On Saturday against the Syracuse Orange Butch Jones did something no one saw coming; he benched his much-criticized quarterback Munchie Legaux and inserted Brendon Kay. While Legaux rode the pine Kay went to work dissecting the Syracuse defense. In a little under a quarter and a half of play, the senior led the Bearcats from a 24 – 21 deficit to a 35 – 24 victory. His presence seemed to inspire the entire team as they ratcheted up their play on both sides of the field.
Like I talked about in the postgame recap I’ve never been 100% sold on Kay simply because I haven’t seen enough of him. I couldn’t bring myself to back a guy who was so injury prone and whose only reps typically came in garbage time against second team defenses. It’s nothing personal but I just couldn’t support a player at such a critical position who had so little experience.
But that changed on Saturday when I witnessed a quarterback who displayed the poise of a senior and didn’t back down from a pressure packed situation by delivering accurate passes. They weren’t particularly difficult in a sense, one was a deep comeback and two were screens, but the fact that he didn’t airmail any of them was encouraging. Kay did all that was asked of him and didn’t make any mistakes.
Here’s the deal. Whoever is tasked at quarterbacking Cincinnati’s offense, be they Munchie Legaux or Brendon Kay, doesn’t need to carry the team and throw for multiple touchdowns like Tony Pike did three years ago. Not with the Cincy runningbacks racking up 250 yards per game and the defense allowing less than 20 points per game. Know this:
The quarterback only needs to manage the offense.
That’s it. He maybe needs to throw between 10 – 20 passes per game and take some of the pressure off the runningbacks. Really this isn’t asking a lot of a quarterback, especially one leading a BCS caliber team. But game to game Munchie Legaux seemed incapable of doing this.
The primary issue with Legaux as the season progressed was that he no longer was able to manage the offense. As I mentioned earlier in the year I could accept his poor completion percentage because he was gashing defenses with his legs and making smart decisions despite being mechanically unsound. But then the bad decisions started to pile up. And some of those led to interceptions. And then Legaux’s confidence in the pocket started to crumble. And then he stopped running the ball properly. Ultimately the offense became more and more weighed down by its own quarterback, the one player on the field who touches the football on every snap and should be counted on to boost the players around him.
On Saturday against the Syracuse Orange in just over a quarter of play Brendon Kay was that player to lift up the team. He made the passes he was supposed to make despite only throwing the football three times. Most importantly he displayed confidence which as far as I can tell Legaux had lost weeks ago. That confidence allowed Kay to trust his offensive line and work his way through his progressions, then deliver the ball to the right receiver instead of hoping the one he was staring at got open. The rushing attack also saw a boost. Kay trusted his read of the defensive end, handing off the ball to the runningback and taking it himself at the appropriate time. Overall the offense had the spark it needed to defeat the Orange.
For me Brendon Kay has shown enough to warrant a start this weekend against the Temple Owls. Butch Jones isn’t going to name him (there’s no reason to yet) but there isn’t a doubt in my mind that UC’s head coach can’t logically go with Munchie Legaux after seeing what Kay did in just over a quarter of play last Saturday. The good news is that Cincinnati is facing a team that has completely derailed in recent weeks. The Owls are seeing their lack of depth catch up to them as they creep closer and closer to the bottom of the Big East in most statistical categories.
Ideally this would be the perfect opportunity for Kay to show the coaching staff and fans that his performance last week wasn’t a fluke. He would be tested to adjust to defenses before and after halftime when defensive coordinators make most of their own adjustments. We’ve seen him face adversity and succeed but just how will he perform when opposing defenses start blitzing more or roll safeties to one side of the field? That could all be revealed with Kay starting against a depleted Temple team that the Bearcats could beat with Humpty Dumpty at quarterback (no, not necessarily Jared Lorenzen).
Look, I’m not sure what the future holds for Munchie Legaux but as the season wore on and my confidence in him waned I began to think he was mainly there at quarterback to bridge the gap between Zach Collaros and either Patrick Coyne, Bennie Coney, or Trenton Norvell. Regardless, for the remainder of the 2012 season, or the Temple game at least, the starting quarterback job belongs to Brendon Kay no matter how much Butch Jones might beat around the bush.
At least it should be.