No. 5 Cincinnati unsure of QB Pike’s status

Cincinnati was still waiting for word Monday on whether quarterback Tony Pike will be able to play with a forearm injury.

Coach Brian Kelly said he would decide after the senior quarterback saw a specialist later in the day. Sophomore backups Zach Collaros and Chazz Anderson will split snaps during practice during the week to determine which would play against Louisville (2-4) on Saturday if Pike is out.

Pike broke his left (non-passing) forearm last season and has a plate and six screws in it. The plate moved when he was hit during a 34-17 win at South Florida on Thursday night, forcing him to miss most of the second half. Collaros filled in and ran for 132 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He also was 4 of 7 for 72 yards.

The fifth-ranked Bearcats (6-0) are accustomed to juggling quarterbacks because of injury. Kelly said that even if Pike is cleared medically, he has to be able to protect himself while running Cincinnati’s spread offense, which often empties the backfield and exposes quarterbacks to hits.

“Our medical people would handle it,” Kelly said on Monday afternoon. “They will make a determination if he can do the things I give in an outline. If he can do these things, we’ll go. If not, he’s out.

“He’s got to be able to do things in a shotgun offense. He’s got to be able to take snaps, and we can’t put him out there if he’s not in position to protect himself. If he can’t protect himself, he can’t play in a spread offense with an empty backfield.”

Pike got hurt late in the first half but tried to play after halftime. He was ineffective, got hit again and came out of the game early in the third quarter.

“When he came out (to start the third quarter), most people would not have,” Kelly said. “He was in a lot of pain. It said a lot. I know it sent a message to our team that this guy is going to get out there no matter what happens.”

Collaros, who is more of a running quarterback, took over and helped Cincinnati pull away.

Last season, the Bearcats won their first Big East title despite using five quarterbacks due to injuries. Starter Dustin Grutza broke his leg, and Pike took over and broke his forearm two games later. Collaros finished the game in which Pike was hurt, and Anderson started the next two. Pike returned and played with the plate and screws in the left forearm.

The Bearcats were able to keep winning because of a solid defense and Kelly’s planning. His backup quarterback takes about 40 percent of the snaps in practice each week, leaving him prepared in case there’s an injury.

“Knowing that your quarterback is in a spread offense, you’d better get your No. 2 ready because he (Pike) is going to get hit at times and you never know what’s going to happen,” Kelly said.

Kelly won’t scale back his no-huddle offense if he has to switch quarterbacks. He said Anderson and Collaros would evenly split snaps during practice. Whoever handles it better would be Pike’s replacement if needed.

“Zach has a tendency to improvise a little bit more,” Kelly said. “Chazz will stay a lot more to the (play’s) progression. But Zach can make some big plays, where Chazz may not lend himself to it.”