Cincy survives UConn
CINCINNATI - Zach Collaros kept No. 4 Cincinnati unbeaten with the second-best passing performance in school history, one that will make it tough to send him back to the bench.
The Bearcats’ near-perfect replacement threw for 480 yards and a touchdown last night, ran for two more scores, and led a clinching TD drive in the closing minutes of a wild 47-45 victory over Connecticut that let Cincinnati match the best start in its history.
Cincinnati (9-0, 5-0 Big East) is off to its best start since 1951, when it won the Mid-American Conference title. The stakes are much higher this time - the Bearcats are keeping themselves in the conversation about national title contenders.
The win over Connecticut (4-5, 1-4) provided more talking points. The best one: Where would Cincinnati be without Collaros?
The sophomore has taken big steps in each of his three fill-in starts for the injured Tony Pike. His eye-opening numbers in his first three collegiate starts: 70 of 89 for 1,100 yards with eight TDs.
In the first three quarters alone last night, he threw for 447 yards, topping everyone except Greg Cook’s 554-yard passing game in the school record book. His best work came after Cincinnati let most of a 20-point lead slip away, forcing the Bearcats to grind it out down the stretch.
Collaros went 4 for 4 for 33 yards on the final drive, capped by Isaiah Pead’s 14-yard touchdown run on fourth and 1 with 1:52 left that made it 47-38. Cincinnati finished with a school-record 711 total yards.
UConn’s Zach Frazer threw a 9-yard touchdown pass with 13 seconds left that cut it to 47-45, and Cincinnati recovered the onside kick to finish it. Frazer was 19 of 32 for 261 yards for UConn.
Pike had to have a plate in his non-throwing forearm replaced after it was damaged in a win over South Florida Oct. 15. He got a special splint that allowed him to practice better last week, and suited up for last night’s game. Pike could be ready to play Friday night against West Virginia.
Coach Brian Kelly has maintained that Pike will get the job back when he’s up to it, but Collaros’s emergence will make it an interesting call.