Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

September 30, 2012

Cincinnati munches on Virginia Tech

LANDOVER, Md. — Down by four. Eighty-five yards to go. No timeouts left. Exactly 1:43 on the clock. Cincinnati was down to its last chance to get its money’s worth for its trip to the nation’s capital.

Nine plays later, Munchie Legaux looped one in the air for Damon Julian, who cradled the ball as he rolled in the end zone just beyond the goal line. The 39-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds to play capped a seesaw fourth quarter Saturday and kept the Bearcats unbeaten with a 27-24 win over Virginia Tech.

“Hoping and praying,” Legaux said. “I threw it up hoping he was going to make a play. I just wanted to put enough air under it so he could catch it.”

Legaux completed 19 of 42 passes for a career-high 376 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, and Kenbrell Thompkins also set career highs for Cincinnati with seven catches for 134 yards. The Bearcats (3-0) took a healthy paycheck to give up a home game for a chance to play in an NFL stadium, which was dominated by fans from the other team.

Coach Butch Jones nevertheless soaked in the victory as if he were in Ohio, going into the stands after the game to celebrate in one of the few sections that wasn’t dominated by Hokies fans.

“It’s a credibility win,” Jones said. “Virginia Tech is a very, very talented football team. I’m coach (Frank) Beamer’s biggest fan. The way he’s built that thing, that’s what I envision us having in Cincinnati.”

That being said, this September has been a trying one for Beamer and the Hokies (3-2), who have lost two games to unranked Big East schools. A 35-17 loss to Pittsburgh two weeks ago knocked Virginia Tech out of the Top 25.

This one hurt a lot worse.

“It’s a tough loss to take,” said Logan Thomas, who completed 17 of 30 passes for 242 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. “You thought you had the game wrapped up. Nothing like that should happen, and you take a loss that you shouldn’t have.”

The teams combined for just 20 sleepy points through three quarters — then piled up 31 points in a thrilling fourth.

Michael Holmes spun into the end zone from 3 yards out with 8:37 to play to put Virginia Tech ahead 17-13, but Ralph David Abernathy IV’s 76-yard catch-and-run score put the Bearcats back in front less than a minute later. The Hokies then responded with Corey Fuller’s 56-yard touchdown catch with 1:49 remaining.

The kickoff took 6 seconds more off the clock. Still, that left enough time for Legaux.

“I proved to myself that I can lead,” the junior quarterback said, “that I can step up and make plays when they need to be made.”

The Bearcats outgained the Hokies 165 to 72 in the first half — yet they trailed 7-6. Virginia Tech didn’t get a first down until Fuller’s 15-yard reception with 5:17 to go in the half, and it took an interception deep in Cincinnati territory to set up the Hokies’ lone score before halftime.

Cincinnati took a 13-7 lead midway through the third quarter when Legaux, with plenty of time to throw, hit Thompkins wide open over the middle for a 29-yard touchdown. The Bearcats run a spread offense, but they frequently had more success with conventional drop-back pass plays.

The final drive, though, is the one everyone will remember. Legaux completed passes of 15 and 14 yards, and ran twice for 17 yard to get into position for the winning toss to Julian.

“It was a gritty performance,” Jones said. “The mark of good quarterbacks is to be able to go on the road and lead your team to victory in the one-minute drill, and he did that.”

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Follow Joseph White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP

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