November 4, 2009

Holding down the fort

It could be the "Zach Bowl" Saturday night as Connecticut rolls into Nippert with Zach Frazer at quarterback (in for the injured Cody Endres) while UC is likely to send Zach Collaros into battle again (barring the miraculous recovery of Tony Pike from missing two and a half games with the arm injury).

Collaros has gone from "the guy who holds for Jake Rogers" to "the guy" after keeping UC's lead at USF and dismantling Louisville and Syracuse in back-to-back weeks. While nothing official has transpired, Collaros is working on the assumption that he'll have the football in his hands again under the ABC lights.

That's good. Good things usually happen when Collaros has the football in his hands.

"Whatever happens happens," said the redshirt sophomore from Steubenville. "Tony's the leader of the team. He's a great quarterback so you don't want to keep him out. If I'm Tony, you're just working to get back on the field. I don't think he's really disappointed in the team winning. We're good friends, so I don't think there's anything there and he knows he's going to be the starter when he comes back."

Well rehearsed.

And, for what it's worth, genuine. Collaros doesn't strike one as a territorial "me" player.

Truth is, he could be. As good as Tony Pike can look, there are plays being made recently that are ones that Pike wouldn't make. That's not meant to be a criticism, it's just fact based on Zach's skill set. For example, I don't think Pike would've made the touchdown toss after the botched snap on the field goal at Syracuse (for the record, Collaros does fess up to not catching the snap).

"I bobbled the snap," he admitted. "It was a fire-fire call. Luckily the guys went downfield, the ones who are supposed to, and we made a play. I saw Kazeem (Alli) out of the corner of my eye at the last second. I don't know how I did. It wasn't a set play though."

While not drawn up proper that play does represent what Zach Collaros does best, and that is to improvise when things do not go as planned. Those plays have been coming out of that right arm for years. Bearcat fans are just now seeing them.

"When stuff breaks down, I just try to extend the play (and) usually good things happen," said Collaros.

Now, instead of being Tony Pike's understudy the guy six inches shorter and that wasn't on any Heisman list is keeping UC in the conversation among BCS schools. The Bearcats have reached their highest point ever in the polls and are 8-0 for the first time since the Sid Gillman years ('51 and'54).

"It's great for this program, the University of Cincinnati really deserves it," said Collaros. "Coach Kelly really worked hard to get us on the map and we're playing very well."

The next step now is to "hunker down" on the Huskies of Connecticut in front of Brent Musberger and Kirk Herbstreit. The nation awaits validation of Brian Kelly's miracle. One of the back stories of this game though is that UConn handed UC perhaps its most embarrassing defeat last season, 40-16.

"It wasn't very pretty," said Collaros. "We're looking to play a lot better than we did last year."

If Collaros keeps his average of throwing for over 300 yards and three to four touchdowns a game that would be a marked improvement over last year in Hartford. Plus, putting up the numbers he has would certainly put him in the driver's seat as the #1 quarterback next year.

"I'm just going to be ready for spring ball and be ready for the fall camp," said Collaros who also has doubled as a baseball player at UC. Where that winds up given Zach's new found status as "QB Du Jour" remains to be seen.

"I'm not sure yet," said the QB/OF/SS. "Me and Coach will have to sit down and talk about that."

Football or baseball, Collaros is not only receiving the headlines here in Cincinnati, but also in his hometown of Steubenville near the Pennsylvania line.

"It's great, I get a lot of phone calls and letters in the mail from people back home," said the former star of the Big Red. "Steubenville's very excited. I'm just excited for the town."

Saturday night could be another proud night for Steubenville. The town that gave you Dino Crocetti (a/k/a Dean Martin) will be back in "prime time" again.

Kickoff's approximately at 8:12 p.m. when the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie....



 

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