Trailing by four after a Hokies touchdown, the Bearcats (3-0) took over at their own 15 with 1:43 to play and moved downfield in nine plays for the score, capping a seesaw fourth quarter that brought to life a sleepy game.
Cincinnati dominated in every way but the scoreboard, piling on the yards all game, and managed to finally escape with the win. Legaux completed 19 of 42 passes for a career-high 376 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. Kenbrell Thompkins also set career highs for Cincinnati with seven catches for 134 yards and a score.
Logan Thomas was 17 for 30 for 242 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions for the Hokies (3-2), who have lost two games to unranked Big East schools in one of the most trying Septembers in recent history under coach Frank Beamer. A 35-17 loss to Pittsburgh two weeks ago knocked Virginia Tech out of the Top 25.
The game was played at the Washington Redskins stadium, with Cincinnati giving up a home game for a chance to play in the vicinity of the nation's capital. Still, the Bearcats fans were an overwhelming minority compared to the Hokies' faithful, who had to travel half the distance of their counterparts.
The teams combined for 31 points in the fourth quarter after putting up just 20 in the first three. Michael Holmes spun into the end zone from 3 yards out with 8:37 to play to put Virginia Tech ahead 17-13, but Ralph David Abernathy IV's 76-yard catch-and-run score put the Bearcats back in front less than a minute later.
The Hokies then responded with Corey Fuller's 56-yard touchdown catch with 1:49 remaining.
The Bearcats run a spread offense, but they had more success with conventional drop-back pass plays. They took a 13-7 lead midway through the third quarter when Legaux, with plenty of time to throw, hit Thompkins wide open over the middle for a 29-yard touchdown.
Virginia Tech was outgained 165 to 72 -- yet the Hokies had a just 7-6 lead to show for it. They didn't get a first down until Fuller's 15-yard reception with 5:17 to go in the half, and the offense struggled to capitalize even when linebacker Bruce Taylor shifted momentum with a couple of big plays.
Taylor stripped the ball from Travis Kelce for a fumble near midfield, but the Hokies ended up punting. On Cincinnati's next possession, Taylor tipped a pass that was intercepted by Kris Harley, giving Virginia Tech the ball at the Bearcats 13-yard line.
That set up the Hokies' only first-half touchdown, but it took four plays to accomplish, with Thomas scampering up the middle for a 5-yard scoring run on fourth-and-2 with 2:41 left in the half.
The day's blooper highlight was provided by Thompkins, who had an amusing pratfall when he tripped over the chains when they were brought out for a measurement after a fourth-and-1 run. Cincinnati got the first down, and the drive led to one of two first-half field goals by Tony Miliano.
Cincinnati had an even more unusual play in the first half -- a touchdown negated by a holding call on the quarterback. Legaux was whistled for giving Kyshoen Jarrett an extra shove while Abernathy was running 11 yards for a score on a double reserve.
The drive ended when the Bearcats faked a field goal by throwing a pass to defensive tackle Silverberry Mouhon, who made only 16 yards on the fourth-and-18.