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Tuesday Lunch: Mind of Munchie Edition

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At the beginning of the season, a common theme heard says the biggest improvement comes between Game 1 and Game 2 for any team.

As UC approaches Game 11, the same axiom applies. With Munchie Legaux at quarterback, the team needed to hit the rest button. During his first start, the Bearcats learned better what will and won't work in a gameplan suited toward the sophomore QB.

The Bearcats need that improvement and they need it now. At least, if they have any hopes of at least sharing the Big East title.
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The team's three-point effort and offensive woes certainly didn't all track back to No. 4 at quarterback, but nobody can deny finding a spark begins with him. With valuable game experience tucked away, he enters Saturday's game against Syracuse taking more ownership over the direction of the offense.

"I have to be a better leader, Legaux said. "I have to take control. I can't be laid back, you are the quarterback, you have to get things going. They rely on you to get the offense going, it is going to be a big week of practice I am ready to take on the challenge."

Legaux's teammates haven't lost faith in him. Despite going 12 of 31 for 158 yards, a united front formed directly behind their quarterback. Granted, they have no other option, but they believe the gap between stagnant and explosive wasn't that wide.

Jones pointed out the team holds a goal to gain at least four yards on first down to allow for run/pass options on second and third down. They only accomplished the goal 2 out of 17 times Saturday.

The receivers dropped five passes. Three of those came on first-and-10.

Isaiah Pead missed a cut outside that Jones believes would have gone for a 72-yard touchdown. On other plays, he was too concerned with hitting the home run, and bounced a run that would have gained 5-10 yards up the middle.

"
There was just little things we couldn't get right, missing blocks, missing key assignments here and there," OL Randy Martinez said. "He did what he could, but we put him in bad situations which can't happen. Anytime you have 28 rushing yards from one of the best backs in the nation that is not a great game for him. We can't put on the burden on Munchie."

Legaux put much of the burden on himself.
Passes were repeatedly batted down. He pointed out he needed to raise his release point and stop letting his elbow drop. The fumble came from not holding a firm, two-handed grip on the ball.

Regardless of specifics, the key to whether the Bearcats accomplish their goals or not will lie in how Legaux reacts to Saturday's failure. A 20-year-old sophomore suddenly feeling the pressure of a season on the brink of falling short of its goal can be fragile.

His demeanor and ability to move forward will be closely monitored this week. Jones says he opened up a competition at quarterback with Legaux, Jordan Luallen and Brandon Kay, but it would be difficult to imagine anybody but Legaux heading out there against the Orange. They've come this far with Munchie, to quote a poker term, they are pot committed at this point. They're all in with No. 4.

The next four days are about moving forward and preparing to improve.

"
He was very disappointed," Jones said. "He has high expectations for our football team our offense and for himself. Just like I expected he was in here on Sunday, not only met with (offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian) individually but with myself and went through it. Kind of getting the thought process."

These long film sessions could probably be renamed Inside the Quarterback's Studio with all the question and answer exchanged. Legaux needs information about what he's doing right and wrong, and he needs it yesterday.

"He is kind of sipping through a fire hose right now," Jones said. "We are trying to get as much into him. You can prepare in practice and get the same amount of reps, but the game speed repetitions..."

Jones jumped off to point out Legaux was facing the top-ranked defense in the Big East. The Orange aren't a Rutgers level. In fact, overall they rank at the bottom of the conference in yards allowed per game. If you tighten the sample to only conference play, they sit at the middle of the pack.

The Orange will allow opportunities and everybody inside the Carrier Dome on Saturday will know what to expect.
 
"How do you attack a young quarterback?" Jones said. "You come after him. (Legaux) understands that and we will try to simulate that as much as we can in practice this week."

 
In the final few desperation drives, Legaux handled the pressure better. He rolled out effectively and threw well on the run. In the second half he was 10 of 23 for 151 yards. The dark day in New Jersey wasn't without bright spots.

"I felt confidence because receivers were catching it," Legaux said. "Just trusting it, that was the main thing, just trusting the receivers. Timing and rhythm. That was the main thing going on at the beginning of the game we couldn't get in a rhythm. At the end I felt I had a little confidence."

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