Collaros to start next game, Pike will play

BY foxsports • November 10, 2009

By Joe Kay
AP Sports Writer

Coach Brian Kelly announced Collaros will be his starter Tuesday. The
sophomore backup has played spectacularly and kept the Bearcats (9-0)
in the national title conversation while Pike heals from surgery to
replace a metal plate in his left forearm.

Collaros threw for 480 yards -- the second-highest total in school
history -- during a 47-45 win over Connecticut on Saturday night. Pike
warmed up before the game, but didn't play. Kelly said the senior will
run some plays against West Virginia (7-2).

The Bearcats have a bye next week, giving Pike a couple more weeks of
practice to sharpen his skills after so much missed time. Pike is
expected to start against Illinois on Nov. 27 in Cincinnati.

"Zach will start this Friday night against West Virginia," Kelly said.
"Tony Pike is expected to play, and we are really focusing on the
Illinois game for Tony's first start back from the injury."

Pike's injury and Collaros' remarkable job as the fill-in presented a
conundrum for Kelly. Pike was one of the nation's top passers before he
got hurt, earning mention as a long shot for the Heisman Trophy.
Collaros has won his first three collegiate starts, bringing a new
element to the spread offense with his mobility.

Now, Kelly has to choose between them with a second straight Big East
title on the line. If he goes ahead with his plan to start Pike against
Illinois, he'll be benching a quarterback who threw for 480 yards in a
big game.

"That's new territory for me,"
Kelly said. "I can't say that in 19 years of being a head coach that
I've had that kind of a dilemma, if you will. Again, the nice part
about it is that our football team has absolutely no concerns over
who's leading them, if it's Zach or Tony. That's a great thing to have.

"Where controversies come in is when your room is split. There is no
split. They know they can win and win at a high level with both these
guys. That's a very unique circumstance."

Pike is more of a pro-style passer, 6-foot-6 with a strong arm.
Collaros is barely 6-feet tall and much more adept at running the ball.
Both have flourished in Kelly's no-huddle offense.

Leading receiver Mardy Gilyard said Tuesday that both quarterbacks have
done so well the players have equal confidence in them. Gilyard has
given both of them nicknames.

"Zach has
moves, so I call him the joystick," Gilyard said. "And I call Tony the
pistol. I think the names fit. Zach's a little wiggly guy, a little
squirty guy back there, sort of like a joystick (in a video game). Of
course, Pike has the cannon, so that's why I call him pistol."

Pike broke his left forearm last season, had a plate inserted to help
the healing, and returned after missing two games. The plate was
damaged on a hit during a 34-17 win over South Florida on Oct. 15, and
he had a new one inserted.

The recovery
has been more difficult from this operation. Pike got a special splint
late last week and was able to fully practice again for the first time
in nearly three weeks.

impressive play has allowed Cincinnati to give Pike more healing time.
In his three starts and three other games off the bench, Collaros has
completed 76 percent of his passes for 1,229 yards, 10 touchdowns and
one interception. He also has run for 311 yards and four touchdowns.

"Clearly when Zach has come in, he's played at a high level," Kelly
said. "It's allowed us now to set that bar a little higher for Tony in
the sense that now we don't have to put him back in there until he's
100 percent. But when Tony's back to that level, he's our starter. He's
not quite there yet."

Kelly said Pike and his doctors are involved in deciding when he plays because some risk will be involved.

"What we don't want to do is put him in a situation where there's a
high risk factor," Kelly said. "Why play him at all? Because we think
that the risk has been minimized. He has risk in anything he'll do for
the next three months, quite frankly."

Kelly said running back Jacob Ramsey has a sprained foot and won't play
against West Virginia. Ramsey is second to Isaiah Pead in carries and
yards, and Kelly uses both of them in games. John Goebel, who has
missed most of the season with an injured hamstring and broken hand, is
likely to play more.

Received 11/10/09 03:51 pm ET