Cincinnati clinches share of Big East title
Posted on: December 3, 2011 4:40 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
After a frustrating and disappointing 4-8 showing in his first year as head coach, Butch Jones has silenced some of his doubters in Cincinnati. The Bearcats jumped out to an early lead against Connecticut and held off the relentless Huskies for a 35-27 win, giving Cincinnati a share of the Big East Championship.
It was a rough start for Connecticut, who put themselves in an early 14-0 hole thanks to Johnny McEntee turnovers that resulted in touchdowns. First Cincinnati defensive lineman Walter Stewart plucked the ball out of McEntee's hands and crossed the plane for a score, then it was Drew Frey who took an interception 15 yards in for a touchdown just before the end of the first quarter. McEntee is usually spelled by rushing threat Scott McCummings, but with the freshman out of the game the former walk-on kept slinging it and got the Huskies back into the game late. Two fourth quarter touchdown passes cut the lead to one score, but the Bearcats were able to bleed the clock and hold on for the win.
Cincinnati quarterback Munchie Legaux played arguably the best game of his young career throwing for 252 yards and three touchdowns while adding 28 yards with his feet. Leagaux struggled as the Bearcats dropped two in a row after losing starting quarterback Zach Collaros to a season-ending ankle injury, but the sophomore quarterback looked much improved in the final two games of the season. Those two victories helped the Bearcats win their third Big East Championship in a four year period, after winning outright in 2008 and 2009.
The win is bittersweet for Cincinnati, who was likely eliminated from contention for the conference's BCS bowl bid with West Virginia's win on Thursday. The tiebreaker used in the event of a three-way shared championship is BCS ranking, and the Mountaineers entered the week as the only team ranked in the Top 25 of the standings. Louisville, who clinched a share of the Big East title last week, needed a Connecticut victory on Saturday to hope for a two-team tie at the top with West Virginia. The Cardinals would own the head-to-head tiebreaker thanks to their 38-35 upset win Morgantown earlier this year.
The three coaches tied atop the Big East standings (Jones, Charlie Strong, and Dana Holgorsen) at the end of 2011 have five combined years of experience at their current post. This is the first head coaching opportunity for Strong and Holgorsen, and Jones is fresh off his first gig at Central Michigan. If it wasn't for West Virginia sprinting towards the exit door and a uncertain expansion in the near future, you could argue things are looking up for this young group of Big East coaches.
West Virginia likely earns a trip to the Orange Bowl thanks to a three-team tiebreaker. If you think Cincinnati or Louisville deserved the bid let us know at the new Eye On College Football Facebook page.
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