The Morning After: UC 34, Pitt 10

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Blackout.jpgWell worth the wait. That's only way to describe what happened on the field, along the sidelines and in the seats Thursday night.

Cincinnati put what it's all about as a city and university on display for a national audience. A.J. Green, Jay Bruce stood next to UC recruits, more than 8,000 students transformed Nippert Stadium into a national treasure and UC outclassed a despised rival.

Every facet of the program contributed to a night that should make anybody associated with  the university flash a wide smile.

Butch Jones put it best in the postgame:

"You know what I said about being a chamber of commerce night this is what it's about," Jones said. "If I'm a high school player or coach I'd be darned if I am going to send my kids anywhere else but to stay home and represent our home institution. That is what a hometown crowd is supposed to be, that is big-time college football environment and atmosphere. I'm really indebted to our fans, our administration for the gameday activities to our fans for coming out and supporting us today, they were a 12th man today." 

College football always comes down to recruiting and UC's recruiting promotion that ran for four hours last night should be viewed as the big winner.

The Bearcats have proven they can produce this atmosphere, but the next step for Jones and this program is to prove they can provide this atmosphere on a weekly basis. Some environments are loud, full and raucous regardless of opponent.

A similar crowd for Delaware State would be Jones' vision for the future of the program.

"And as we grow and elevate this program, that needs to become a norm here at Nippert," he said. "That is a challenge to everyone out there we need you Saturday night out here, this isn't a one game thing."

--- Munchie Legaux brings a scary dynamic to the quarterback position. He didn't run often, but when he did the home run was always in play.

One of the biggest differences between last season and this one for Munchie was the urgency with which he got upfield when he decided to run. There was no hesitation in his decision to keep it, he tucked and sprinted. With that speed, he went from scrambling to thinking end zone in a hurry.

He threw for 204 yards and ran for 117. Dating back to 2004 (as far back as I could find records online), no quarterback has thrown for 200 yards and ran for 100 in a game for UC.

Take who most consider the top dual-threat QB in the country in Denard Robinson. How many times last year did he throw for 200 and run for 100? Just twice. This doesn't happen all the time, folks. Say what you will about some of the missed throws and 14 of 28, when a player can offer that kind of versatility and explosion in the offense becomes exponentially more difficult to defend.

What made him so effective? Less is more.

Credit offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian. He wasn't running the zone read between the tackles as Collaros-Pead perfected last season. Munchie, for the most part, was a pocket passer. Only sporadically was his number called in the run game to the point where Pitt could hardly have been expecting it.

Here were his six runs: 26, 22, 3, -15, 77, 7.

He didn't run once until the drive that began with 5:49 left in the second quarter where he reeled off four consecutive runs. Now, two were scrambles, one designed and the third a sack which counted against his rushing total.

The three big hits were essentially responsible for 14 points.

Legaux graded himself out as a C+. Humble, modest and wrong. Legaux deserves a grade knocking on the door of an A. The area for improvement was obvious, the easy passes need to be completed more often. At least two very catchable drops kept his completion percentage at 50 percent, not where he'd like it to be, but those are areas where Legaux will look to improve as the year progresses.

The poise he showed multiple times throwing UC out of their own end zone looked like a confident starting quarterback, not a backup filling in.

"He has taken great strides and I thought we saw that today," Jones said. "There are still some things that we have to do that we call pitch and catch and we still dropped a couple of passes. Munchie has to do a better job of not over-striding. But I think he managed the offense really well. He was poised, calm and collected, and that is what we have come to expect from our quarterbacks."

--- I often referred to last year's team as The Turnover Margin Express as they made one of the most remarkable flips in recent college football history in the category from 2010 to 2011.

In 2010 they ranked 119th out of 120 FBS teams in turnover margin (-15) then in 2011 ranked tied-7th in the country at plus-12.

The trend continued Thursday with two turnovers and zero giveaways. That may be the most critical result of Legaux's performance was he proved a reliable caretaker. Almost no terrible decisions -- outside of one near pick-6.

--- Walter Stewart's early campaign for Big East Defensive Player of the Year is off to a great start. He poured in nine tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble.

He looked like a guy who will be playing on Sundays next year.

Stewart stood on the sidelines for quite a few plays, as well. UC made sure not to wear him out and at one point he even had to head to the locker room for fluids. The rotation with Brandon Mills, Dan Giordano and Silverberry Mouhon worked well.

"We knew we could roll a lot of guys," Stewart said. "This is a different year for us because we have so many guys that can play. We kind of expected being able to roll guys in and just make plays. It's what we do."

--- Legaux joked with Anthony McClung last week about how he would never have been caught during his long run against West Virginia last year if McClung hadn't tripped him.

He knew he had no excuse for being caught by the safety near the end zone during his 77-yard run in the third quarter.

"Coach is going to rip me, but yeah, I felt I got kind of winded at the end," he said. "I don't have that (McClung) excuse, I am going to hear it from the guys in the team meeting tomorrow that I got caught."

He'll definitely hear it from Ralph David Abernathy whose been dying for revenge.

"They always got on me for the kicker catching me against Syracuse so I think I am going to give it to Munchie for a couple weeks," he said. 

--- Two years in a row the first play from scrimmage goes for a touchdown. Last year it was Pead going 40 yards against Austin Peay, this year Winn sprinting 58 up the middle against Pitt.

That play served as more than just one score in regards to the confidence and mentality of the UC offense.

Just a relief came off our shoulders," Legaux said. "I felt like we went up from there on, we didn't look back after that first play. After that we felt more comfortable; we felt we could go out there and get more."

Here's Dan Hoard's call on 700WLW.

--- Full list of Bengals, Reds players I spotted on the sideline: AJ Green, Armon Binns, Andrew Hawkins, Adam Jones, Kevin Huber, Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs and Mike Leake.

--- Few things guarantee universal applause like skydivers landing in a stadium carrying a giant American flag and one of the home institution.

--- Game highlights link here. Love the end zone angle on Munchie's 77-yard run.

--- For those of you who didn't see the Take the Field Video, here it is:


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