As it turns out, USF defensive coordinator Joe Tresey did have an enormous impact on Thursday's Big East showdown against his former team.
He recruited Zach Collaros to
But he couldn't figure out how to stop him.
Subbing for an injured Tony Pike, the sophomore quarterback ran for 132 yards and passed for 72 - all in the second half - as the #8 Bearcats beat the #21 Bulls 34-17.
"When I first went in I wasn't that nervous," Collaros told me after the game. "I thought I was going to be very nervous, but the offensive line was great. They were getting a big push so I knew we could run the ball and control the clock."
Pike's injury is to his left forearm - the same arm that he fractured last season. That injury was surgically repaired with a plate and six screws, and head coach Brian Kelly told reporters that the plate shifted when Pike got hit on Thursday night. Tony is likely to at least miss next week's game against
"A specialist is going to look at it (on Friday) and I think we'll know a little more about what his situation is but Zach came in and did a nice job," Kelly told us on the post-game show on 700 WLW. "I'm sick about it because of Tony and his progress and I really feel bad for the kid. But Zach is a winner. He was a state champ in high school and is a tough, competitive kid."
"It's never a good thing to see your starting quarterback go down and Tony's one of my best friends on the team," Collaros said. "We have a great training staff here so he'll be back. I just have to do what I can to help the team win and get him back in the same situation that he left."
When Collaros replaced Pike in the third quarter against USF, the Bearcats were clinging to a 17-10 lead and lost a yard on their first two offensive plays. You could barely hear yourself think as 60,000 Bulls fans were going bonkers. But on 3rd-and-11, Coach Kelly called for a slightly different-looking quarterback draw that had Collaros follow running back Jacob Ramsey up the middle, and Zach was barely touched on a 75-yard TD run that gave UC a 14-point lead.
"We have draw where I follow the running back and another one where I don't," Collaros told me. "The line created a huge hole and Jake Ramsey crushed a guy on it. I saw a seam and tried to split two guys and I was actually surprised I split 'em to be honest with you. All I kept thinking was, 'Don't get caught, don't get caught.' When I got to the 40, I figured somebody had to be closing on me, but I just kept running. It was a great feeling."
"That was a big momentum swing for us and from that point on we kind of took over the football game," Kelly said.
"It looked like we were hanging out at the beach in our bye week - we were sloppy early on," Kelly said. "I thought we did a great job of hanging in there and our kids just keep playing. To get out of here with a win on the road against a Big East opponent that's ranked in the Top 25 is a great victory."
Especially with Pike on the bench for half of the game.
"We're going to do whatever is necessary to win football games and if that means running Zach Collaros 40 times we'll do that," Kelly said. "We have two quarterbacks who have some wins. Zach Collaros has a Big East win and Chazz Anderson's got a Big East win (over
Collaros was a legend at Steubenville High, winning his last 30 starts in leading the Big Red to consecutive Division III state titles in 2005 and 2006. In his final game, he passed for 254 yards and 3 touchdowns, and ran for 44 yards and 2 TDs.
His maternal grandmother lives in
"My phone keeps ringing and ringing," Collaros said with a laugh. "I haven't talked to anybody yet, but I looked at my phone and I had 125 text messages. Probably all from
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