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November 3, 2012

Kay gets to play

In a month famous for its food-themed holiday, Munchie Legaux's starting status soured. Spoiled. And then the junior quarterback from Louisiana was swept off the table completely.

With the most edible nickname on the Bearcats, Munchie would seem fitting to continue through Thanksgiving, but his passing of late left a nasty aftertaste in the mouths of many.

Saturday afternoon Head Coach Butch Jones pulled Legaux for Brendon Kay. Behind by four points at the time of insertion Kay and his offense did manage to wrangle the victory from Syracuse, 35-24.

That Kay hardly threw the football matters little to the virulent, outspoken fans of Cincinnati barking for the removal of Munchie.

Cincinnati won. And that means Brendon Kay is better. Right?

We will see. According to Coach Jones the depth chart is still in limbo.

"We are going to compete this week," said Coach Jones afterwards. "I just felt that we needed a spark. Brendon Kay has been working, working, working. I thought he deserved an opportunity."

Kay got his opportunity late in the third quarter. The UC staff put him in a position to succeed by calling his number after a Bearcat fumble recovery. It was hardly an uphill battle for the senior Kay. He needed only guide his men fifteen yards to the goalline.

"It took a few plays to really settle in and feel comfortable," revealed Kay afterwards. "And I knew we just had to chew clock."

He only passed three times, all on the decisive possession. First, Kay hit Winn for a loss. Brendon found fellow senior Kenbrell Thompkins for 10 yards setting up a 13-yard strike to Travis Kelce, which ultimately won the game. It was not a flawless win and Kay didn't prove he is a demonstrably better passer.

Frankly, he didn't have to. All it took was the short strike to win and then stall.

What matters is that he did win. Munchie is now 3-3 in Big East play. Brendon Kay is 1-0.

"So we will go back and evaluate the film," said Coach Jones. "See where we are at and then we will let those two battle it out in practice. I thought Kay provided a spark. He came in and provided that, but both individuals are very capable."

Tipping point

For the first time since Butch Jones' first year with University of Cincinnati an audible groan descended upon his starting quarterback.

Perhaps more accurately around thirty to forty fans offered a tepid boo as Munchie Legaux brought his first team offense onto the field.

The unrest was built over the course of two months, months during which Munchie Legaux put forth both clutch conversions and deplorably inaccurate passes.

Credited with throwing a vibrant touchdown pass against Virginia Tech in the most unlikely of scenarios Legaux also managed to nearly single-handedly lose at Toledo. Not easy to do in such a team sport. Against Louisville Legaux was average, bad, good, and then bad again.

Now it's all O, Kay

As smooth as Kay and the offense looked under his leadership this day has been years in the making. It was truthfully a day that never would have arrived if Cincinnati started the Big East season with more passing success.

"It is hard," said Kay. "I am not going to lie. Throughout the number of years I have put in a ton of work and it pays off, but people don't see it. My numbers aren't on the field. Guys respect you and stuff but my numbers aren't on the field."

On the field Kay threw three passes all for completions. Tiny sample size and yet it is thoroughly encouraging for the offense going forward.

When the passes were not called Kay was perfectly comfortable handing to his workhorse and fellow Michigander, George Winn.

"My mindset is just take care of the ball and make plays when your number is called," said Kay. "Just manage the offense. I came in and...I don't remember the score exactly, but once we got the lead you just take care of the ball, run the ball, and chew the clock."

Kay is eager to win the QB competition this week and continue on an upward trajectory. He will have to beat out his friend and teammate Munchie Legaux again, a fete he was unable to accomplish in the spring and fall camps.

"It is just the start," said Kay of his career path. "As I get more comfortable out there and get more opportunities...make the best of it."

Blazing new ground

Quarterback stability has been a trademark of the Butch Jones blueprint. Pick a guy during Spring Camp and ride him until he graduates. It was the plan with Dan LeFevour at Central Michigan and Cincinnati faithful watched him replicate it again with Zach Collaros.

You can't argue with success and Butch Jones had plenty of it over the course of his head coaching career. Including the painful adjustment period of 2010 he has won 64% of his games at the helm.

Saturday he did something he has never done before. Replace a healthy starting quarterback for multiple series.

Though not labeled the starter yet, Brendon Kay trotted out with the UC offense for the final five series Saturday.

"It is a gut feeling I have about the players on my football teams," said Coach Jones. "Every game is different. You get where you are at sometimes by trusting your gut. I just went with my gut and it worked."

The uneven film reel composed by Legaux had grown tiresome to more than the handful of angry souls brave enough, some would say rude enough, to vocalize their distaste. Numerous Bearcat fans loudly smashed their computer keyboards and smart phones to blare their disdain for the head coach's unrelenting favoritism of Munchie Legaux.

Through it all Munchie was all class. He handled the media and occasional fan scrutiny with proud posture and direct answers. After the Louisville loss during which he both drove his team to a final second touchdown and essentially ended their hopes with a severely underthrown pass Legaux tweeted out All this comes with playing the position....#Motivation.

For what it is worth he has not tweeted again since Monday.

"I think you are starting to see the character of this football team," said Coach Jones. "Everyone wants to bury us. Everyone wants to surround us with negativity and our kids just keep bouncing back."

The team did bounce back with their first victory in three weeks. With a fantastic effort and physical display from George Winn the Bearcats improve to 2-1 in the Big East, tying them for third behind Louisville and Rutgers.

Winn accumulated a career-high 165 yards, most of them in after halftime. Gripping the lead in the rain Winn rattled off twenty-two second half runs from scrimmage.

Just as intriguing as the Big East football title race will be the reaction of Munchie Legaux. How does he take that temporary demotion? Does he pout? Does he sulk and give in?

According to Coach Jones, Munchie Legaux was the first person on the field to congratulate Kay upon his first career touchdown pass.

Like most of these elite athletes there is a strong backbone in Legaux and his Cincinnati career is anything but finished.

Don't get started on his epilogue just yet. Like Kay's football career this quarterback battle is only beginning to get interesting.


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