CINCINNATI (AP) — Brendon Kay didn't even put on a sweatshirt for pregame warmups despite temperatures in the 30s and wind gusts that made it feel much, much colder.
There was a message to his summertime garb.
Kay threw for a touchdown and ran for another on a finger-numbing 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.
Their senior quarterback got them back on track, avoiding mistakes on a night when the cold and wind made it a challenge to throw the ball. Kay improved to 2-1 as a starter since taking over for the struggling Munchie Legaux.
"I can see him getting better and better," coach Butch Jones said. "It's the little things that you watch. When we got to (the stadium), right away he walked out there in just a T-shirt. I think that's a subliminal message to your football team.
"It's what we expect from our quarterback — to be the leader, to be the alpha male."
After a warm autumn in Cincinnati, Kay was reminding himself of what it's like to play in those conditions.
"Just getting my mind right for the weather," he said. "I knew it was going to be cold. I played in this my whole life growing up in Michigan."
Kay ended Cincinnati's touchdown 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 without an interception. He also ran seven times for 48 yards.
"I thought Brendon Kay really managed the game," Jones said. "There were a couple of times where nothing was there and he scrambled or threw the ball away, so that was great to see."
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, making his first career start. Floyd was 21 of 39 for 176 yards.
The Bulls has seven fumbles, but recovered five of them. Their receivers slipped and fell several times while running their routes.
"I thought our young quarterback stood in there and showed an awful lot of poise tonight," coach Skip Holtz said. "I thought he showed an awful lot of toughness and I was proud of the way he competed. But we certainly in the last two weeks have not done much to help him on the perimeter. It seemed like we had a lot of guys tripping and falling tonight."
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.
Only 21,171 fans showed up for senior night, Cincinnati's smallest home crowd of the season. The Bulls had sideline heaters and warmed benches to take the chill off the evening. One of the heaters billowed smoke in the closing minutes.
The game ended with a nasty exchange in front of the Cincinnati bench. Officials and coaches had to step between players to break it up.
Both teams came in with questions about their quarterbacks.
Kay hurt his left (non-throwing) elbow during the loss to Rutgers. 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 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.