Travis Kelce. You couldn't have asked for a better regular season finale from the senior tight end. After teasing us with his talent earlier in the season, Kelce has come into his own these past six games and finished his career with a two-touchdown catch performance against UConn. His final stat line was as follows; five catches for 69 yards, two touchdown receptions and one passing touchdown. Those numbers alone were astounding, but it was the way in which they were achieved that gave Kelce the nod for top overall player. As we've discussed in previous articles, Kelce is one of the most physically gifted players on this Cincinnati team. Blessed with great size and athleticism, it has been frustrating at times to watch him under perform. Whether it be dropped passes or silly personal foul penalties, Kelce has been an enigma on this squad. However, since Brendon Kay took over at quarterback, Kelce has finally rounded into form, becoming Kay's favorite target and one of the best tight ends in the Big East. His performance on Saturday was just proof of the maturation process of one of the Bearcats most talented offensive players.
Top Offensive Player
Brendon Kay. Although it came at a later than expected date, the Bearcats have found their quarterback. Against the Huskies, Brendon Kay looked the part of a senior quarterback with multiple years of experience, not one who was starting just his fourth career game. Kay finished the game completing 19 of 29 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Cincinnati offense on multiple longs drives and playing turnover free football. The performance came with a little flair as well when Kay caught a 39-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter on a trick play that caught the UConn defense completely off guard. Quarterback is the most highly scrutinized position in football, and Kay hasn't been perfect as a starter, but he improved every week and looks more and more comfortable with each passing drive. Even though the season may not have turned out as UC fans would have liked, Kay can sleep soundly knowing he gave it his best shot each time he stepped on the field.
Top Defensive Player
Dan Giordano. I honestly wasn't sure what to expect going into this UConn game. One on hand, UC had the better record and was still in play for a share of the Big East title, and on the other hand, UConn had just beaten the best team in the Big East, the Louisville Cardinals, in a hard fought game. The Huskies boasted a talented quarterback in Chandler Whitmer, and a fairly balanced offense. It was the play of defensive lineman Dan Giordano that eased my concerns. The big senior had the best game of the season against the Huskies, finishing with three tackles, including two huge sacks, and was constantly putting pressure on the Whitmer, forcing the UConn quarterback into rushed decisions. Getting pressure on the quarterback has been a problem for the Bearcats defense since senior defensive end Walter Stewart went down with an injury early in the season, and it was great to see Giordano, a player whom many teammates mentioned had become a leader in Stewart's absence, finish his career with a great game. As the defense prepares for a Duke football in their bowl game, I hope to see Giordano continue his inspired play.