LANDOVER, Md. -- Cincinnati came out on top in a fourth-quarter shootout with Virginia Tech on Saturday at FedEx Field.
There were four lead changes and 387 yards between the teams in the fourth quarter, and the Bearcats won 27-24 on quarterback Munchie Legaux's 39-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Damon Julian with 13 seconds remaining.
The scoring play set off a wild celebration by the Bearcats and their fans.
"One of the main things we said going into the week was after the win we were going to act like we've been there. But at the same time, we had a game-winning catch at the last minute. And that's something that's never happened for us," Legaux said. "A lot of guys were excited, and I was excited also."
Cincinnati (3-0) answered both of Tech's fourth-quarter touchdowns with scores of its own. The Hokies (3-2) took a lead on tailback Michael Holmes' 3-yard run, but the Bearcats responded with a 76-yard touchdown pass from Legaux to RD Abernathy.
Tech came back to take a 24-20 lead with 1:49 remaining on quarterback Logan Thomas's 56-yard touchdown pass to Corey Fuller, but that gave Cincinnati just enough time to drive downfield for the winning score.
"After that nice catch by Corey, we thought we had it with how our defense was playing the whole game," Hokies linebacker Jack Tyler said. "We thought this was our time, we're going to make stop here and the game will be over. We just didn't get it done."
The Bearcats had a third-and-10 from the Hokies' 39-yard line with 20 seconds remaining. Legaux ignored the collapsing pocket and let a pass loose just as he was being hammered, and Julian beat cornerback Kyle Fuller before coming down with the ball in the end zone for the winning score.
"It's really hard," Fuller said. "Like I said, I take responsibility. You can say there's plenty of plays that could have changed the outcome of the game, but I put it on myself. All you can do is just learn from it."
Cincinnati averaged 259 yards rushing in its first two games but was held to 103 yards on the ground by Tech. So Legaux exploited Hokies' secondary with some big passes instead.
Legaux finished with a career-high 376 yards passing and three touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins had seven catches for 134 yards and a touchdown, and Julian had four catches for 89 yards and a score.
Julian said the touchdown shoots to the top of his career highlight list.
"It might be number one right now. I don't think I have won a game by making a big catch like that," he said.
As it has all season, Virginia Tech's offense got off to a slow start and was lucky to be up 7-6 at halftime. The Hokies opened up in the fourth quarter, however, gaining 173 of its 402 yards.
Thomas finished with 242 yards and two touchdowns (one rushing). Wide receiver Marcus Davis had five catches for 101 yards, and Holmes had 60 yards rushing and a touchdown on 11 carries.
The Hokies crossed midfield twice in the first half and didn't record a first down until 5:14 remaining in the second quarter, but they still managed a 7-6 halftime lead.
Thomas scored on a 5-yard run on fourth-and-2 with 2:41 left in the half to make up for an otherwise dreadful offensive half.
The Hokies' defense set up the only first-half touchdown. Tech linebacker Bruce Taylor tipped a pass into the air and defensive tackle Kris Harley came down with his first career interception at the Cincinnati 13. The Hokies got on the scoreboard in four plays.
While markedly better than Tech, Cincinnati's offense still managed only two first-half field goals.
The Bearcats put together a 13-play drive on their second possession and capped it with a 20-yard field goal by Tony Miliano.
Cincinnati tried to catch the Hokies off guard with a fake field goal attempt at the end of the first quarter, but holder Brandon Kay's completion to Silverberry Mouhon was short of the first down at the Virginia Tech 3-yard line.
Kay rolled to his right and connected with Mouhon, a freshman defensive lineman, on a screen pass, and Mouhon was forced out of bounds in front of the first down marker.
Cincinnati added a 43-yard Miliano field goal in the second quarter to take a 6-0 lead.
NOTES: Hokies running back Tony Gregory, who led the team with 68 rushing yards last week against Bowling Green, didn't make the trip because of a knee injury. ... Tech freshman A.J. Hughes had a career-long 55-yard punt in the first quarter and then topped it with a 57-yard punt in the second. ... Cincinnati had outscored its opponents 40-0 in the first half before Thomas' second-quarter touchdown run. ... The last time the Hokies had two or fewer first downs in the first half was in a 52-21 loss at Syracuse in 1996.