Sorry, this wasn't posted here earlier, but I just arrived back with my wife and two younger sons on Monday.
We didn't feel like making the long drive on New Year's Day, so we took a detour in Nashville to watch Mick Cronin's men take it to Pitt. Just like the Liberty Bowl, it was delightful.
Anyway, in Memphis, I didn't take all of my work gear, so I was limited to posting on Facebook and Twitter. I did interview Liberty Bowl MVP Isaiah Pead on the field after UC's 31-24 win over Vanderbilt.
If by chance you missed it on either of those outlets, here you go. I also took some pictures of some of the local high school products at the bowl for the Bearcats, so some of those may appear here if I can figure out how to do it.
I'm getting better at technology, but I have multiple gizmos to deal with these days.
As for the recent events, it certainly was one of the better weekends to be a Bearcat that I can recall.
We drove to Memphis Thursday night and listened to a former UC offensive coordinator's team "Tomahawk Chop" a former UC head coach's squad, followed by the UC basketball team's comeback win over Oklahoma courtesy of XM radio in the first half and Dan Hoard in the second.
Friday, we took the kids to Graceland and Rendezvous and saw the parade on Beale Street.
Saturday, your Bearcats played with a quarterback at less than 100 percent and defeated an SEC team in it's home state.
Sunday, UC beats Pitt in its own gym in a game most had written off.
Other than spending two and a half hours trying to get from the 71/75 split in Northern Kentucky to Anderson Township Monday, I'm a happy dude.
Here's No. 23 for you and hopefully I'll have more.
This time of year, we all like lists. As the new year approaches, we list what we're going to do (then generally chuck it come February). Or, we list what we didn't get over the holidays. In difficult situations, we're asked to list what we do on our jobs so that some bean counter without a soul in a distant state can justify our existence. Keeping with the theme, and with UC's date at the Autozone Liberty Bowl with Vanderbilt fast approaching, I've decided to list UC's nine recent bowls (all of the ones I've physically attended/worked). Sure, I've kind of done this before in various forms, but maybe some of you missed it. However, I'm a big proponent of "to understand the future, you should study the past". For those that think the Lindner Center has always been on campus as well as the Sheakley "bubble", here you go (worst to best):
9) 2001 Motor City Bowl--this was UC's second consecutive trip to the Pontiac Silverdome and second consecutive year playing and losing to a team from the MAC (Toledo). The Bearcats also had a halftime lead (13-3) for the second consecutive year followed by a lackluster second half. There's also the somewhat non-publicized fact that a number of assistant coaches walked out of a bowl practice in protest prior to the contest (things we can say now that we knew then--trust me, there's plenty more.) Bearcats lose to the Rockets 23-16.
8) 2000 Motor City Bowl--this predecessor wasn't as bad because it was the first time up. However, after the royal treatment in Boise at the Bearcats "return to bowling", the Silverdome had all the splendor of a Bengals preseason game at old Riverfront Stadium. The staff there barely knew there was a bowl game, the place had no special "feel" to it, and UC lost to Marshall after leading at halftime 14-9. Outside of a visit to the "Moose Preserve" a local hangout that served game meat like buffalo, this game was about as depressing as the Detroit economy. Final: Marshall 25, UC 14.
7) (One more stinker here and the news gets better) 2002 New Orleans Bowl--the upside was this was in New Orleans which has considerably more to do than Troy, Michigan. This was the culmination of a long season as it was the 14th game. The Bearcats had their brawl with the islanders in Hawaii the month before, then beat UAB and made up a game (hurricane postponement) at East Carolina Dec. 6. That gave them a mere 11 days before the early-bird New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 17. The Bearcats led after one quarter, 7-3, but then were flat afterward. Holding back on the passing game 'til it was too late, Gino Guidugli was picked off five times in obvious throwing situations. Oh well, the food was nice and all. North Texas over UC 24-19.
6) 2007 International Bowl-- The despair of losing Mark Dantonio after a 2006 season that saw UC beat then No. 7 Rutgers at Nippert, turned to joy when Brian Kelly was hired from Central Michigan with the immediate duty of coaching the bowl game. What transpired was gutsy and miraculous, Kelly immediately hired Colerain's Kerry Coombs and then some of his staff coached Central Michigan, and some coached the Bearcats. Jeff Quinn guided CMU to a bowl win as the interim coach and then was in Bearcat garb for this game in Toronto with the rest of the staff. Kelly also took the Dantonio offense and used it with Nick Davila and company in Toronto. The result was an early surge in the game and then an eventual win over Western Michigan 27-24. Heck, if you're going to go north for a bowl, you might as well go over the border.
5) 2010 Sugar Bowl-- New Orleans,here we are again. AGAIN, fun town. Particularly on New Year's Eve when you get to meet friends from Florida that you haven't seen in awhile. Not so fun when their Gators chomp you up like live bait behind the guy that everyone insists is no good (Tim Tebow, 31-35, 482 yards and three TDs). Unfortunate here was the timing of Brian Kelly's departure to Notre Dame, with the team being coached by guys that were also out the door for the most part. An unfocused effort against a very focused Urban Meyer and Tebow was a recipe for disaster. Gators roll 51-24. Gators roll. May we have seen the last of those awful white helmets. 4) 2007 PapaJohns.com Bowl-- This was in Birmingham, which pales in comparison to New Orleans, but has decent areas like Hoover where my youngest kids got to meet Bart Starr at the Hotel Wynfrey. This was the end of the Ben Mauk year and the quarterback overcame season-long pain to play some very exciting football games. Mauk threw for 334 yards and four touchdowns in UC's 31-21 win over Southern Miss. The Bearcats took a respectable 8300-plus people to the game. It was Ben Mauk's last college game and my last game on the radio. I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss it.
3) 2004 Fort Worth Bowl-- Even though it was in Texas, it was bar none the coldest UC bowl game I've been to. This was also Gino Guidugli's last college game and he went out with a bang throwing two touchdown passes and taking game MVP honors, all just a month after suffering a broken hand. Guidugli played under considerable pain and showed great courage leading his team to the 32-14 win over Marshall. Because of the cold and ice, many UC fans had flights canceled and had to find alternative ways home. My wife and I consider this one of most memorable Christmases as we were in that category until former UC administrator Paul Klaczak arranged for us to have a seat on the team charter. We were picked up that evening by our four sons at UC and made it to the in-laws for Christmas Eve and back to our house for Christmas Day (even though the power was out).
2) 2009 Orange Bowl--Couldn't beat the location for this one. Kids got to go to the beach, players stayed at the famous Fontainebleau, South Beach, etc. However, as per the agreed upon rules, there was a game. Despite a tremendous response from Bearcat fans, UC struck early on a Tony Pike to Mardy Gilyard pass and then struck out. Flat. Virginia Tech had been there and done that and it showed as the Hokies eventually mowed down a UC squad that could've been better prepared in my opinon. 20-7 Hokies win, but Cinderalla crashed the dance finally and made it to a New Year's bowl. (The Fontainebleau where P. Diddy had a New Year's Eve party while the Bearcats were there. Tom Bodette has never stayed in something like this.)
1) (A win in either the Orange or Sugar would've knocked this one off, but it still leads on my list) 1997 Humanitarian Bowl-- OK, it doesn't sound like much. But, when you consider the nearly 50-year bowl drought that predated it and the ingenious maneuvering that then-AD Bob Goin did to get the Bearcats in a bowl, it was special. It was scenic as we first gandered at the blue turf that we've all become familiar with in Boise. And, though many made fun of it not knowing any better, Boise, Idaho is beautiful. With the snow-capped Rocky Mountains in the background and an American flag unfurled on the field before the game, I witnessed not a dry eye among many of the Bearcats that had played and had never made a bowl game. Some had played in the last UC bowl game (1951) while others toiled in other eras without a conference and without a chance. The game meant something to every UC fan alive at the time and UC didn't disappoint, beating Utah State 35-19. (Me with Darryl Royal (gray t-shirt) behind me, Artrell Hawkins, No. 21, and Jason Fabini next to him. This team had five NFL draft picks: Hawkins, Fabini, Brad Jackson, Darryl Ransom and Rod Monroe.)
After this weekend, I'll have a 10th bowl game under my belt and perhaps this list changes some, you never know. I've done a lot of games at the Liberty Bowl Stadium and it'll be fun being back.
I'm hoping somewhere Jerry Glanville has left Elvis a ticket and I hope I hear the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey. While you're looking that up, enjoy this and best of luck to Coach Jones and the 'Cats
After stopping by UC bowl practice today (Tuesday, Dec. 20) all indications are that Zach Collaros will be good to go in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis. (See accompanying video.)
If anything, UC now has three healthy quarterbacks with considerable experience with Collaros and Munchie Legaux sharing the bulk of the reps in practice, along with Jordan Louallen.
Granted, Collaros hasn't gone full game speed yet and has yet to take a hit, but keep in mind he's a fan of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger who's as tough as they come. (Sure, it may pain some Bearcat fans that I reference a Miami quarterback, but I witnessed "Big Ben" at field level go 3-0 against UC.)
If given the green light, Collaros clearly is the best passing option, particularly on deep throws.
Plus, he's a competitor.
There's no way Zach Collaros wants to go out with his career ending at the opposing goal line during a loss at a rented pro venue. Sure, he can't play one more at "The Nipp", but when the lights go on at the Liberty Bowl stadium in Memphis, my money says he makes plays.
As mentioned before, UC's had injured quarterbacks make miraculous gameday recoveries before at bowl games (Gino Guidugli-Fort Worth Bowl, Ben Mauk-Papajohns.com Bowl).
Another twist, might be what if the Bearcats played all three?
In UC's first bowl game in 50 years in Boise in 1997, little-used freshman Deontey Kenner made his debut behind center as starter Chad Plummer played some receiver. Seeing as Kenner had only been the holder for the bulk of the year, it was an element of surprise.
Keep in mind, I SAW NONE OF THIS IN PRACTICE, but what if Collaros and Legaux lined up in the same formation? And, what if you threw in the "Bearcat/Wildcat" option of Louallen?
That's multiple things for Vanderbilt to prepare for.
However it plays out, I'm glad Collaros gets one more crack at it. UC is clearly a better team with him and may well have made a BCS bowl without the injury.
I know from speaking with him that Zach's not much of an Elvis fan, but I hope he succeeds and someone gets him an Elvis Memphis Mafia "TCB" symbol with the lightning bolt (Taking Care of Business).
Not often in life are we allowed to rewrite our own endings.
So I checked out UC's initial bowl practice to inquire on the progress of the guy that's helped sell those No. 12 jerseys your young Bearcat fans have been wearing.
Turns out Zach Collaros is moving around pretty good and is preparing to have the pads on early next week.
To take advantage of the numerous Elvis references popular with a bowl game in Memphis, you could call this Zach's "Comeback Special", although young Zach wasn't around in 1968 when Elvis did his.
As you can see from this video, Collaros isn't exactly all "up to speed" on the Elvis trivia, but he is ready hit the town next to the muddy Mississippi, devour a rib or two and possibly deliver a few more entertaining plays for Bearcat fans.
For what it's worth, UC's medical and training staff has nursed quarterbacks back to health with success before in similar situations.
Gino Guidugli was the MVP of the Fort Worth Bowl in 2004 just a month after suffering a broken hand. Three years later, Ben Mauk was the MVP of the Papajohns.com Bowl in Birmingham after battling shoulder injuries that forced him out of games during his one season at UC.
OK, the correct lyric is "touched down in the land of the Delta Blues in the middle of the pouring rain", but in the interest of football, I borrowed a bit from Marc Cohn's hit, "Walking in Memphis".
By the way, if you're going to watch UC in the Liberty Bowl against Vanderbilt Dec. 31 (www.catstix.com) you can more than likely catch that song a time or three at Silky O' Sullivan's dueling piano bar on Beale Street.
Memphis is a fun town and speaking for most Bearcats of modest income, it was a blessing to be chosen for the Liberty Bowl and not another game that was rumored.
It simple terms, in this economy, bowl games should be within reasonable proximity to fans unless it's a BCS bowl and then it's out of your control.
Rutgers SHOULD have went to the Pinstripe Bowl, it's cheaper for their fans to get there. Likewise, UC and Louisville fans can get to Memphis and Charlotte relatively easy.
As it turns out, air and hotel fare in December is far from cheap and UC going south rather than east is probably worth thousands of fans.
We're stubborn Midwesterners. We'll hop in the Chevy and drive south in a heartbeat, but digging for airfare, contemplating cabfare and paying inflated rates for cramped city hotel rooms really throws us for a loop.
I like New York, but I'll pass on Ryan Seacrest and the feeling of a sardine on Times Square for Beale Street and the "Kings" (Elvis and B.B.) on New Year's Eve.
Memphis brings a lot of fun memories for me from covering football and attending Great Midwest/Conference USA basketball tournaments. The one exception is the infamous Kenyon Martin broken leg game, but we got to hang with Bob Huggins and Charlie Spoonhour that night, so it wasn't all bad.
It's got history (Sun Records, Graceland, Loraine Motel, Stax Records) and ribs (Rendezvous, Corky's, Jim's,etc.).
My first night there years ago we went to a Bulls/Sonics NBA exhibition at the Pyramid and then had dry rub ribs at the Rendezvous where many of the Bulls were. Corie Blount was on the Bulls, Dontonio Wingfield on the Sonics. Phil Jackson was smoking cigars inside the Peabody Hotel (where they march ducks on a daily basis).
Beale Street is essentially a cleaner Bourbon Street. Less smut and dirt and a little more walking room.
Then, there's Graceland. You go the first time for yourself. Every other time is to watch others. I have now been three times and enjoy it's historical and hysterical value. I recommend the Platinum tour and a peanut butter and 'nana sandwich afterward. Word of warning though, don't try on the Elvis sunglasses in the gift shop and take a picture, the cashier gets cranky.
Personally, I'm looking forward to being back in the Liberty Bowl Stadium where I did six games on radio. The Tigers used to keep a live, caged Tiger on the field and entered the field to Elvis' 2001 Space Odyssey theme.
While UC lost four of the six against Memphis there, the last in 2003. the 2001 game stands out as the most memorable (some of you more experienced fans may agree).
Somewhere around the Memphis 30-yard-line, Gino Guidugli stood with an unlikely fourth and 19. I was preparing to conduct one of those not-so-fun losing interviews with Rick Minter going off the field.
Instead, Gino heaved the ball to midfield and receiver Jon Olinger (Jonny O) went up and found it. It's been 10 years, but it seems like Gino went to Olinger about three more times, the last in the endzone in the final seconds. UC pulled out the improbable win, 36-34.
I was told at UC's basketball game at home, the crowd went nuts as many had their radios tuned to the football affair in Memphis.
Hopefully, the Bearcats will have a similar result on Dec. 31. Actually, a little more breathing room would be nice.
A word of caution...don't look at Vanderbilt's record and think the game's in the bag. There's a reason your national championship game features two SEC schools. You have to be honest with yourself and recognize a strong league with strong opponents.
However, UC looked much improved with Munchie Legaux at quarterback in the final two games. Plus, if Zach Collaros can go, that changes strategies and makes everything different.
It's not too far a reach to say that UC would've been in a BCS game had Collaros not been injured against West Virginia.
More than anything, I'm looking forward to a bowl game with all of the focus on preparation and the players. I think the glamor and pizazz of the Orange Bowl left UC shell-shocked. In the Sugar Bowl, UC lost a coach, gained a coach and were coached in the game by a guy leaving for Buffalo.
I think Butch Jones observed those moments and is ready to seize the moment in Memphis. Touchdown in the land of the Delta Blues! TCB! Take care of business on the field and then it's, "Elvis has left the building!"
Thumbs up to sequined white jump suits. Thumbs down to white helmets.
I don't think "yellow snow" is in the forecast, but obviously the Bearcats best watch out where the Huskies go Dec. 3 at Nippert Stadium.
Yes, the friendly confines of Nippert Stadium.
A noon kick-off is still not conducive to the total atmosphere (night games at "The Nipp" are ideal) but it's a lot better fan experience than the spaceship we've tried to fill downtown for a couple of key conference games.
Nippert isn't ideal, but it's ours.
Used correctly, it can be very effective and intimidating. It's exactly the venue needed for a key game like this one against Connecticut.
Of course, the Big East may or may not be up for grabs by gametime (depending on the South Florida/West Virginia game) but if you survey most diehard UC fans, you'll find the fans like intimate horseshoe compared to the nosebleed NFL seats surrounded by corporate wine and cheese suites.
REAL fans sit outside and see their breath and live and die on every down. Those that have sweaters tied around their necks eating food on toothpicks and glancing at TVs in a "gladhand" box are merely there to be seen or heard.
UC needs fans that the players can hear.
If this were RIverbend, the Bearcats need the loud and faithful in the lawn. They appreciate those who cough up the coin for the select "Willy Wonka Golden Ticket" premium seats, but they respond to full student sections within an arm's length of the field and supportive patrons that enjoy the economical entertainment of Bearcat football AT NIPPERT.
A win and they're 9-3. Even at 8-4, it's a huge step from last season.
Are they a BCS bowl team?
Honestly, without Zach Collaros, that's a stretch.
But, as long as you have a chance you should put your best foot forward and play all the cards in your deck.
Beating Syracuse on the road 30-13 is impressive. Heck, any Big East road win is impressive.
Now, there's the Huskies who dismantled Rutgers, the team who dismantled UC Nov. 19 in Munchie Legaux's debut.
Connecticut also pounded the Bearcats 38-17 last year, beat them 40-16 in the Orange Bowl year and gave them all they could handle in the Sugar Bowl year as UC escaped, 47-45. If you want to throw basketball in the mix, the Huskies beat UC twice in the final two months of the season last winter, the second ending the Bearcats' run in the second round of the NCAA.
So, there's plenty of reasons to hunker down on the Huskies.
Defensively, the Bearcats have played better the last two times out and this is another team that has high scoring potential.
Connecticut has a throwing quarterback and a running quarterback, similar to UC's strategy. Hopefully, what UC has seen in practice all year will pay off here.
Saturday's game is also the final game at Nippert for a number of seniors. They all have had significant contributions in one way or another, but if I had to pick out a handful that Bearcat fans will remember I'd go with (numerically) DJ Woods, Zach Collaros, Isaiah Pead, JK Schaffer and Derek Wolfe.
Those five could've played on any Bearcat team of any era and stood out.
May they go out strong and then even stronger in whatever bowl game lies ahead.
As for the bowl, wherever and however, what say we win this time?
South Beach and Bourbon Street are nice, but all drinks are sour after a loss. Not many schools can end a season with a win, but it seems like an eternity since Ben Mauk lit up Southern Miss in the Papajohns.com Bowl in Birmingham in 2007.
In the Orange Bowl, I felt good when Tony Pike hit Mardy Gilyard for a touchdown early, but that was unfortunately that against Virginia Tech.
The Sugar Bowl left a lot to be desired on a lot of levels.
After a rough November, I'm looking forward to a strong game against Connecticut and full-bore, focused effort to win a bowl game.
By the way, the title of this column is from an old Frank Zappa song. Turns out, Frank played at the University of Cincinnati's Armory Fieldhouse Sept. 30,1978. I was a year away from starting college at that point. If you were there, perhaps you heard this:
So, when I can break away from the regular gig covering high school sports and get to a UC press conference or practice, I do.
For those that don't know my history, I went to school here and spent a great deal of time covering the Bearcats in my radio career before it became really cool to cover the Bearcats.
I enjoy being around the University and miss the opportunity to be around more.
My objective in coming to the Butch Jones Tuesday gathering (catered by City BBQ) was to hopefully run into Zach Collaros and get his opinions on quarterbacking.
Unfortunately, Zach wasn't around.
I did hear Coach Jones speak and I can surmise from his comments that: a) Munchie Legaux has the job to lose b) Jordan Luallen will get a look c) Brendon Kay might get a look and, d) the UC goal is to gain four yards on first down.
Reading between the lines, that sounds like Munchie's still the guy with a somewhat conservative game plan.
Whatever it is, agree or disagree, I hope it works. First and foremost, I have made no secret that I pull for the Bearcats. Theoretically, I'm not supposed to say that.
Honestly, it goes against everything my parents taught me.
I'm one that doesn't think my occupation in the media precludes me from feeling good for a team I'm covering. I did it with UC. I do it for a lot of the high schools I cover.
Truth is, you sometimes become a fan of something by exposure.
My graduation from UC and my previous job that had me physically on the sideline at one point or another for every Bearcat football game from 1994-2007 has given me a perspective that not many are privy to.
I will not apologize for being a fan.
If you listen to ESPN radio (which I do on Sirius/XM to avoid local clutter I'm all too familiar with) Mike Goldberg is as blatant a New York Jets homer as there is.
If you catch Scott Van Pelt in the afternoon, he often integrates coverage of Maryland and the Baltimore Ravens in his show. He's fooling no one.
None of us should have to feel guilty about a passion.
That said, if you think I'm a straight Kool-Aid drinker, think again.
Part of my job covering Bearcat football on the radio was to be truthful to those I was talking to. There was no shortage of folks wanting to call me a "homer", but they apparently didn't listen much.
I often questioned play calls, quarterback choices, and strategy. In Hawaii in 2002, while having bottles and drinks thrown at me while interviewing Rick Minter (the infamous, "This is a disgrace!" quote) I questioned the ridiculous amount of hanger-ons on the sidelines. I even confronted the AD Herman Frazier after the game when I was told that specific group of referees had done numerous Hawaii games.
More potshots were taken, but in the end, I was proven right. Hawaii had several more brawls with teams from the contiguous 48 and now I'm hearing of point-shaving allegations there.
(Aloha from ESPN) At UC, I questioned playing games on weeknights when it affected attendance and the product wasn't ready (38-0 to West Virginia when the lights went out).
To this day, I question taking home conference games to Paul Brown Stadium, particularly, HOMECOMING. (You guys have been down this path before.)
I don't like the red pants, not big on the red tops and I think every bad karma white helmet from the Sugar Bowl should be shot through the ROTC cannon.
Do you think I'm alone?
I'm not saying I'm the ultimate opinion, but I always tried to talk to the guy sitting high in the Herschede-Shank pavilion at Nippert (and the fans like Nippert) as if I were sitting next to him during the game. The compliments I have received over the years and since my departure have usually been, "I liked the way you told it like it was."
Now...circling back to my intention to interview Zach Collaros...I wanted his opinion of the quarterbacks.
The reason being, in my numerous interviews with Ben Mauk, a quarterback that I admire both on and off the field, I asked him who should take his place if he were injured.
He didn't reply with Dustin Grutza, who showed guts and heart and was Mark Dantonio's chosen quarterback. He didn't say Tony Pike, who became a five-year overnight sensation thanks to a gunslinging offense. He didn't say Chazz Anderson who led a fairly restricted life here.
He said, "Zach Collaros!"
I asked him why.
"He reminds me of me," he said.
Good enough. It turned out pretty accurate and prophetic too when Collaros took over for the injured Tony Pike.
If you look at those numbers, Zach was never better and many of you questioned putting Tony back in.
Whether or not Collaros would now tell me his selection or be diplomatic remains to be seen.
But, I would be curious to know.
My quick opinion (which matters little in the film/tape room): Munchie Legaux will be good, but he was thrown into a tough situation early and not given the package to succeed. If you recruited him to be multi-purpose, let's go with it. Don't send him into battle with a butter knife. If you watched the UC/Rutgers telecast with former Florida State and pro quarterback Danny Kanell, you know I wasn't in the minority with those thoughts.
Jordan Luallen is interesting. If you're going more conservative run game, why not "Tebow it" or play Army/Air Force ball? The funny thing is he appears to be exactly what Travis Kelce was at quarterback before he became a tight end.
Brendon Kay is the wildcard.
He is Munchie's height plus 30 pounds. He led his high school team in Michigan to a state title by throwing and running. He came to UC in the same class that brought you Isaiah Pead, JK Schaffer, Derek Wolfe, Dan Giordano, Brandon Mills, Walter Stewart, Travis Kelce and DJ Woods.
In the long run, that's not a bad class of dudes.
I don't know if Mary Kay has a better chance of playing before Brendon Kay or not, but he has a resume similar to that of Tony Pike's--he's lurking about just waiting for a test drive.
So, if he's ever in Heisman contention, I just provided you with your marketing website.
It wouldn't be the first idea taken from me without recognition/compensation, nor will it be the last.
Just like the seemingly devastating injury to Zach Collaros isn't the first in UC athletics or the last.
History proves otherwise and Dan Hoard, Bill Koch and others have documented the past incidents pretty thoroughly in the past week.
What happened to Collaros against Louisville is why you often see five or six guys in different colored jerseys at spring and preseason practices. A team only needs one quarterback on the field, but several are vital to the operation.
As far removed as a guy can look, he's always a tear or break away from moving up the football flinging food chain.
In recent memory, you can look no further than Tony Pike, who greyshirted, redshirted and then seemingly was relegated to clipboard duty for life.
In his junior year, he was nearly told to "go on about his life's work" as Brian Kelly wasn't impressed with his work ethic.
Then, he went from the guy that smuggled Skittles into his quarterback pouch at practice, to a viable replacement, to THE guy in a span of less than two years.
Opportunity often brings maturation.
Others off the top of my head that have stepped up (some of these may be dated as some of you were in preschool when I was walking the sidelines):
1) Eric Vibberts stepping in for an ineffective and injured Todd Preston.
2) Chad Plummer running crazy when Vibberts faltered.
3) Part-time basketball player Brent Petrus going deep when Plummer and Vibberts struggled.
4) Deontey Kenner showing he was more than a holder in the Humanitarian Bowl.
5) Adam Hoover in relief of an injured Deontey Kenner.
6) Gino Guidugli stepping in with the best freshman debut ever when Adam Hoover was injured at Army in the second game of the season.
7) George Murray nearly coming back to beat East Carolina (before he went to wide receiver) as Guidugli was injured.
8) Guidugli stepping up for himself by recovering from a broken hand in less than a month to be MVP of the Fort Worth Bowl.
9) The legendary replacement of Dustin Grutza with Nick Davila to beat No. 7 Rutgers in 2006.
10) Grutza in relief of Ben Mauk in several games in 2007.
11) Mauk, like Guidugli in 2004, overcoming considerable pain and doubt to be MVP of the Papajohns.com Bowl in Birmingham.
12) Tony Pike, in relief of Dustin Grutza after the broken leg at Oklahoma 2008.
13) Zach Collaros sealing the win in Akron in 2008 after Pike's injury.
14) Chazz Anderson starting against Rutgers in 2008 over Collaros.
15) Dustin Grutza, back miraculously quick to come in for a reinjured Tony Pike at Hawaii.
16) Zach Collaros again in for Pike with the memorable 75-yard run against USF in 2009 and his string of impressive statistical games.
Which brings us back to Munchie Legaux, who now is in the limelight.
While his passing at times left much to be desired, it didn't look like he had the full playbook at his disposal. When he ran, I think you saw another dimension. The last Bearcat quarterback, outside of Pike, with long strides like that was Chad Plummer who often turned five-yard losses into 20-yard gains in the mid 90s.
Once he was beyond the opening jitters, I think Legaux showed a lot of Cajun (fill in your favorite slang term for intestinal fortitude) by leading the Bearcats back and nearly pulling the game off.
Personally, once he hit Adrien Robinson at the 20 for a first down, I wish he had been given an opportunity to go to the endzone.
Sadly, that's another meeting/decision where my input wasn't asked.
Still, Legaux showed me a lot in the West Virginia loss as I was kind of in the corner of Georgia Tech transfer Jordan Luallen. For that matter, Luallen still can help on short downs and I think Brendon Kay has more to offer than just miming plays in.
But, Munchie's the guy and that's good. At worst, you get a glimpse at next year's quarterback and you have a marketable entity for your next batch of bookstore jerseys.
At best, the Creole 'Cat jazzes things up and you've got a nice story to take to another BCS bowl game.
Your next story then would be the quarterback controversy as I wouldn't be shocked to see Collaros available and willing to play come bowl time.
Never a dull moment behind center....
Now, to relive one of the finer games in Bearcat history (where Jim Kelly did his Meg Ryan impression on radio after Ryan Manalac's game-saving interception) here you go:
Louisville has entertained the Big 12 option and the Bearcats took them down at Paul Brown (Rick Pitino is the only one with any sense in "The 'Ville").
Pitt jumped ship to the ACC, joining Syracuse in an attempt to gut one of the best basketball conference's ever. Their payback was another national TV loss at the hands of the Bearcats at Heinz Field.
Now, it's West Virginia's turn.
Again, the move is puzzling, but sometimes I think too much as a fan I suppose. In doing so, keep in mind, this conference jumping is a complete slap in the face to loyal fans.
West Virginia will travel heavy to Paul Brown Stadium, just as they have to Nippert Stadium and Fifth Third Arena. Outside of the few coach-burners who get worked up into a lather over beer being served, the Mountaineer fans are generally good people.
They'll load up the truck and drive to Louisville, they'll drive to Pittsburgh, they'll drive north to Syracuse and here. That was the luxury of the Big East.
You think anyone's driving from Morgantown to Waco, Lubbock, Austin, Stillwater or even Lawrence, Kansas?
Maybe if it were a bowl game or an NCAA tournament game, but not for a regular season contest during one of the worst recessions ever.
Financially, I suppose it makes sense. That's the end answer to anything in life you'll ever wonder about.
Logically and logistically, it's all a nightmare.
Pitt and Syracuse used to play in the BEST postseason basketball tournament around, the Big East tournament in Madison Square Garden. To any basketball junkie, Madison Square Garden is the mecca of college hoops.
Now, instead of playing where Willis Reed once limped onto the floor and led the Knicks to the NBA title and where Gerry McNamara made improbable shots for Jim Boeheim, Syracuse gets to play in Greensboro.
Greensboro exists solely to host first-round Duke tournament games.
Pitt also made great runs in New York, as did West Virginia. Now. the Panthers will play in a conference where they are middle-of-the-pack at best.
West Virginia's basketball in the Big 12 makes little sense too. Sure, they'll compete, but instead of Bob Huggins getting a yearly warm welcome in Cincinnati, he'll be heckled and harassed unmercifully by those in Manhattan, Kansas that he left high and dry.
In football, maybe all the teams compete. Maybe not.
In the ACC, Pitt and Syracuse can probably do OK, but I wonder how many of their local recruits will be ignored by the pressure to recruit more in the south?
As for West Virginia, do you really want to play Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, etc. every year?
The Mountaineers absolutely have had respectable teams, but be careful what you wish for.
What do you think the odds are of WVU making another Orange Bowl playing out of the Big 12?
For the Bearcats, Saturday at PBS is another of several opportunities to slap some schools around that in my mind have showed athletic arrogance. In exchange for some cash, these schools have spat on tradition, on rivalries and essentially told their fans, "You don't matter!"
Syracuse, Pitt and West Virginia are all at fault. Connecticut, Louisville and Rutgers have made overtures.
It's kind of like having a date for the prom and then ditching her because the phony, superficial popular girl with her store-bought charm has feigned interest.
When all this Big East stuff started for UC a few years back, they decided to make it another one of those "trophy games".
Along with the "Victory Bell" and the "Keg of Nails", we were blessed with "The River City Rivalry" courtesy of Trophy Awards who concocted something that looked like a riverboat steering apparatus (that's the extent of my nautical knowledge).
Most of these trophies rested inside the Lindner Center, but Pitt last year was able to grab the "wheel" back with a 28-10 win at Nippert.
Given the current conference carousel, it's best for the Bearcats to retrieve said trophy and place it back in the case on the fourth floor.I don't suppose Pitt will have much use for it in their television-dictated move to the ACC.
That's just one of the reasons UC should have for beating the Panthers.
The most obvious one is that they're 6-1 and ranked and Pitt is 4-4. A Bearcat win at Heinz Field is a serious blow to the ribs for the Pittsburghers in their first season under their new head coach.
Part of the joy of beating Pitt used to be watching "the 'Stache" nervously run his hands through his 1970s disco hair. Somewhere, I can imagine a white John Travolta suit in the Wannstache closet that plays "Burn Baby Burn (Disco Inferno)" by the Trammps as the door opens.
Todd Graham did an excellent job at Tulsa, but there's no reason (yet) to have a burning desire to pummel his teams. It simply was a lot of fun to watch an agitated Wannstedt on the sidelines getting outcoached time and time again.
One other word of warning Bearcat fans: you may not to know it, but the Pittsburgh folks are trying to infiltrate and sway your thinking. Why else would there be a virtual dumping of Yuengling Beer on the Tri-State during the last week? Coincidence or not?
(Either way, I'm still in a Halloween mood stirring the pot.)
The bottom line is the Bearcats should take care of business and win. It might not be as crazy as the Dec. 5, 2009 classic, but I'm guessing the days after it will be more pleasant than they were nearly two years ago.
Lest you forget, here was the timeline:
12/5/09 Bearcats pull out instant classic win as Tony Pike hits Armon Binns in the endzone (nothing fancy--Binns beats his man and Pike hits the target).
12/6/09 Bearcats host a selection show at Fifth Third Arena where everyone nervously approaches Brian Kelly with kid gloves. It's announced that UC's going to the Sugar Bowl.
12/10/09 Brian Kelly is announced as the Home Depot Coach of the Year while at UC's football banquet. Word is already out that he's going to Notre Dame, he officially tells us team after the banquet, then marches across the hall to play political word games with Chris Fowler on ESPN.
12/11/09 Brian Kelly resigns and is announced new head coach at Notre Dame.
12/11/09 Kelly assistant Jeff Quinn named interim head coach and will coach Sugar Bowl.
12/16/09 Butch Jones named new head coach, but Quinn still coaches Sugar Bowl.
1/2/10 Bearcats get Tebow'd at Sugar Bowl by Florida.
All things considered it was from joy to madness as a Bearcat fan, a scenario many hope never plays out again (in terms of coaching musical chairs).
Also of note from that game in 2009, of the key players you may remember in that game offensively, only Pitt's Dion Lewis (47 carries 194 yards and three scores) is on an NFL active roster (he's an Eagle where Jason Kelce, Trent Cole and Brent Celek can agitate him). Tony Pike received an injury settlement from Carolina in late August and Mardy Gilyard was released by the Rams and then the Jets in early September. Armon Binns is wearing No. 85 for the Cincinnati Bengals, but is on the practice squad.
Since the hustling Paul Dehner Jr. has already provided you with the Pike to Binns highlight, I'll leave you with this one. This, in my opinion, changed the momentum of the game. UC was down 31-10 late in the first half, when Mardy Gilyard took the football 99 yards to cut it to a two touchdown game at halftime. Later, in the third quarter he had a 68-yard touchdown catch to make it 31-24. Pitt then had leads of 38-24 and 44-38 before Tony Pike hit Binns on the memorable pass and Jake Rogers made the extra point for the 45-44 win.
>Also, for those thinking Tony Pike had the game of his life, you might not remember that he threw three picks that game and was only 22-42 passing.