Cincinnati coach Butch Jones remained steadfastly behind starting quarterback Munchie Legaux after two straight mistake-filled performances in losses to Toledo and Louisville.
But last week against Syracuse, he had enough. He pulled Legaux in the third quarter. Backup quarterback Brendon Kay led the Bearcats to the come-from-behind win, and now there is uncertainty surrounding the position headed into their game Saturday against Temple.
Jones said this week the competition for the starting job was open again and that he would make a game-time decision on his starter. Jordan Luallen is also expected to get snaps at quarterback again.
"The big thing is overall consistency and management of the game," Jones said. "It's like any other position on our football team. I’m not going to tolerate inconsistency. It’s magnified when a quarterback comes out of a game, but if a running back fumbles or a receiver drops a pass or defensive lineman doesn't run to the football, we don’t tolerate that."
So why did he make the decision to yank Legaux against the Orange, when in previous games he left his struggling quarterback in the game?
"My confidence (in Legaux) has not changed one bit, but it's a little bit of a gut feeling," Jones said. "Our team needed a spark, it was our first noon game, and our philosophy was to create our own momentum in this game. But it gets back to what I said. We’re not going to tolerate the inconsistency and sometimes being careless with the football. We need to take care of the football. He’s going into the end zone carrying the ball on the wrong arm, reaches the ball out and it’s a fumble. If that ball goes out of the end zone, that’s catastrophic."
That was one of the controversial calls in the game. Officials ruled the ball was down at the 6-inch line, and George Winn scored to save Legaux from his terrible mistake on the first drive of the third quarter. Legaux lasted one more series before making way for Kay, who has waited years for his opportunity to take meaningful snaps in a game.
Both quarterbacks were locked in a heated quarterback competition throughout the spring and fall before Legaux was tabbed the starter. But for Kay, it was just a blessing to be out on the football field after doctors hinted he may be better off hanging up his cleats after suffering a second straight devastating knee injury in 2010.
"That’s where your love for the game really comes out," Kay said this week in an interview with ESPN.com. "It was extra motivation for me to prove all those people wrong. There's nothing better than when people say you can’t do something and you can do it."
Kay and Legaux have a solid relationship, and the two consulted with each other before Kay went into the game against the Orange. He led two straight scoring drives and finished the game 3-of-3 for 32 yards with a touchdown, and added 18 yards on the ground.
"It was great to get in there and just finally see some of your work pay off," Kay said. "You put in countless hours, as the No. 2 you have to prepare every week as the starter and be ready when your number is called, so it was good to finally take advantage of the opportunity."
Kay has applied for a medical hardship waiver to grant him a sixth season, but he has no idea whether it will be granted so he is approaching the last few games of the season as if they are the final ones of his career. And if he got the opportunity to start those games?
"We'll see what happens in practice," he said. "I will do whatever I can do while I have the opportunity."