CINCINNATI -- Brendon Kay sparked a Cincinnati offense that helped the Bearcats get started on the road back from a heartbreaking tragedy.
Kay completed 31 of 37 passes for 270 yards and two touchdowns to help Cincinnati beat winless Temple 38-20 on Friday night for its first victory in the first-year American Athletic Conference.
Kay ran for 18 yards and a score for the Bearcats (4-2, 1-1), coming off a turnover-plagued 26-20 loss at previously winless South Florida in their first game since freshman offensive lineman Ben Flick was killed in a car accident on Sept. 21. Wide receiver Mark Barr remains hospitalized with injuries from that accident.
The Nippert Stadium crowd of 32,220 watched a video tribute to Flick before kickoff.
"We had to get out there and get our minds off everything," Kay said.
Anthony McClung had seven catches for 86 yards and two touchdowns, Shaq Washington caught 11 passes for 72 yards, and Tion Green ran for a career-high 91 yards and two TDs on 18 carries as Cincinnati, hoping to jumpstart its offense, went with four wide receivers for much of the game.
First-year coach Tommy Tuberville was happy to see the wrinkle play off.
"With what we've been through this past month, we needed something positive," Tuberville said. "We were struggling mentally. I've never been through anything like this. It looked like we were running in mud last week. We went to four wide receivers, and it gave us some high-octane rhythm."
Tony Miliano added a 44-yard field goal, the longest of his career.
Freshman P.J. Walker, playing his third game and making his first start, was 12 of 22 for 200 yards and two touchdowns and an interception for Temple (0-6, 0-3). He ran for 48 yards on nine carries.
"I prepare every week like I'm a starter," Walker said. "I just played the game and let it come to me. I knew early in the week that I was going to start, and I got a lot of reps with the (starters), but I didn't feel any different than I did when I came into the game last week."
First-year coach Matt Ruhle predicted a bright future for Walker.
"We wanted to see how P.J. would react," Ruhle said. "The game wasn't too big for him. P.J. is going to be a heck of a player in this conference. He was a dynamic player for us. He made some freshman mistakes but he will continue to grow."
Cincinnati's defense bounced back from a shaky first half to hold the Owls scoreless in the second half.
"Defensively, we had no idea what they would be running offensively," Tuberville said. "They had a new quarterback and new formations, and it looked like we didn't know what they were doing. We didn't stop much in the first half, but we made some adjustments. We made sure to get in the quarterback's face and not let him get outside."
Cincinnati, hoping for a quick start after scoring six points in the first half against South Florida, scored on its first possession and added three more touchdowns to build a 28-20 halftime lead. Kay connected on all five of his passes for 32 yards on the opening drive, and added a 25-yard touchdown pass to McClung and a 4-yard scoring run. Green scored on runs of 24 and 2 yards.
"When I popped that first (touchdown) run, I was like, `Oh, wow, that's my first oh, my gosh, college moment," Green said. "It's a humbling feeling."
"Tino hadn't been getting much playing time because of his pass protection," Tuberville said. "It wasn't what we liked. He's going to gain some yards for us."
Temple hung with the Bearcats, shredding the nation's fourth-ranked defense in total yards for a season-high 20 first-half points and 271 yards, 16 more than the Owls' total in their 30-7 loss to No. 8 Louisville last week.
Walker completed touchdown passes of 35 yards to Jalen Fitzpatrick and 30 to Clinton Granger, and Zaire Williams added a 1-yard scoring run as the Owls gained 20 more yards than the per-game average of 251 allowed by the Bearcats in their first five games.
Cincinnati had gone 10 quarters without allowing an offensive touchdown.
Kay added a 4-yard touchdown pass to McClung with 9:19 left in the third quarter.