Nationals

Kay leads Cincinnati over Duke 48-34 in Belk Bowl

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Kay leads Cincinnati over Duke 48-34 in Belk Bowl

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) All Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Brendon Kay wanted was one more chance.

He got it thanks to Cincinnati's defense.

The Bearcats forced Josh Snead's fumble at the Cincinnati 5 with 1:20 left and Kay threw an 83-yard touchdown pass to tight end Travis Kelce with 44 seconds to go, lifting Cincinnati and interim coach Steve Stripling to an improbable 48-34 win over the Duke Blue Devils on Thursday night.

``We were figuring we might get one more shot as an offense and when we got the fumble we looked at each other and said we've worked way too hard to quit now,'' Kay said.

Kay, who set a Belk Bowl record with four touchdown passes and was named the game's MVP, called it a ``huge win'' given the adversity the Bearcats faced after losing coach Butch Jones and their two coordinators three weeks ago.

``It's really been chaos for the last month ... pure chaos,'' Kay said. ``We've played it off as it hasn't been, but it was pure chaos from the time we found out (Jones) he was leaving.''

Almost as chaotic as their latest win.

It looked as though the Bearcats were about done when Duke was deep in their territory and looking for the go-ahead score with 1:20 left in the game.

But Snead fumbled and Kay capitalized with his go-ahead pass to Kelce. Nick Temple capped the wild finish with a 55-yard interception return with 14 seconds left.

Kay quickly took advantage of the change in momentum after the Snead fumble, finding Kelce down the middle on a seam route. Kelce got behind the Duke defense and caught the ball in stride, racing the final 60 yards to the end zone as Blue Devils fans looked on in stunned silence.

It was a play called Left Texas 60, Y Go Burst, with three receivers running seam routes.

``I threw the ball and I was just hoping he would turn and look,'' Kay said. ``He wasn't looking until the last second and it worked out great.''

Kay also threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Ralph David Abernathy, and 25-yard scoring strikes to Anthony McClung and Chris Moore. George Winn also ran for a 46-yard touchdown for Cincinnati.

``I felt like a point guard dishing out the ball,'' Kay said. ``The guys were making plays.''

Cincinnati (10-3) finished with its fifth 10-win season in six years.

``That was one of our goals,'' Stripling said.

Duke quarterback Sean Renfree threw for 358 yards - another Belk Bowl record - for the Blue Devils (6-7), who were seeking their first bowl win since 1961. Conner Vernon, the ACC's all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards, had 10 catches for 119 yards and a touchdown in his final game for the Blue Devils.

But the big play for Duke was Snead's fumble.

``It's heartbreaking because we wanted to win this game for our seniors,'' Snead said. ``But as a team, we're going to learn from this and build off the momentum from this. I've got great teammates. They encouraged me to keep my head up. If you have a little adversity, you've got to face it.''

Duke coach David Cutcliffe said the loss was tough to swallow.

``This feeling in our guts is not very good right now,'' he said. ``But we're going to move forward with this. The biggest insult we can give our seniors is to not move forward from this and we will do this.''

Duke, which came in having allowed 51 points and an average of 294.5 yards rushing over its previous four games, struggled to stop Cincinnati after the first quarter.

The Bearcats piled up 554 total yards of offense, including 130 yards on the ground by Winn. Duke wasn't too shabby on offense, either, combining with the Bearcats for a Belk Bowl-record 1,114 yards.

Cincinnati trailed 16-0 before rattling off 27 straight points to seemingly take control, and the big turning point came courtesy of linebacker Greg Blair.

With Duke leading 16-3 and looking for more, Renfree fired a pass over the middle for running back Jela Duncan, who lunged for the goal line but was hit by Blair and fumbled. Blair recovered and suddenly the Bearcats had a shot.

``That seemed to fire us up on the sidelines,'' Blair said. ``It gave us some life.''

A short time later, Kay connected with McClung to cut the Duke lead to 16-10. Kay's second scoring pass to Abernathy capped a 98-yard drive in the final two minutes of the first half and gave the Bearcats their first lead.

NOTES: Duke punter Will Monday set a Belk Bowl record with a 79-yard punt. ... The two teams set a combined record for most first downs in the Belk Bowl.

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Brewers’ unlikely run continues to shrink wild-card gap with Nationals

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Brewers’ unlikely run continues to shrink wild-card gap with Nationals

The Brewers. They are surging instead of sliding, partying in St. Louis over the weekend after winning two of three against the division-leading Cardinals thanks to a ninth-inning grand slam by Ryan Braun on Sunday.

They have won nine of 10 and six of seven since MVP candidate Christian Yelich broke his kneecap, ending his season. Things are tight because of their run. Just two weeks remain in the regular season.

So, here’s where things stand overall: 

  • Chicago is 1 ½ games behind the Nationals for the top wild-card spot.
  • Milwaukee is 2 ½ games behind the Nationals and just a game behind the Cubs. Those three teams mark a breaking point in the standings.
  • The Mets are four games behind the Cubs for the second wild-card spot and 5 ½ behind the Nationals.
  • Philadelphia is six games behind the Nationals and 4 ½ games behind Chicago after back-to-back losses to end the weekend.

 

Fivethirtyeight.com puts the Nationals chances of making the postseason at 93 percent.

 

Coming up Monday:

San Diego at Milwaukee, 7:40 p.m., Richards (5-4, 3.66 ERA) vs. Davies (9-7, 3.77)

Washington at St. Louis, 7:45 p.m., Strasburg (17-6, 3.49) vs. D. Hudson (15-7, 3.38)

Cincinnati at Chicago, 8:05 p.m., Gausman (3-8, 5.83) vs. Hamels (7-7, 3.89)

New York Mets at Colorado, Matz (10-8, 3,84) vs. Senzatela (9-10, 6.87)

 

Philadelphia is off.

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Case Keenum isn't the Redskins problem, and Dwayne Haskins won't fix it either

Case Keenum isn't the Redskins problem, and Dwayne Haskins won't fix it either

The Redskins have lots of problems, but Case Keenum isn't one of them. Through two games this season, Keenum has thrown for 600 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. 

He hasn't been great, and he's missed some big opportunities, but Keenum isn't even close to the main reason why the Redskins are 0-2. Not even close. 

"I think he handled it really well. He might’ve miss a few throws here or there," Washington head coach Jay Gruden said of Keenum after the Cowboys loss. "He’s not taking many sacks, he’s getting out of the pocket, he’s making plays, and I love his competitiveness. I think that will rub off on the entire football team if it hasn’t already. Guys like to play for him and play with him.”

The Washington defense surrendered at least 30 points in consecutive losses to the Eagles and the Cowboys to start the 2019 campaign. The defense has given up at least 400 yards in both losses. The defensive front, the presumed strength of the Redskins team, has piled up a whopping two sacks through two games. Two. 

Offensively, the Redskins haven't been great, or even very good. Keep in mind, however, the expectations for Washington's offense weren't particularly high. Gruden has frequently talked how his team is built to "win ugly" and that the head coach is fine with low-scoring victories. 

Well, Keenum has delivered enough for those type of wins. The defense just isn't holding up their end of the bargain. In two games the Redskins have averaged 24 points with zero turnovers. That's more than enough to win ugly. 

And the truth is Keenum deserves almost all of the credit for the Redskins offensive production. The run game has been abysmal thus far. Through the first two losses, no running back has gained even 30 yards, and the Redskins collectively have less than 100 yards rushing. 

Whatever offense there has been has come from Keenum. He's missed a few big plays - a potential TD throw to Terry McLaurin in the second half of the Eagles loss and a blatant miss of a wide-open Paul Richardson against the Cowboys really stand out. But he's also made plenty of good throws and engineered some good drives. 

Keenum has also proved quite level-headed. He came to Washington knowing he had to compete for the starting job. His whole career he's been overlooked, and that has molded him into a veteran presence with a clear head. 

"Sometimes you must grind it out. It’s not always going to look pretty either, but I trust all those guys in that locker room and know that they’re going to fight no matter what," Keenum said.

Since this is Washington, there are always fans calling for the backup quarterback. In this case there is genuine excitement for Dwayne Haskins, the rookie 15th overall pick and Keenum's backup. Haskins has All Pro potential but hasn't hit the field yet. And frankly he shouldn't. Keenum has done plenty to keep a stranglehold on the starting job.

That said, late in both games this season the Redskins have been playing in situations where the result was mostly out of hand. Could Gruden give Haskins a drive to get him some real game action? Sure, but that would create a laundry list of postgame questions that Gruden probably wants to avoid. Plus, there are senior Redskins officials that are truly committed to Haskins spending the year on the bench to really learn the game. A random fourth quarter drive won't change that tremendously, in either direction. 

For now, it's Keenum, and it's the right call. He's been pretty good, and he's done enough for Washington to be in games.

"None of us expect to be average. We all want to score 100 points," Keenum said after the loss to Dallas. 

Of course the quarterback doesn't want to be average, but before the season started, the Redskins would have taken average from their QB. The plan was for low-scoring football that Washington wins with defense. 

Keenum has been better than average, the defense just hasn't shown up.

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