Cincinnati capitalized on Duke's inept play in the closing minutes of the Belk Bowl to beat the Blue Devils 48-34 on Thursday night in Charlotte, N.C.
Duke appeared to have the game in hand and was driving for the go-ahead score — and its first bowl victory since 1961 — but the final 80 seconds proved disastrous. With the game tied at 34 and the Blue Devils positioning themselves for a winning field goal, running back Josh Snead fumbled at the Cincinnati 5-yard line with 1:20 left and Bearcats defensive lineman John Williams recovered.
Brendon Kay then connected with tight end Travis Kelce on an 83-yard touchdown strike down the middle with 44 seconds left for the go-ahead score.
Cincinnati (10-3) sealed it on the next series when Maalik Bomar came crashing into Duke quarterback Sean Renfree, forcing a deflection that Nick Temple returned 55 yards for a touchdown.
Never miss a local story.
Kay threw for 332 yards and a Belk Bowl-record four touchdowns, and Renfree threw for 358 yards — another Belk Bowl record — for the Blue Devils (6-7).
So what if San Jose State lost its coach before the Military Bowl. David Fales was still the quarterback, and that was plenty on Thursday.
The dart-throwing junior started strong and finished stronger in the wind and cold at RFK Stadium in Washington. Fales, who led the nation in completion percentage during the regular season, completed 33 of 43 passes for 395 yards and two touchdowns in the No. 24 Spartans' 29-20 win over Bowling Green.
San Jose State (11-2), in the national rankings for the first time since 1975, capped the year with a seven-game winning streak for its first 11-win season since 1940, a remarkable turnaround for a program that was 1-12 just two years ago in Mike MacIntyre's first season as coach.
But MacIntyre left earlier this month for a bigger payday at Colorado, leaving defensive coordinator Kent Baer in charge for the bowl.
Bowling Green (8-5) had a similar turnaround, improving from 2-10 in 2010 under Coach Dave Clawson. A defense that allowed only 15.8 points per game in the regular season — ninth best among FBS schools — did a decent job against a San Jose State team that was averaging 35.3 points.
The Military Bowl was supposed to pit Army against an ACC team, but Army isn't bowl-eligible and the ACC didn't have enough bowl-eligible schools to fulfill its bowl tie-ins. As a result, there was little excitement for the game in the nation's capital. Attendance was announced as 17,835.
Central Michigan held on for a 24-21 victory over Western Kentucky on Wednesday night in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit, stopping the Hilltoppers on fourth-and-2 in the final minute when a field goal could have sent the game to overtime.
Lance Guidry, coaching Western Kentucky on an interim basis with Bobby Petrino set to take over, went for the victory after his players made their feelings known.
''That was all the players. We were going to kick the field goal, but they told me that they were here to win the game,'' Guidry said.
It didn't work out. On fourth down from the 19-yard line with 51 seconds left, Kawaun Jakes threw incomplete.
Ryan Radcliff had thrown an 11-yard touchdown pass to Cody Wilson with 5:11 left to give Central Michigan the lead. ''I couldn't have scripted it any better than my last catch being the winning TD in a bowl game,'' said Wilson, a senior who had 10 catches for 101 yards.
Western Kentucky (7-6) fell just short in its first bowl since joining college football's top tier in 2009.
Barkley to miss Sun Bowl
Matt Barkley had a record-breaking four-year run as Southern California's starting quarterback, but he won't have a grand finale.
A lingering injury to his right shoulder will keep him out of the Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech on Monday. Doctor's didn't clear him to play, Coach Lane Kiffin said.
"It's a tough day," Barkley said. "I've worked as hard as I could to get back for this game, but nature's not allowing it and the doctors aren't allowing it."