LOUISVILLE -- On third-and-9 and backed against the wall of a 28-27 advantage in fourth quarter Friday night, Zach Collaros scanned the offense and saw a cast of unfamiliar faces surrounding him.
D.J. Woods looked on from the sidelines with a head injury.
Marcus Barnett, lined up to his right, was a backup to open the year and is still trying to locate his role in the offense.
Anthony McClung lined up beyond him. The freshman played in his first game only two weeks ago.
As Collaros swiveled his head to the left, however, the comfort level changed. There stood No. 80, Armon Binns.
"All he has to do is give me the look," Binns said.
A total of 55,106 fans shaking Papa John's Cardinal Stadium knew that look. Twice before, they'd seen it turn into Binns streaking alone down the sideline for touchdowns.
But in this situation, in this critical spot, with Collaros' other go-to target out of commission, Louisville wouldn't possibly leave Binns in one-on-one coverage again would they?
One look delivered the answer.
"Oh yeah," Binns said of his presnap thoughts on third-and-9, "I know he's going to me."
Sixty-two yards of carrying career highs in receptions, yards and touchdowns all alone down the green turf, the receiver responsible for one of the most famous receptions in school history added another chapter to the scrapbook.
Binns raised over top of Louisville Bobby Burns to turn the Cardinals DB's night from bad to worse and placed UC in position for the 13th consecutive conference win. Only, this one was different. A new cast didn't carry the credentials of the previous 12 down I-71. They unloaded the bus with a series of questions as to how a team with 12 seniors would respond in situations like third-and-9.
Binns and Collaros are one of the few connections still in tact from those days. The senior WR came under some question for a non-conference slate where Woods and Pead stole many of the headlines. He enjoyed some moments, but not to the level expected of him.
He hadn't won a game for them yet. The kid with the NFL future hadn't added to his prospective NFL highlight reel.
When all was said he done his career high numbers will look gorgeous in bold atop his NFL resume: 8 receptions, 175 yards, 3 TDs. And what amounted to the game-winner.
"You can always rely on Armon to make a play," said Collaros, who set a career high of his own with five touchdown passes.
Rarely can receivers win games for teams. And in fact, if it were not for the heroic play of a UC defense that allowed but one field goal in the second half after being burnt for 261 yards before halftime, Binns' play wouldn't have mattered.
If it weren't for Camerron Cheatham leaping to knock down
If it weren't for the gutsy play of RT Sean Hooey, filling in for Alex Hoffman and holding down a line that didn't allow Collaros to be sacked and rarely hurried, Binns' great plays would have been irrelevant.
To say Binns won this game for UC, might be an overstatement. But they don't win without him. With attrition surrounding the Bearcats on offense and new players at seemingly every position Frdiay, Collaros to Binns still worked.
And as long as Binns is there, the Bearcats will always have a chance. He sits tied for fourth on the team's all-time TD reception list with 17. The Collaros to Binns combo has connected nine times for scores.
Reuben Johnson knows all too well about how difficult defending the two can be. He attempts to stop Binns every day in practice, particularly the deep fade Binns has taken to the house time and again.
"I win a couple," said Johnson, who led UC with 10 tackles, nine of the solo variety. "If you come to practice you probably hear me talking a little smack to him."
He doesn't win often, though. Few do. So, from Johnson's perspective on the sidelines on third-and-9, he barely needed to watch the play as it developed.
From his angle, it only took one look to put
"That ball goes up on third down I am raising my hands because I got all faith and confidence in Armon Binns," Johnson said. "To me he's one of the best receivers in the Big East, in the nation, in college football. If I could pick any wide receiver in college football, I am picking Armon Binns. He's my first pick."