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Zach Collaros needs surgery on ankle

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati quarterback Zach Collaros will have surgery for a broken right ankle, sidelining him for the Bearcats' last three regular-season games.

Collaros hurt the ankle during the second quarter of a 24-21 loss to West Virginia on Saturday that left the Big East race wide open. He'll have surgery on Monday and miss games next Saturday at Rutgers (7-3), at Syracuse (5-5) and home against Connecticut (4-5).

The Bearcats are hopeful that Collaros could return for their bowl game.

Sophomore Munchie Legaux will replace the fifth-year senior, trying to lead the Bearcats to their third league title in four years. Cincinnati leads the Big East by a half-game at 7-2 overall and 3-1 in league play.

Legaux hasn't started a collegiate game. He rallied the Bearcats from a 10-point deficit in the second half against West Virginia. The Mountaineers regained the lead in the fourth quarter, and Cincinnati's field goal attempt to tie it in the closing seconds was blocked.

"You never know when your time is going to come," Legaux said after the game, when it was apparent he'd be starting. "When it does, you try to take advantage of it."

The Bearcats have a lot of experience at replacing quarterbacks. They used four of them on their way to their first Big East title in 2008. Collaros was pressed into starting during the 2009 season when Tony Pike injured his forearm, helping Cincinnati win its second straight title and reach the Orange Bowl.

Legaux gets to become part of the legacy. He went 10 of 21 for 144 yards and ran eight times for 89 yards against West Virginia, getting more confident as the game went along.

"It's going to be different going from a fifth-year senior to a true sophomore," running back Isaiah Pead said. "But Munchie works hard in practice. He's going to get the experience now. He's been thrown into the fire. He has to play. We have a new quarterback, a new leader on the field, and he's going to step into that role."

Collaros' injury has a big impact on a Big East race that features weekly upsets of top teams. Cincinnati (3-1) is followed by Rutgers (3-2), West Virginia (3-2), Louisville (3-2) and UConn (2-2).