Oct. 24, 2009
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CINCINNATI (AP)--Standing on the sideline in a sweat suit and baseball cap, injured Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike watched his backup do a nearly perfect job.
Sophomore Zach Collaros threw only two incompletions while passing for 253 yards and three touchdowns Saturday, steadying fifth-ranked Cincinnati to a 41-10 victory over Louisville in the Bearcats' first game without their marquee quarterback.
The Bearcats (7-0, 3-0 Big East) are off to their best start since 1954 despite losing Pike, a senior whose strong arm is the perfect fit for their no-huddle, spread offense. He didn't suit up four days after having surgery on his non-throwing forearm, watching from the sideline with his left arm tucked inside his jacket.
His understudy proved to be a quick study against lowly Louisville (2-5, 0-3).
In his first collegiate start, Collaros went 15 of 17, repeatedly finding receivers running open through one of the conference's worst defenses. His 31-yard pass to Mardy Gilyard made it 31-10 midway through the third quarter and left the senior receiver tied for the school record with 22 career touchdown catches.
Collaros also ran for 52 yards against a defense that is by far the worst in the conference at stopping the run. He gave way to third-string quarterback Chazz Anderson for the final series of the third quarter with Cincinnati up 38-10.
Isaiah Pead added a pair of touchdown runs, including a 67-yarder in the third quarter.
Nothing went well for Louisville during its most lopsided loss to Cincinnati since a 38-0 drubbing in 1951. The Cardinals fell to 4-13 against Big East teams during coach Steve Kragthorpe's three seasons. They also lost top running back Victor Anderson, who hurt his shoulder in the second half.
Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly is adept at changing quarterbacks because of injuries. He used five of them last season--Pike broke his left forearm, had a plate and six screws inserted, and returned after missing only two games. Wearing a cast on the forearm, Pike led the Bearcats to their first Big East championship.
He damaged the plate late in the first half of a 34-17 win at South Florida, where Collaros took over and ran for two touchdowns. Pike had surgery last Tuesday. Cincinnati is hoping to have him back for a game next Saturday at Syracuse.
The game drew 35,099 fans, the largest crowd in Nippert Stadium's history-- one more than the previous mark. Fans saw Collaros make only one bad throw, overshooting a wide-open Gilyard in the end zone on Cincinnati's opening possession. The other incompletion came on a pass tipped at the line.
Collaros completed 10 consecutive throws, showing that the nation's fourth-highest-scoring team wasn't going to fall apart without Pike. The Bearcats didn't punt until there were seven minutes left in the game.