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UC-Louisville Rock 'N Roll Party

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Such an easy story to write off today's game. So many different ways to screw it up. Hopefully, I didn't.

 

The gist, of course, is that Zach Collaros starts at quarterback for the injured Tony Pike, completes 15 of 17 passes for 253 yards and two touchdowns, and rushes 11 times for 52 yards to beat Louisville in the 41-10 victory.

 

So many great quotes from Collaros, Brian Kelly, Mardy Gilyard, and Dustin Grutza, it was hard to piece them all together in one coherent story. But the question I wanted to get answered most was this: why do Kelly's UC teams continue to thrive when a backup quarterback is in the game?


With Collaros' win tonight, the Bearcats are 6-0 when a backup has to replace the starter (Grutza replacing Ben Mauk vs. Miami and Marshall in 2007, Tony Pike replacing Grutza vs. Miami in 2008, Chazz Anderson replacing Pike vs. Marshall and Rutgers in 2008, and Collaros replacing Pike today). What is about this system that allows the quarterback to do that?

 

"You are confronted with different challenges each week, and that's the leadership they expect from you," Kelly said. "They expect you to prepare your players. You don't have time to complain about what you don't have. That goes back to my experience in Division II. You have to play with what you've got, and you've got to make them the best players they can be."

 

Said Gilyard: "One guy steps out, the next guy steps in and we keep rolling. I think we added a little more spice to our offense when we added Zach. It keeps the defense guessing. They don't know if he's going to throw the ball - he throws an excellent ball as you saw today - or if he's going to run the ball, like he did against South Florida."

 

Said Grutza, who was on the UC sidelines: "That's what he emphasizes, playing to a player's strengths. He knows how to use his players. He can move guys around. That's definitely an asset. That's definitely a skill he has that makes this team go."

 

Since Collaros takes about 40 percent of the snaps on any given week - much of them with the first-team offensive line - he works on plays that Kelly specifically provides for him. You saw a bunch of them tonight. Pike obviously isn't a running quarterback, so the plays that emphasize the quarterback and his feet go to Collaros.

 

"We put everything on the board, and go, 'OK, this is everything he does well,'" Kelly said. "You try to formulate a plan based on that. We have such a variety of what we can do offensively. It starts from having a big menu to choose from, and then you can pick and choose to what I think suits him.

 

"We do a lot of reps with our 2s. I get a chance to evaluate him, even when he's not the starter on plays that he's pretty good at."

 

Make sure to check out my column on cbssports.com sometime tonight/Sunday. I delve a little more into this question.

 

But first, my favorite quote of the night provided by Cardinals coach Steve Kragthorpe.

 

"To be honest with you, I was hoping Tony would play today, because I knew they would be one-dimensional, and I knew that they would throw it. ... They're a little more one-dimensional with Tony in there."

 

Yes, I'm sure the Cardinals would rather have faced one of the top quarterbacks in the nation rather than the backup who's never started a game at this level.

 

--Sounds like it'll be another week of day-to-day updates for Pike. Kelly said the training staff will alter his cast early in the week - I assume to make it easier for him to play - but like he said last week, the most important factor that will determine whether Pike can play is how comfortable he is in the pocket.

 

"He can rip it with his right arm," Kelly said. "He can throw it anywhere, but we don't want to put himself in a position where he can't protect himself."

 

Kelly admitted that Pike was a little blue this week but that he quickly recovered and spent the night in the hotel with his teammates.

 

"He had a great run going, and this happens to him again," Kelly said. "But the one thing I love about him is that he's going to do whatever's necessary to win. He spent a lot of time last night in the hotel. He could have been back in his own home. He stayed in the dorm last night and spent three hours with those guys, watching film, going over checks. We're really fortunate to have a guy like that. He could say, 'Woe is me, here we go again,' but he was with those guys all night. It was great to see. He was outstanding the last 24-48 hours with these guys."

 

--Gilyard was excited to tie his friend, Dominick Goodman, for the school record with 22 career touchdown catches.

 

"It feels great, tying the record with somebody I know, who took me under his wing ever since I switched to wide receiver in 2007," he said. "Goodie was always that guy. He's not really a verbal guy. He'll pull you off to the side and say, 'C'mon, bruh. Look at this, bruh. Look at that, bruh.' Just watching him do his thing in '07 and watching him do his thing in '08 and leading me into '09, I was blessed to have somebody like Goodie in front of me."

 

--Though he wasn't on the team at that point, senior linebacker Andre Revels remembered the 70-7 pounding Louisville inflicted upon UC in 2004. So did some of the former players on the Bearcats sideline, including Haruki Nakamura, Dustin Grutza and Bradley Glatthaar.  

 

The fact the Bearcats have surpassed the Cardinals gives Revels a warm feeling.

 

"When we first came in, we weren't really competing with them," Revels said. "It was a landslide. Now, we're coming in here and making it competitive."

 

I don't know if I'd use the word 'competitive.' Maybe the word 'dominant.'

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