelce and Kay were recruited as quarterbacks. Kelce spent limited time as a quarterback his freshman year, splitting time between tight end and as a quarterback in the wildcat formation. Kay saw limited action his junior year at quarterback and has started the last four games at quarterback after seeing sporadic time earlier in the year behind Munchie Legaux.
“He’s going to go up and make a play and I give him the opportunity to,” said Kay about Kelce. “Travis (Kelce) is just a hard matchup for defenses.”
Kelce has had a spectacular senior season, breaking the Cincinnati all-time receiving record for tight ends with 599 receiving yards on 40 receptions. He has also caught seven touchdowns this season, second all-time in school history for a tight end.
Kay, who got his first career start this season against Temple on Nov. 10, has now started four consecutive games for Cincinnati. In those four, Kay has thrown for 918 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Kelce’s numbers have benefitted from Kay’s play during this span, catching 21 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns.
“It doesn’t matter whose back there,” Kelce said about Cincinnati’s quarterbacks. “Kay just decided to throw me the ball a couple more times than Munchie or Jordan [Luallen]. It’s just an overall chemistry of the team that’s really got our offense clicking.”
For the second year in a row, UConn has lost to Cincinnati at the end of the season, resulting in 5-7 seasons and losing bowl eligibility each year. With the win, Cincinnati finishes 9-3 and shares the Big East championship with Louisville, Rutgers and Syracuse, who all finished 5-2 in conference play.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a share, it’s an outright – people come to the University of Cincinnati to win championships," Jones said. "That’s in our DNA, that’s in our expectations and our seniors accomplished it.”