The clock read 1:43, the end zone was 85 yards away, and the Bearcats trailed Virginia Tech 24-20. Not an ideal set of circumstances unless you’re a quarterback with something to prove.
“You can’t ask for a better situation than that,” Munchie Legaux told me after the game. “Down by four, no timeouts – that’s what you dream of as a little boy playing in the backyard. Five, four, three…”
“That’s what quarterbacks dream of,” said Walter Stewart. “Being down on the road with two minutes left and you’ve got to make a play.”
The first play of the drive was a 15-yard completion to tight end Travis Kelce taking roughly 10 seconds off the clock.
“Munchie was very calm and very relaxed,” said Damon Julien. “Coach puts us in adverse situations in practice, so we were ready to come out and execute.”
After back to back incompletions, a 13-yard scramble by Legaux gave the Bearcats a first down at their 43 yard line with 1:14 to go and the clock running.
“I though he was exceptionally poised all game,” said head coach Butch Jones. “He just had that look in his eye. He had that moxie – that alpha male that we talk about that we want out of our quarterback.”
A 4-yard run by Legaux was followed by a 14-yard strike to Anthony McClung, putting the ball at the Virginia Tech 39 yard line with :38 left.
“This is what we do,” said Ralph David Abernathy IV. “Every day Coach Jones and the staff prepare us for this. We learn how to deal with adversity every day at practice and today I think we showed people that we can do anything when we put our minds to it.”
An incomplete pass for Kenbrell Thompkins left :26 to go. An overthrow for Anthony McClung reduced the time to :20 remaining.
It was third-and-10 at the Hokies 39 yard line.
“I was talking to Munchie before the game and I said, ‘This is your time man. This is your stage.'” said Stewart. “He stepped up when he needed to.”
After taking a shotgun snap, Legaux dropped back to the 47 yard line and released the ball a split second before being drilled by Hokies defensive end James Gayle. The pass was intended for Damon Julien who had dropped a possible touchdown pass earlier in the fourth quarter.
“I was a little upset,” said Julien. “The defensive back tipped it and then I tipped it and dropped it. I hoped that Munchie would come to me again and that’s what he did.”
“He trusts his wide receivers.” said Thompkins. “Even when we make a bad play, he’ll come up to us on the sideline and say, ‘I’m coming back to you.'”
In this case, Julien took advantage of his second chance by making a lunging, fingertip catch while sliding across the goal line for the game-winning touchdown with :13 remaining (you can hear the radio call here).
“I had a couple of big plays in junior college, but this is by far the biggest for me and on the biggest stage,” said Julien. “I’m very grateful for this opportunity.”
“Damon Julien man,” said Thompkins. “Great guy, great athlete, and tremendously strong hands.”
Consider it a belated birthday present for Munchie Legaux who turned 21 on Thursday.
“My teammates came up to me and told me that they would have my back no matter what,” said Legaux. “Mistakes, great balls, bad balls – they have my back. They trust me and I trust those guys.”
“Our kids have great belief in our program and each other and I think that showed,” said Coach Jones.
“Munchie keeps showing people what kind of player that he is,” said Abernathy. “Every Saturday he steps up and makes plays. That’s our quarterback. I’m proud of him.”
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