Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 11/12/11
Until the final seconds of Saturday's Big East clash between Cincinnati and West Virginia, a familiar story was being woven. In 2011, the UC Bearcats have lived on the edge, mounting late rallies against Big East opponents Louisville, South Florida and Pittsburgh. Against West Virginia, it appeared that the Bearcats were close to pulling off their most improbable comeback of the season -- despite standout Senior quarterback Nick Collaros watching from the sidelines. Late in the first half of UC's 24-21 loss to West Virginia, Collaros found himself sandwiched between two Mountaineer defenders. Collaros' ankle was awkwardly wrenched underneath and a few agonizing minutes later the Senior quarterback had to be carted off the field. But in typical UC fashion, Butch Jones' squad stormed out of halftime -- energized by their veteran defense, a frenzied Paul Brown Stadium crowd of 48,152 and a familiar mantra. "It was the same as it's been all year," Jones said. "No panic. Hold the rope and it's the next guy in." This time, the "next guy" was sophomore quarterback Munchie Legaux, who had previously completed all of five passes in 2011. On just his second passing attempt of the afternoon, Legaux lobbed a wind-swept interception. However, UC head coach Butch Jones expressed confidence in his inexperienced quarterback. "Obviously, you're right off the bench and you're going be nervous," Jones said. "I thought he showed some poise and the guys around him rallied. He started to settle down and get into a comfortable zone." Legaux, a lanky 6'5" Sophomore who better resembles a sleek power forward, gave the Bearcat faithful a few genuine moments of hope -- along with generous portions of tension. The New Orleans native alternated tight spirals with several more erratic offerings. Yet, Legaux's shaky bouts of inaccuracy subsided long enough for the Sophomore to nearly lead his team into overtime against an inspired West Virginia team. Of course, much of Legaux's inaccuracy could be blamed on having a battle of nerves. "On the first series, I was kind of nervous," Legaux said. "After that, I got comfortable." Nerves aside, it was Legaux's legs that brought the Bearcats back in the second half. Early in the third quarter, Legaux took off from the UC 5-yard line and slipped into the second layer of West Virginia's defense. Legaux advanced near midfield, before bouncing off two colliding Mountaineer defenders and escaping for a meandering 65-yard scamper. The thrilling run awakened the Bearcat fans, many of whom were decidedly somber after Collaros' exit. "It was big in the field position game and it was big in uplifting everyone," Jones said. Later in the quarter, Legaux connected with Senior running back Isaiah Pead on an extended wheel route for a 40-yard gain. A play later, Legaux scored on a shifty seven-yard touchdown run that was eerily reminiscent of Collaros. After struggling to generate any momentum in the fourth quarter, Legaux heated up on the Bearcats' final drive. On a perfectly designed scramble, Legaux connected with Junior wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins on a 34-yard strike. Two plays later, Legaux again found Thompkins for a 14-yard completion that put the Bearcats into field position. While Legaux's final passing numbers were not impressive -- 10 of 21 for 144 yards -- the Sophomore quarterback appeared to earn the trust of his coach. Despite having to deal with a potentially grave blow of losing Collaros for an extended period of time, Jones was optimistic regarding turning to Legaux. "I'm very comfortable with Munchie," Jones said. "He's waited for this opportunity. His opportunity is right now, so he needs to go make the most of it. Our players will rally around him." As for his own confidence level, Legaux stated that the UC offense did not experience a significant drop off after Collaros' injury. "Not much," Legaux said. "Zach is a lot more experienced than me. There were changes in the play calling, but not the offense itself." In fact, the only real changes that were found saw the Bearcats finally coming up short in the fourth quarter.
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