Cincy coach: Pike will be starting QB when healthy
After a day of deliberation, coach Brian Kelly decided that Tony Pike will be Cincinnati's starting quarterback when he's healthy.
Sophomore backup Zach Collaros led the fifth-ranked Bearcats to a 47-45 win over Connecticut on Saturday night with the second-best passing performance in school history. Kelly said after the game that he might let Collaros keep the job even when Pike is capable of playing again.
Kelly thought about it and decided that the Bearcats (9-0) have their best chance with Pike running the offense. Pike has missed the last three games after having surgery on his non-throwing forearm. It's unclear whether Pike will be ready to play against West Virginia on Friday night.
"I re-examined it," Kelly said Monday. "I was dead serious. I went back and thought about clearly the plusses and minuses — a lot of plusses with both guys. After careful consideration, Tony's our guy. We've got to make sure he's at the level he needs to be (physically)."
Pike was one of the nation's top passers in the first six games, throwing for 1,633 yards and 15 touchdowns while leading the Bearcats to their highest national ranking. During a 34-17 win at South Florida on Oct. 15, he damaged a protective plate in his left forearm and needed surgery to have it replaced.
Collaros, who was 30-0 in his last two years of high school but had never started a game in college, took over and brought a new dimension to Kelly's no-huddle, spread offense with his ability to run. He ran for two touchdowns as the Bearcats pulled away at South Florida, and has been sensational in his three starts.
He threw for 480 yards — the second-highest total in school history — and ran for two touchdowns as well against UConn, setting a school record for total yards in a game. Collaros was so impressive that Kelly considered letting him keep the job the rest of the way.
"I have to spend the weekend thinking about it. Generally I'm pretty good about making decisions," Kelly said Monday. "It's a difficult one."
It's unclear when Pike will be able to play. He got a specially made splint for the left forearm last week, allowing him to participate in practice more fully. He has essentially missed three weeks of practice, leaving him rusty. Also, there are questions about whether it would be safe for him to play yet.
"If Tony's fully healthy, he's our starter," Kelly said. "The issue is, this becomes day to day. There's X-rays and so much that's out of my hands medically. And the risk factor — what's the risk factor in putting him out there?"