CINCINNATI -- Brendon Kay threw for a touchdown and ran for another on Friday night, getting Cincinnati's offense moving again after its worst showing of the season, and the Bearcats pulled away to a 27-10 victory over South Florida.
Cincinnati (8-3, 4-2 Big East) was coming off a 10-3 loss to Rutgers that eliminated the Bearcats from the league title race. It was the first time since 1987 that the Bearcats gave up only 10 points and lost.
Kay ended the drought with an 18-yard touchdown scramble in the first quarter. He also threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Travis Kelce and set up another score with a 48-yard completion. Kay was 17 of 27 for 178 yards, He also ran seven times for 48 yards.
George Winn ran for 119 yards and scored from 3 and 4 yards out in the second half when the Bearcats pulled ahead 27-3.
South Florida (3-8, 1-5) struggled behind redshirt freshman Matt Floyd, who was making his first career start. Floyd was 21 of 39 for 176 yards.
Demetris Murray's 5-yard run ended a streak of 10 quarters without a touchdown by the Bulls and cut it to 27-10 with 7:19 left in the game.
It was 38 degrees with gusty winds at the kickoff. The Bulls had sideline heaters and warmed benches to take the chill off the evening. One of them billowed smoke in the closing minutes.
The game ended with a nasty exchange in front of the Cincinnati bench. Officials and coaches stepped between players to break it up.
Both teams came in with questions about their quarterbacks.
Kay replaced the struggling Munchie Legaux and led the Bearcats to a pair of wins and the loss at Rutgers, during which the senior hurt his left (non-throwing) elbow.
It didn't bother him as he scrambled to avoid the Bulls' pass rush on Friday. After South Florida fumbled, Kay eluded the rush for his 18-yard scamper and a 7-0 lead.
The Bearcats surprised the Bulls with a quick-snap play in the second quarter, and Kay threw a short pass that Anthony McClung turned into a 26-yard gain. Kay's 3-yard touchdown pass to Travis Kelce made it 13-0 -- the extra-point attempt hit the upright.
Kelce had a team-high seven catches for 58 yards and became the first Cincinnati tight end to have 500 yards on receptions during one season.
Kenbrell Thompkins got behind the coverage for a 48-yard pass from Kay to the 3-yard line late in the third quarter. Winn ran the rest of the way for a 20-3 lead.
South Florida was on its third quarterback of the month, and it showed.
B.J. Daniels broke his left ankle on Nov. 3. Junior Bobby Eveld replaced him and separated his left shoulder in the first quarter of 40-9 loss to Miami last weekend. Floyd finished it out, completing 20 of 35 for 175 yards with two interceptions.
Floyd couldn't get the offense moving on Friday night until Cincinnati was in control. The Bulls managed only 95 yards in the first half. They ran 15 plays in the second quarter for a total of 14 yards -- two long sacks set them back.
South Florida lost receiver Terrence Mitchell on its opening drive of the third quarter. The junior was shaken up by a collision with a defender and was helped off the field. Mitchell missed most of last season after a concussion.