Isaiah Pead needed just 66 yards rushing in Saturday's game at Rutgers to reach 1,000 yards for the season. He didn't get it.
Not much else needs to be said about Saturday's 20-3 loss to the Scarlet Knights.
The Bearcats offense, led by sophomore quarterback Munchie Legaux who was making his first career start in place of the injured Zach Collaros, couldn't muster any semblance of a passing attack. As a result, Rutgers keyed the run, shut down Pead and kept UC's defense on the field for extended periods. UC punted seven times.
"Offensively, we could never establish a rhythm," Bearcats head coach Butch Jones told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "No big plays, too many dropped passes, not very efficient in the run game. By far, not our best performance."
Jones said earlier in the week that Legaux couldn't be expected to win the game, that he would need plenty of assistance from his teammates. He didn't get it. Rutgers made the Bearcats' usually staunch rush defense appear porous with Jawan Jamison rushing for 200 yards on 34 carries and two TDs. The Scarlet Knights had nearly an 18-minute advantage in time of possession.
"They had a good attack plan," said linebacker J.K. Schaffer. "They came out and really hit us in the mouth on defense. We need to do a better job of getting off the field on third down."
Many of the contributors to the Bearcats' 7-1 start were non-existent in Piscataway. A five-game winning streak had evaporated into a two-game losing skid. UC (7-3, 3-2) still has an outside chance at a Big East title or at least an attractive bowl invitation, but the improvement with Legaux at the helm will need to be expedited.
--Senior QB Zach Collaros did not travel with the team to Rutgers for medical reasons. He underwent surgery on his fractured right ankle last week and was unable to travel. He could travel with the team this week when they play at Syracuse.
--Sophomore QB Munchie Legaux made his first career start Saturday. His given name is Benton Shannon Legaux. He earned the nickname "Munchie" at age 2 for his eating habits.
--Next season's matchup at Ohio State has been postponed to 2018, according to a report by the Columbus Dispatch. UC still is scheduled to play at OSU in 2014.
KEEP AN EYE ON: QB Munchie Legaux -- Look for signs of improvement from the sophomore. He had the full confidence of his coaches and teammates going into his first career start Saturday. He nearly rallied UC after Zach Collaros was injured in a loss to West Virginia, then had a full week of practice to prepare for Rutgers. But he appeared lost for much of that game. He fumbled on the second play from scrimmage and was unable to get into a rhythm.
LOOKING GOOD: LB J.K. Schaffer was among the few bright spots for UC on Saturday. The senior had 13 tackles, including three for loss, 1.5 sacks and a pass breakup. He also had a couple of blistering hits on Scarlet Knights players, providing a physicality that was mostly lacking throughout Saturday's loss.
STILL NEEDS WORK: The Bearcats rush defense, which has been much-improved this season, took a step backward Saturday. UC allowed 203 rushing yards, including 200 on 34 carries and 2 TDs by Jawan Jamison. Rutgers averaged 4.5 yards per carry, with a lot of Jamison's yards coming after first or second contact.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We still have a couple of games left. You find out now when you're challenged ... we have to stay together, which we will. When we were 7-1, it's the same team." -- UC head coach Butch Jones' message to his team following a 20-3 loss at Rutgers.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL PLAYER NOTES:
--Sophomore QB Munchie Legaux, making his first career start in place of the injured Zach Collaros, fumbled on UC's second play from scrimmage. He finished 12 of 31 for 158 yards and one interception. He rushed for 31 yards on 12 carries.
--Senior RB Isaiah Pead had a season-low 28 yards rushing Saturday. He is 38 yards shy of reaching 1,000 yards rushing for the second consecutive season. He needs nine yards to become just the third UC player to eclipse 3,000 career rushing yards.
--Senior DL Rob Trigg had four tackles and recorded his first career sack on Saturday.
--Sophomore QB Munchie Legaux is starting at QB in place of Zach Collaros who sustained a fractured ankle on Nov. 15 vs. West Virginia. Collaros, who underwent successful surgery on his ankle, is out for the remainder of the regular season but could return for a bowl game. Georgia Tech transfer Jordan Luallen is No. 2 on the depth chart, Brendon Kay No. 3.
--Freshman RT Eric Lefeld made his fourth start of the season.
--Senior DB Dominique Battle will miss the remainder of the season with a torn right ACL suffered in the victory at South Florida.
--Junior DB Malcom Murray tore his ACL in practice earlier this year and will miss the remainder of the season.