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The Cincinnati Bearcats Quarterback Trail of Tears

The Bearcats have been around for a long time. 126 years of football history. Much of that history is, if we're honest with ourselves, tortuous. Sure there was Sid Gillman and Brian Kelly, but there was a comically long bowl-less streak, and that one time when a punter showed up the head coach by hiring a limo to drive into Nippert Stadium on the first day of practice.

Bradley Leeb-USA TODAY Sports

With that in mind it seems fitting that the Bearcats longest stretch of sustained success has coincided with a run of unbelievable bad luck with the most important position in the game. Consider this fact. The last time that a Cincinnati quarterback started every game in a season was Dustin Grutza. When Grutza was a red shirt freshman in 2005. Since then the Bearcats have started at least two QB's in every season either because of an injury or ineffectiveness. To wit.

November 18th, 2006: Dustin Grutza had started every game of the 2006 season to that point. However Grutza was injured against West Virginia the week before. Grutza would have been able to play with a pain shot, but Mark Dantonio and Don Treadwell decided to go with Nick Davila and let him know moments before kickoff. Davila fumbled his first snap, and then had the game of his life in what is still the Bearcats biggest win against a ranked foe. Davila came off the bench against UConn to rescue a desperate game, but he started and played the bowl game against Western Michigan.

September 15th, 2007: Ben Mauk played flawlessly against Southeast Missouri State and Oregon State but developed a sore shoulder because, well you know he had a shoulder thing. Grutza was told before kickoff that he was getting the start. Grutza played ably, and UC won. He also started the next game against Marshall, though he wasn't nearly as effective. Mauk started again against San Diego State and went the rest of the way.

September 20th, 2008: It was finally Dustin Grutza's turn again. After waiting patiently behind Grutza for the 2007 season Grutza had firm control of the job. He played well against Eastern Kentucky and looked primed to have a fine day against Oklahoma, and then he got hurt against the Sooners. Tony Pike was the next man up.

October 3rd, 2008: Tony Pike was turning into a star for the Bearcats. He started very, very slow against OU, but was magnificent against Miami. He broke his forearm against Akron. A young Zach Collaros came into the ball game and did enough to get the Bearcats a win, but not enough to earn a start. Not yet. Chazz Anderson started against Marshall, and again against Rutgers before Pike was back on the job for the rest of the year.

October 29th, 2009: Tony Pike got off to a sensational start in his senior season. Through early October he and the Bearcats were humming along. Pike was generating some Heisman buzz. Then he broke his forearm (again) against USF. Zach Collaros stepped into the breach, and ran into UC history. Collaros started the next four games and was torrid, before stepping aside for Pike down the stretch.

October 30th, 2010: The 2010 season got off to a suboptimal start against Fresno State. UC picked up the tempo a little bit through the end of September behind a string of excellent performances from Collaros. But Collaros injured his knee against South Florida. In a close game in the fourth quarter he was held out of the last drive and the Bearcats came up short. Chazz Anderson drew the start against Syracuse but was ineffective and the Bearcats were blown off the field.

November 19th, 2011: Collaros was back for his final season, and the Bearcats were flying high. After a massively disappointing loss to Tennessee the staff retooled the defense, refined the offense and UC looked a likely bet to make BCS house call number three. Then Bruce Irvin decided to Theisman Collaros and all that fell apart. Munchie Legaux took over in that game, and came close to getting the dub, but not close enough. He then went into Rutgers as a first time starter and looked it. The Knights won 20-3 and the Bearcats reset with Legaux to close out the regular season strong before Collaros returned for the Liberty Bowl.

November 11th, 2012: Butch Jones rode Munchie Legaux through the domination of Miami and Pitt, through the downs of Delaware State, Toledo and Louisville, but against Syracuse he made a change to Brendon Kay. He ratified that change against Temple and went with Kay for the rest of the season. Kay was magnificent.

September 14th, 2013: For the 8th consecutive season the Bearcats will start a second QB when Brendon Kay rides again against Northwestern State.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about all these changes is that only once in these 8 seasons has the opening day starter been benched by the coaching staff. That and the fact that this 8 year stretch is, by a laughable margin, the best run of form in the program’s history. Maybe it wasn't about the quarterbacks after all.

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