Tampa, Fla. — Tony Pike left the field clutching his non-throwing arm, and unbeaten Cincinnati’s high-powered, quick-strike offense kept rolling against South Florida.
The eighth-ranked Bearcats got two touchdown passes from their senior quarterback before he left in the third quarter due to a sprained left wrist, then backup Zach Collaros ran 75 yards for the first of his two rushing TDs in a 34-17 victory over the 21st-ranked Bulls on Thursday night.
“We’re kind of accustomed to it, which isn’t a good thing. You never want to see your starting quarterback go down,” Collaros said. “I just try to be as well prepared as I possibly can.”
Coach Brian Kelly said Pike, who broke his left forearm last season and played with a plate and six screws that are still in place, will miss Cincinnati’s next game, at home Oct. 24 against Louisville.
“The plate that’s in there has shifted,” Kelly said, adding that it has not been determined if the injury will require surgery. Pike will be examined by a specialist today.
The Bearcats did not make Pike available to the media in the locker room, citing team policy regarding injured players.
Collaros squirted through an opening in the middle of the defense for his long touchdown three plays after entering the game. Pike was injured late in the first half, then left after being hit as he released an incomplete pass on Cincinnati’s first possession of the second half.
Pike threw scoring passes of three and eight yards to Armon Binns in the second quarter, helping the Bearcats (6-0, 2-0 Big East) to a 17-10 halftime lead over South Florida (5-1, 1-1), which has lost six consecutive games against Top 25 teams.
The Bulls led early on B.J. Daniels’ 28-yard touchdown pass to Jessie Hester, and closed within 24-17 late in the third quarter when safety Nate Allen intercepted an ill-advised pass by Collaros to set up a 1-yard TD run by Daniels.
But Collaros, one of two freshmen quarterbacks who bailed Cincinnati out after two starters — Dustin Grutza and Pike — were injured early last season, was not rattled by the mistake. He led a six-play, 70-yard scoring drive that restored the 14-point lead.
“He’s a gamer. He’s a competitive kid,” Kelly said. “He’s athletic, and we did what we had to do with him in the game, and that was obviously run him, control clock, play good defense and get out of here with a win.”