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Bearcats will ride the Legaux-llercoaster

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The buzz of the final minute at FedEx Field hung over the practice field, meeting rooms and, yes, this blog all week leading up to Saturday's Homecoming game against Miami.

Replays and radio calls of Legaux to Damon Julian echoed through the chilly Nippert Stadium pregame. If every fan wasn't already aware of what occurred last week in D.C., they assuredly were by the time kickoff sailed into the air.

Legaux to Julian changed the course of that game, maybe even the Bearcats season, but it didn't change reality.

The reality for UC football right now remains for every magical moment there will be those of frustration. Some nights many of them. The junior's maturation evolves each week, each drive, each throw. That development enjoyed a giant leap in the final minute against VT. That's a leap, not bending time and space.

No game more defined the maturation process than the 52-14 win against Miami.

There was a perfectly executed rollout and touchdown zip to Danny Milligan for this first touchdown. There was the second touchdown perfectly thrown on a line to Travis Kelce into the Miami defense.

There was a run of four consecutive third-down passes for conversions early in the second quarter that led to a score. Maybe his best throw of the night came in the third quarter when rolling out and absorbing a personal foul hit while connecting on a 21-yard pass on the sideline to Anthony McClung.

In between those plays during what could politely be considered an uneven first half, there were two badly overthrown passes down the sidelines that would have resulted in touchdowns. Kelce in the end zone; Alex Chisum with a defensive back on the ground behind him. Both ended with Legaux clapping his hands in frustration.

His first-half completion percentage dipped below the concerning 50 percent level and a game without rhythm or explosive plays began with Legaux's inconsistency.

Yet, during a third quarter when the Bearcats sucked any drama out of the 117th edition of the Victory Bell rivalry, Legaux bounced back to hit 5 of 6 for 77 yards leading two touchdown drives.

Game over. Ring the bell.

At this point in his development, more consistency would be desired, but responding to it the way Legaux did trumped any overthrows.

"You can't come out in the second half with the first half on your mind," Legaux said. "That's gone. You can't get those throws back. You have to move on and keep on playing football. I knew going into halftime that I had some bad throws. That was on my mind, but at halftime a lot of guys came up to me and said it's OK, you'll have that. Just continue to throw the ball."

He finished 13 of 23 for 157 yards and two touchdowns while running six times for 22 yards and his first career rushing TD. By the fourth quarter he stood on the sidelines with no helmet and a wide smile.

His flashes of brilliance pop more frequently than last year. Yet, there will still be droughts of darkness. For a quarterback making his seventh career start perfection isn't the expectation.

The way he responded to it, however ...

"Big," said Jones, who admitted Legaux played hurt and didn't practice until Wednesday. "That is that maturation process of a quarterback, being able to handle the scrutiny being able to handle the day-to-day rigors of what it is to be a starting quarterback at this level. Every week, every game is a learning experience for him. Obviously, he didn't perform at his best in the first half we had too many wide open receivers. But the second half he came back and managed our offense, he ran our offense. That was great to see because that was a great test of his maturation process so far."

The second half doesn't excuse the first. Legaux knows it, Jones does as well.

"We have to take great strides in our throw game this week," Jones said.

They don't need to make great strides in Legaux's mental game. The same couldn't be said last year or even last month. Overthrows and skipped passes used to change the quarterbacks demeanor for an extra play, series or maybe even more. His receivers noticed it.

"His composure is great," said Milligan, who caught his first career TD in the first quarter. "That is one thing that has been a huge change from last year and even from the Pitt game."

Legaux's not perfect. He will frustrate and exhilarate with only snaps in between. For now, UC rides the waves. The best news for the undefeated Bearcats is the quarterback understands better how to calm the ship.

"It's just me developing as a quarterback," Legaux said. "The main thing, though, I have to come out and be consistent. I have to have a whole game like the second half. I can't miss those deep ball like I did and miss those small throws."

Email comments, questions or anything else to Paul Dehner Jr. at pauldehnerjr@gmail.com.

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