UC-West Virginia Rock 'N Roll Party

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Tony Pike was on the sideline, minding his own business and watching redshirt sophomore quarterback Zach Collaros run the Bearcats on the first drive of the game when Brian Kelly called the senior over to stand by his side.


"I was kind of following him along the sideline," said Pike, who finished 2 of 4 for 16 yards and two touchdowns in UC's 24-21 victory against West Virginia. "I thought he was calling me to talk about a play or something. He told me to go in. I had some trouble getting my chinstrap buckled because everything was so quick. Going into the game, he said he was going to try to get me in there. I wasn't sure if that was going to be a series or a few special plays. But obviously what happened worked out."


During the week, Kelly had worked with Pike and Collaros on how they would rotate against the Mountaineers. Since the coaching staff, by studying the West Virginia game film, had determined the Mountaineers didn't send much pressure when the opposing offense was in the red zone, Kelly planned to use Pike when UC was in that spot.


"We wanted to minimize his risk," Kelly said. "In the red zone area, we knew we were going to get a lot more bracket coverage. Tony can fit it in the tightest spots in bracket coverage, and he can see it a little bit better than Zach. It just worked out really well. The bottom line is Tony was going to be in a position - primarily in the red zone or in some third-down situation - where we knew there wasn't going to be much pressure. He just didn't know if it was going to be the first quarter or the second quarter."


Or on the first series.


"At first, it caught me off guard," said Collaros, who finished 17 of 24 for 205 yards and an interception. As long as he scored, it doesn't matter to me how it happens. We had talked about him getting in on a series, but nothing about, 'When we get down to the 9-yard line, Zach is coming out and Tony, you're coming in.' Nothing like that. It caught me off guard."


Said Pike: "Me too."


Either way, it worked to UC's advantage, and afterward, Pike talked about how grateful he was to hear the record crowd of 35,105 give him an ovation when he ran onto the field.


And as long as he stays on this path, Kelly expects Pike to start in time for the Nov. 27 Illinois game.


"If everything continues to move in the right direction with him and continues to progress in the way he has - he's made great progress in a very short amount of time, relative to the injury - he would be the starter against Illinois," Kelly said.


--Isaiah Pead obviously had the breakout game of his career, gaining 175 yards on 18 carries (9.7 yards per attempt). He was mildly excited about his performance.


"I wasn't expecting to get the ball that many times," Pead said. "It was a rhythm. It was gaining confidence. We had a lot on the line, and you just have to play. You have to have confidence in your players and yourself. I was hot, the pass game was going, the blocking was perfect. We were just playing football and having fun."


He didn't feel quite as good in the second quarter when he lost a fumble on the 1-yard line. Until, that is, the replay showed that the ball had crossed the goal line and saved him.


"I went up in the air and thought I had it over and landed back on my feet," Pead said. "I was never tackled, so I was going to keep going and I never got the ball tucked in. But it was ruled a touchdown so everything is good. John Goebel came to me and said I went from a zero to a hero."


Said Kelly: "We were going to challenge it if they didn't buzz down. What I was more upset about is that it was first and goal, and we're trying to put the ball over the goal line like it's fourth down and the last play of the game. A teaching moment for me with Isaiah Pead, that's what I was focused on. Hopefully, the camera didn't see me talking to him."


It did.


"It did?"




--This is what Kelly said to his squad at the half:


"We told our football team that it would be about the will to win. Both teams are fighting for their Big East championship lives. You just keep battling. Our kids did a great job of playing each play. We didn't get too worked up about the ebb and the flow of the football game. Our theme all week was that winning should be celebrated but execution should be worshipped. Our execution last week was not good. We went back to basics and really worked hard on execution."


--Kelly said senior running back Jacob Ramsey - who sprained his foot in the fourth quarter of the UConn game - was questionable for the Illinois game and that he'd most likely keep Ramsey out until the Pittsburgh game.


Despite Pead's breakout tonight, Ramsey's role won't necessarily be diminished.


"He has a substantial role," Kelly said. He's a physical player. He can hit it up hard and inside. Pead can do that too, but you can't run this kid 23, 24 times a game."

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