Forget going back to spring football or even the early days of summer training camp.
It goes back to January, to winter workouts and jogs through the snow and the Cincinnati Bearcats officially saying goodbye to a senior class that was as good as just about any the program had ever had.
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Munchie Legaux knew he was going to have every chance to win the starting quarterback job, and Cincinnati coach Butch Jones knew he needed a quarterback to lead the Bearcats.
“Alpha male,” Legaux said. “That’s what he kept telling me — continue to grow, improve, but step up as a leader. He wanted me to know that I wasn’t going to help the team by being that guy in the background.
“Now is my time to lead. He kept saying, ‘Alpha male, alpha male, be vocal, be a leader.’ I learned from playing (last November) that there’s no sense in waiting or thinking your turn isn’t coming. I learned I had to seize the moment and that leadership is a skill.”
The process continues. The first big moment — the one Leguaux and Jones needed to validate the quarterback’s growth — came last weekend.
The Bearcats are 3-0 because Legaux hit Damon Julian on a 39-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds left last weekend vs. Virginia Tech, capping an 85-play drive that gave Cincinnati a 27-24 win. Legaux and his team still have plenty of growing to do, but they go forward with confidence that the guy in front of the huddle can keep the wins coming.
“The mark of a good quarterback is the ability to lead your team to victory in a one-minute drill on the road,” Jones said. “He made some critical plays, especially on third down situations.
“In the second half, he was a little more poised, a little more under control. And if it wasn’t there, he had the confidence and the poise to throw the ball away and play the next play.”
Jones still wants more consistency out of Legaux — and, in turn, out of his offense as a whole.
Legaux threw for 354 yards against Virginia Tech, but he completed just 19-of-42 passes. He’s at a little under 54 percent completions for the young season.
After Cincinnati blew out Pitt in the season opener, the Bearcats followed by delivering a clunker of a victory against outmatched Delaware State. They now follow the Virginia Tech win with a game against backyard rival Miami (Ohio), and Jones will be looking for the Legaux he saw last weekend.
“Very calm, very poised,” Jones said. “I thought he was exceptionally poised all game. He just had that look in his eye. He had that moxie – that alpha male that we talk about that we want out of our quarterback.”
There’s that term again. And there’s Legaaux, just two years removed from getting shifted to receiver because of a rash of injuries. He’s just 11 months removed from being rushed into action after starting quarterback Zach Collaros broke his ankle.
He was just OK then, keeping things afloat with two wins in three starts but just a 46 percent completion rate. He knows he’s in charge now, and he believes he’s ready for what’s ahead.
“The coaches told me they believed in me,” Legaux said. I believed in myself. It was a matter of waiting, working, making the most of my opportunities.”