CFN Belk Analysis - Cincinnati 48, Duke 34
Posted Dec 27, 2012

The instant analysis and reaction to the Belk Bowl.

- Belk Cincinnati 48, Duke 34

Duke had two great chances to all but put the game away – once in each half – and blew it both times with disastrous results. With the game tied at 34 with under four minutes to play, the Blue Devils had the ball at the Cincinnati five, but Josh Snead fumbled it away. Three plays later, the Bearcats got an 83-yard touchdown pass from Brendon Key to Travis Kelce for a score with just 44 seconds to play. Duke had one last chance and was on the march, but a huge sack popped the ball into the air and into the hands of Nick Temple, who took it 55 yards for a score. The touchdown ended a wild and entertaining game with Duke getting up early and having a shot to push the lead to 23-3, but a fumble at the one gave the Bearcats life, and they took advantage with a 27-point run to seemingly take control. But the Blue Devils didn't give up with two touchdown passes and a 52-yard field goal from Ross Martin making it 34-34 until Duke's ill-fated finish.

Cincinnati: QB Brendon Kay completed 17-of-25 passes for 332 yards and four scores, and he ran ten times for 76 yards. … TE Travis Kelce caught five passes for 123 yards and a score including the game-winner from 83 yards out. … RB George Winn ran 16 times for 130 yards and a score. … LB Greg Blair made 15 tackles with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Duke: WR Conner Vernon caught ten passes for 119 yards and a score. … QB Sean Renfree completed 37-of-49 passes for 358 yards and a score with two picks. … Turnovers – Duke 4 – Cincinnati 0. … Duke attempted one punt. It netted 79 yards. … Duke held on to the ball for 33:42 including 10:51 in the fourth.

Richard Cirminiello

Somewhere in Knoxville, Butch Jones ought to take a bow for this Belk Bowl win. He was the guy who wisely pulled the plug on Munchie Legaux in early November , making it possible for Brendon Kay to be the postseason hero tonight.

How do you produce more than twice as many first downs as your opponent, yet still lose by two touchdowns? By turning the ball over four times, including two costly fumbles on the opponent's doorstep, that's how. It was a classic case of Duke being Duke.

Yeah, the Blue Devils blew an opportunity to deliver the upset, but don't blame David Cutcliffe or his offensive staff. They called a great game versus a Cincinnati D that hadn't allowed more than 31 points in regulation all season. If Duke wasn't so careless with the ball, it might have reached 50 points tonight.

If I'm Tommy Tuberville, I'm waking up tomorrow morning thinking of ways to get the ball in the hands of WR Anthony McClung more in 2013. The junior was passed over in the second half, but he did not perform like a Big East athlete in the early going. In space, he plays like the kind of athlete who spends four years at Autzen Stadium.

Cincinnati TE Travis Kelce is going to make wads of cash now that he'll be playing for pay. He looks 6-6 and 260 pounds, and blocks as if he's 6-6 and 260 pounds, but he pulled away from a much smaller DB on his game-winning 83-yard touchdown catch as if he was a 210-pound split end.

By Matt Zemek
E-mail Matt Zemek

1) You can't explain it. You can't rationalize it. You can't contemplate the enormity of it. Yet, certain teams in certain sports are always – yes, ALWAYS – trailed by a shadow, a presence that simply won't allow sunshine to have the last word. Northwestern is like this in college basketball. The Chicago Cubs are like this in baseball. The Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions are like this in pro football. The cities of Cleveland and Buffalo know this truth in all professional sports across the board.

In college football, Duke is the owner of the stomach punch shadow supreme. You cannot explain it. You can only sit back and shake your head in disbelief.

2) Cincinnati had three nails in its coffin… twice. The Bearcats never stopped hustling on defense. They never stopped trying to make a high-impact play, whether by force of a hard hit (first half) or a strip (in the final 90 seconds of regulation). Hustle and perseverance were rewarded on a night when Cincinnati had no real head coach to speak of. Those kids deserve a lot of admiration… not necessarily for winning (though they do), but for trying so hard under genuinely difficult circumstances.

3) When a Sun Belt officiating crew tries to handle Michigan and Nebraska, we should expect an awful officiating performance, as was the case in the 2005 Alamo Bowl. When a Conference USA crew tries to deal with Iowa and Florida, we should expect an officiating disaster, as was the case in the 2006 Outback Bowl. We should NOT expect an SEC crew to butcher a game between Cincinnati and Duke, but that's what happened in the 2012 Belk Bowl. Easy incompletions were ruled interceptions or fumbles. A clear intentional grounding penalty was not called on Duke quarterback Sean Renfree despite the fact that Renfree remained in the tackle box before chucking the ball out of bounds. An obvious incomplete pass was ruled pass interference on Duke despite the fact that the ball was three yards too high for the Cincinnati receiver… while the Duke cornerback was late in arriving at the scene. It's one thing when a Sun Belt crew is assigned to a Michigan-Nebraska bowl game; that should never happen in the first place, and the person who assigned the Sun Belt crew deserved the blame for that chaotic night in San Antonio seven years ago. When an SEC crew can't deal with Cincinnati and Duke, it's the officiating crew, not the game assignor, who deserves the blame.

4) How amazing is it that nearly three years after he poorly handled the ousting of Mike Leach at Texas Tech during ESPN's broadcast of the 2010 Alamo Bowl between the Red Raiders and Michigan State, Mike Patrick was once again enmeshed in a Texas Tech coaching drama as he interviewed Tommy Tuberville in a friendly manner? Whose bright idea was it to put Patrick in a position to create another slanted version of reality?

By Phil Harrison
Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFN

- Boy these early bowl games are sure exceeding expectations so far. You can add this game to the drama of bowl season thus far. I've said it once, and I'll say it again: I don't care that there are a ton of bowl games, and if you like football you shouldn't care either. This game has shown us that drama could unfold at anytime with almost any matchup. And it's sports--and it's on television--so there's that too.

- On that note, how quickly did a great game turn into a game with breathing room for Cincy? Funny how not taking care of the pigskin can change momentum quicker than a MAC head coach can leave for another head coaching job at a bigger program.

- It ultimately ended up not hurting the Bearcats because of a recovered fumble after the fact, but if you are locked into a high scoring affair where neither team's defense has been able to stop a running faucet, why on earth wouldn't you go for it on 4th and three with about five minutes left from around your own 35 yard line? Had Duke not fumbled, that would have been all she wrote for the Bearcats.

- If someone would have dropped you into the sound of this game while blindfolded, you'd have thought that a game being called by Mike Patrick that involved Duke would involve a pumpkin and a hoop. Yes, it's that time of the year, and the Blue Devils are playing football.

- It's still curious as to what decision points Tommy Tuberville used when jumping from Texas Tech to Cincinnati. The Big East is in disrepair and may be a sinking ship, yet this captain came right aboard with buckets ready to bail water off the decks. Does he know something the rest of us don't?

By Terry Johnson
Follow me @TPJCollFootball

Give credit to Steve Stripling and his defensive staff for this win. Even though Duke gained 558 yards in this contest, the Bearcat D came up big at crunch time, forcing fumbles to kill the Devils' last two drives.

The game ball belongs to Brendon Kay, who torched the Blue Devil secondary all evening. Given how well he played tonight, especially throwing the deep ball, he should open 2013 as the starting QB -- regardless of what system Tommy Tuberville implements next season.

Yes, Travis Kelce can play at the next level. His ability to accelerate past defensive backs (like he did on the game-winning TD) is going to cause matchup problems for any secondary.

Contrary to what David Cutcliffe said at halftime, Cincinnati wasn't trying to ice Ross Martin on his 53-yard attempt. The Bearcats simply didn't have the right personnel on the field. Those things tend to happen with an interim coaching staff.

Should the ACC have taken Cincinnati and not Louisville? That's tough to say, although with the win over Duke tonight, the Bearcats went 2-0 against ACC bowl teams this season.

Despite coming up just short, Duke football has a very bright future ahead of it. While they'll lose Sean Renfree and Conner Vernon to graduation, the Blue Devils still have plenty of talent returning, including Jela Duncan, Jamison Crowder, and Ross Cockrell. As long as David Cutcliffe is on the sidelines, there's no reason to believe that Duke can't compete for a bowl bid every season.