Going in to the 2012 season, Cincinnati thought they had the quarterback position set with starter Munchie Legaux. In Legaux, they had a true dual-threat option, and someone who had come in the previous season and played well during Zach Collaros' injury induced absence. There was not much though to the contrary from coaches or fans alike. The confidence in Legaux was evident, and he proved that with his performance in the first few games. In the opening game victory against Pittsburgh, Legaux finished with 300 plus yards of total offense and two touchdowns, sparking an offensive explosion and a blowout of Big East foe and rival Pittsburgh. The next few games followed a similar pattern, minus the five-turnover performance against Delaware State, and things looked headed in the right direction. Against Toledo, in their first road game of the season, things began to unravel. Facing a raucous crowd and a pumped up Rockets squad, Legaux struggled in the Bearcats first loss of the season, tossing two costly interceptions and completing less than 50% of his passes. In the aftermath of the loss, there were rumblings of a possible quarterback change coming, but these were brushed off as rumors. It took another tough loss and another sub par performance from Legaux to turn those rumblings into facts. Following the heartbreaking overtime loss at Louisville, a game in which Legaux threw three interceptions, including the backbreaking pick in overtime in which he badly under threw a well-covered Travis Kelce, fans were clamoring for a change and were pushing for the promotion of backup Brendon Kay to full time starter. While seriously considered, the team decided to give Legaux another shot, letting him start against Syracuse the following week. While his performance was not horrible in the Bearcats win, it was enough to allow the coaches to make the switch. The Brendon Kay era was underway for this Bearcats team.
In Kay's first start, on the road against Temple, he completed 13 of 21 passes for 244 yards and two touchdowns, exciting Bearcat fans and coaches alike and easing any qualms doubters may have had about the switch. Kay was in his fifth year of eligibility and had been the primary backup all season, and his maturity and knowledge of the offense was evident in his first career start. The following week, against a talented Rutgers offense, Kay looked the part of a quarterback making his second career start, struggling to move the offense and throwing two interceptions that stalled solid Bearcat drives. While Cincinnati ultimately lost the game, Kay proved himself in defeat, completing over 50% of his passes for 251 yards passing against the Big East's best defense. Kay was able to rebound, completing 36 of 56 passes for 423 yards and three touchdowns in UC's last two games, both victories.
While Legaux's stats were better, he completed 52.2% of his passes for 1,716 yards and 13 touchdowns, compared to Kay's, who completed 61.9% of his passes for 966 yards and six touchdowns, the nod is given to Kay. After two straight losses to Toledo and Louisville, Cincinnati's season looked to be in a flux; the offense had no identity beyond running back George Winn and the receiving core was underachieving. With Kay's emergence, the Bearcats possessed a much more balanced offense, taking pressure off of Winn and paving the way for the rise of senior tight end Travis Kelce's All Big-East level performance during the second half of the season. While neither quarterback would be considered "game-changers'', their play proved pivotal in Cincinnati's 9-3 season, with Legaux helping the Bearcats get off to a 5-0 start, and Kay paving the way for the strong finish. With the arrival of Tommy Tuberville, the Bearcats offense looks to get a facelift, switching to a pass-oriented, air-it-out style, one suited for the tools of a Brendon Kay. And while Kay was a senior this past season, he is applying for a sixth year of eligibility, meaning there's a chance we could see more of #11 next season. If the NCAA allows Kay his extra year, I expect him to build off his success this year and have an even stronger 2013 campaign. Either way, the quarterback position is about to see a change during the Tommy Tuberville era, one that has Bearcat fans excited for the future.