The video-game numbers associated with Zach Collaros' career haven't surfaced yet in 2011, but that's not a concern for the Bearcats.
CINCINNATI -- Maybe Zach Collaros is a victim of his own success. Maybe he's a victim of limited playing time. Maybe he's a victim of one of the most explosive running backs in college football.
Just don't paint him concerned with his lack of eye-opening numbers in the passing game.
Collaros will likely surpass 5,000 career passing yards tonight. Accomplishing the feat in approximately 19 starts sets a high bar of expectations. Yet, in three games the senior quarterback only threw for 521 yards with six touchdowns.
In fact, of UC's 21 touchdowns this season he's only accounted for seven (33 percent). Last season, UC scored 41 touchdowns in games Collaros played. He accounted for 30 (71 percent).
The Zach Collaros Show hasn't quite premiered yet.
Is UC waiting for the breakout game from its star quarterback?
"Somebody else was just askied me that question and the only answer I could tell them was, 'Yes?'" OL Alex Hoffman said.
Hoffman phrased his answer as a question only because, yes, the gaudy numbers of Collaros' career haven't shown up yet, but he doesn't view the decrease as an issue. The starters only played the first halves of two games then one contest in the heart of SEC country.
Plus, when Isaiah Pead is averaging 9.5 yards per rush, it's been difficult to justify any other option.
How good can this offense be? Well, nobody entirely knows yet. They only know if there's one player they're concerned about, it sure as heck isn't Collaros.
"Zach is just being Zach," WR DJ Woods said. "When he scrambles he scrambles, but he is still looking downfield for an open receiver. He is trying to fit the ball in wherever he can. I see Zach as doing Zach, the same guy I have seen since freshman year."
By the admission of both Collaros and his head coach, Collaros hasn't been exactly the same as his freshman year.
Collaros' offseason initiative was to figure out ways to cut down on the 14 interceptions he threw in 2010. Making smarter decisions, not forcing passes and understanding when to throw the ball away held his focus.
The concern lies in wondering if a more calculated approach filled with checkdowns and safer reads would suppress the explosive nature always associated with the Bearcats offense.
UC compiled but four passes of more than 25 yards through the first three weeks. And that includes two blowouts against overmatched teams. Collaros completed 20 passes of 25-plus yards last season in his 11 games.
For Jones, one number trumps all of those: Zero interceptions.
"I don't want interceptions," said Jones, whose team incredibly moved from 119th in the country in turnover margin last season to tied for first this year. "I want him to make the right choices. Our game is based off a vertical throw game and he's made all the right decisions, that's part of the maturation process. They're double covered? Get the ball in the check down and let's get eight or nine yards. Let's not force things, let things come to us. So far, this year he's done a great job of taking what the defense gives you."
Sure, the overall numbers would insist Collaros hasn't been as aggressive in the passing game, however, his 7.6 yards per attempt sits at the exact same number as last season when he led the Big East in passing.
"Tennessee was really our only game where we had to throw the ball a lot and we really didn't throw the ball that much in that game," said Collaros, who was 21 of 34 for 230 yards against the Vols. "We still have it. It is something we can do, but if we can run the ball it's Football 101; we want to be able to run the football. If we can do that with whoever is back there we are going to do that and let that set up the pass for us."
Collaros believes the numbers will come and this offense can be better than last year's. With the rapid development of the offensive line to this point and explosive running of Pead, his argument would be hard to dispute.
Posting passing numbers will only be a matter of opportunity. A significant one presents itself tonight. N.C. State utilizes an aggressive, blitzing package on defense. It leads the ACC in sacks with 11.
"They are really going to get after it," Collaros said. "That also leaves big holes in the secondary so hopefully we can expose those."