Bearcats eager for first, late test

September, 6, 2012
9/06/12
11:00
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A season-opening loss to an FCS team does not make Pitt any less dangerous in the eyes of Butch Jones.

The Cincinnati coach, like many, pegged the Panthers as his preseason sleepers to win the Big East. And he hasn't backed off that stance despite Pitt's two-touchdown loss to Youngstown State.

"Absolutely," Jones said. "And I think again, that's what makes the Big East conference so intriguing, is you look at their talent, you look across the board in our conference, going from Louisville to Syracuse, to Temple to Rutgers to South Florida to UConn -- anyone can win the conference. And again, I still think that's our edge, is anyone and everyone can win this thing."

That could make things complicated for a Bearcats team that was stuck with a Week 1 bye, as they will try to extend the Panthers' misery Thursday night.

"It's kind of an unusual situation for us," Jones said. "So obviously we're still in the process of going through a first game. As we always talk about, the first game is made up of a lot of unknowns. And the big thing for us is just right now focusing on what it takes to play winning football -- third-down efficiency to red-zone efficiency to turnover margin, taking care of the football."

Munchie Legaux will begin his first season as Cincinnati's starting quarterback after making five starts last season. Legaux beat out Brendon Kay in a camp-long battle for the top spot.

Jones said Legaux's experience and understanding of the offense -- and, by extension, the offense's intentions on each play -- ultimately gave him the upper hand entering the contest with Pitt. Now Jones just needs to see that in action at Nippert Stadium.

"The greatest leader is when adversity hits, they've got a voice about themselves that really rallies the troops, and he's done a great job." Jones said. "But until you're really thrown in that fire on game day -- and last year he had some seniors around him that could pick up that burden, so to speak -- here this year he is the alpha male. He is the guy who's in charge of the offense. And like I said, he's done a great job to this date. We like to practice in what we call controlled chaos. But you never really know until it's for real, and we'll find out in a hurry Thursday night."

Matt Fortuna | email

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