Duke's second fumble in the red zone led to an 83-yard touchdown pass from Cincinnati's Brendon Kay to Travis Kelce with less than a minute remaining to give the Cincinnati Bearcats a 41-34 lead en route to a 48-34 victory over the Duke Blue Devils in the most entertaining bowl game of the season.
Cincinnati overcame an early 16-0 deficit as it outscored the Blue Devils by a score of 48-18 the rest of the way, securing a second consecutive bowl-game victory for the Big East co-champions.
Kay completed 17-of-25 passes for 332 yards and four touchdowns, none bigger than his strike to Kelce (courtesy of ESPN via Twitter):
Kelce (five receptions for 123 yards) and Anthony McClung (three receptions for 110 yards) were two of the four different receivers that Kay found for scores on the day.
Duke's Sean Renfree set a new Belk Bowl record early in the third quarter, via the Duke football program's official Twitter account:
Sean Renfree sets #BelkBowl record with 30 completions tonight. Breaks previous BB record held by Wake Forest's Riley Skinner.— Duke Football (@Duke_FB) December 28, 2012
Renfree finished the game 37-of-49 through the air for 358 yards, a touchdown and a pair of interceptions, the last of which came as Duke tried to mount a last-second comeback and was returned 55 yards for a touchdown by Cincinnati's Nick Temple. Needless to say, that sealed Duke's fate.
The Blue Devils got out to an early lead in this one, dominating play in the first quarter and taking a 16-3 lead. How dominant you ask? Courtesy of ESPN (via Twitter):
Duke's 16 first-quarter points weren't only generated by the offense, as ESPN noted (via Twitter):
Duke looked to be in good shape heading into halftime thanks to punter Will Monday kicking a 79-yard bomb that pinned Cincinnati near the goal line with just over two minutes to play.
Or, as one Belk Bowl viewer put it (via Twitter):
But things got dicey after that, as the Bearcats took a 17-14 lead into the half:
Unfortunately for Duke and head coach David Cutcliffe, the Blue Devils need only to look in the mirror to understand why they lost this game.
Twice, the Blue Devils had a chance to retake the lead as they drove deep in Cincinnati territory, and twice, the Blue Devils lost fumbles inside the 10-yard line.
One of those untimely fumbles came in the fourth quarter from the hands of Duke RB Josh Snead, who carried the ball 17 times for 107 yards in a losing effort.
Those costly errors now force Mike Krzyzewski, leader of the mighty Duke men's basketball team, to wait just a bit longer to see Duke earn its second victory in a bowl game since he became a teenager (courtesy of ESPN's SportsCenter via Twitter):
DID YOU KNOW: Mike Krzyzewski was just 13 years old the last time Duke won a bowl game (1961 Cotton Bowl).— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 28, 2012
As for the biggest question on everyone's mind entering the game: "What is the Belk Bowl?"
Here's your answer, courtesy of the fine folks in the sports department of The Desert Sun (via Twitter):
Wondering what the Belk in Belk Bowl is? It's a department store, big in the South, founded in N.C., where the game is held.— MyDesert Sports (@mydesert_sports) December 27, 2012