CINCINNATI -- Brendon Kay was sharp in his return as Cincinnati's starting quarterback on Saturday night, matching his career high with four touchdown passes in a 66-9 victory over Northwestern State.
The sixth-year senior lost the starting job to Munchie Legaux after a sore passing shoulder limited him during camp and the opening week of the season. The Bearcats (2-1) beat Purdue and lost at Illinois, where Legaux tore ligaments in his left knee.
The Bearcats didn't know whether Kay would be rusty in his return. He eased any concerns for coach Tommy Tuberville's staff by completing his first eight passes and 9 of his first 10 for 175 yards and a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Kay finished 12 of 14 for 277 yards with four touchdowns, matching his total from the 48-34 Belk Bowl win over Duke last season.
Northwestern State (2-1) was halfway to matching its win total from last season after beating Missouri State and Southern. The Demons couldn't pull off the big upset, dropping their 15th straight game against a FBS team.
Northwestern State hasn't beaten an FBS team since its 27-23 win over Louisiana-Monroe to open the 2005 season. Last year, the Demons opened with a 44-6 loss at Texas Tech, which was coached by Tuberville.
Cincinnati has two more weeks to get Kay fully recovered from the shoulder problems before starting play in the American Athletic Conference. The Bearcats visit Miami of Ohio next Saturday, then have a bye before opening conference play at South Florida.
They started getting his backup ready in case there's a problem. Redshirt freshman Bennie Coney took over midway through the second quarter and handed off eight times in a 75-yard touchdown drive.
After Kay's 41-yard touchdown pass to Max Morrison made it 42-9 in the third quarter, Coney closed it out, going 3 of 3 for 60 yards with a 44-yard touchdown pass.
Hosey Williams carried 11 times for 117 yards and a pair of touchdowns, helping Cincinnati pile up 669 yards overall.
Things didn't go well for Northwestern State on either side. The Demons had only two three-and-out series in their first two games combined. The first two times they got the ball on Saturday, they ran three plays and punted.
Junior college transfer Zach Adkins came in as the Southland Conference's most prolific quarterback, averaging 313 yards per game. He was 14 of 20 for 79 yards with an interception.
The Bearcats honored Legaux, who had surgery on Friday, by putting his name on the video board as the team warmed up. Cincinnati is optimistic that he could get a redshirt season and play next year.
Kay took it from there. He led the Bearcats to a 4-1 finish last season after taking over for the struggling Legaux and won MVP honors in the Belk Bowl.
Kay avoided the rush and threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Mekale McKay, showing plenty of arm strength. He also had a 49-yard completion to tight end Blake Annen and a 46-yard throw to Morrison in the first half, putting nice touch on his long passes.
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