VIA: Joe Kay, AP Sports
CINCINNATI — One bad afternoon, one ugly blemish in the Big East.
Cincinnati went to Connecticut last season with a perfect league mark and high expectations because quarterback Tony Pike had returned from a broken left forearm. Wearing a removable cast on his non-passing arm, Pike started and the Bearcats seemed to be whole again.
Not for long.
Pike only made it until halftime, when his left hand went numb. Freshman Chazz Anderson came on and threw a pair of interceptions. Cincinnati played perhaps its worst game under coach Brian Kelly, turning the ball over six times in a 40-16 drubbing.
Cincinnati still went on to win its first Big East title. Its only loss in the league? That ugly one in Connecticut.
“That’s definitely in the back of our minds,” Cincinnati safety Drew Frey said. “To get handled that easily last year—that’s definitely going to sink into our hearts a little bit, and it’s going to be one of the drivers for the game.”
There’s faintly similar plot line for the rematch.
The fourth-ranked Bearcats (8-0, 4-0) have a perfect league record and Pike is recovering from an injury to the same forearm as they get ready to play UConn (4-4, 1-3) on Saturday night. This time, they’re at home. And this time, they’ve got a different dynamic at quarterback.
Sophomore Zach Collaros has been sensational as Pike’s replacement for the last 2 1/2 games. He helped Cincinnati pull away to a 34-17 win at South Florida after Pike got hurt, then made his first two collegiate starts and was nearly flawless in wins over Louisville and Syracuse.
In his two starts, Collaros has gone 41 of 52 for 620 yards with seven touchdowns. Against South Florida, he ran for a pair of touchdowns. Each game, he’s looked a little better.
“In the South Florida game, I was kind of nervous getting in there,” Collaros said. “Louisville was big because it was my first start. I think I’ve settled down. The better you play, the more confident you are.”