Two of Big East’s best QBs face off in Cincinnati Saturday
Published: Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 01:11
When West Virginia and No. 23 Cincinnati take the field Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium, two of the best quarterbacks the Big East Conference has to offer will step between the lines to lead their respective teams into battle.
On one side will be Cincinnati senior and the reigning first team all-Big East quarterback Zach Collaros.
In his career as a starter, the Steubenville, Ohio, native has made a name for himself as a do-it-all quarterback who has been known to be able to beat teams with his arm and his legs.
But there's one defining characteristic that makes Collaros truly stand out. He's a winner.
"When you watch Zach play, he's the guy – I don't care what sport you're playing – you're going to pick him on your team," said West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. "He's a good athlete, he's a tough kid, and he's a competitor. And that shows in the way he plays."
On the other side is WVU junior signal caller Geno Smith.
Smith has proven to be a pretty good winner himself in his two seasons as the Mountaineers' starter. And his performance this year has him on pace to break multiple WVU single-season records.
"When you look at Geno, first of all, you look at his stature and his physical makeup, and he's an NFL quarterback," said Cincinnati head coach Butch Jones. "He means so much and he's going to present a number of challenges.
"The deceiving thing about Geno is he can weave his way out of trouble, and he can also run with the football."
Jones said both quarterbacks have been so good and so vital to their teams' success over the past few years because of intangible factors that not every quarterback possesses.
"Both young men will help their teams win. They're both great leaders; they're very poised and extremely confident," Jones said.
But they both know how to find ways to lead their teams to win, that doesn't mean they do it the same way.
In fact, they aren't very similar quarterbacks at all.
"I really don't see any similarities really," said WVU safety Darwin Cook. "Geno's more of a pocket passer and Zach does a lot of different things scrambling. They're like two different quarterbacks really."
The multi-dimensional play of Collaros will be the biggest challenge for a West Virginia defense that has struggled containing teams the last few weeks.
In their last three games, the Mountaineers have allowed quarterbacks to throw for almost 237 yards per game and seven touchdowns, including four by Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib.
For the Mountaineers to have more success this week, they know they need to find a way to get better pressure in the backfield to try to make Collaros make mistakes.
"A guy that can scramble and has the ability to make plays like he does is definitely a challenge you like to face," said senior defensive lineman Julian Miller. "It's definitely something where you want to go out there and really be able to get after him and stop him from making big plays."
Miller has known Collaros since the two played together on an all-star team when they were in high school in Ohio, and, like his defensive coordinator, he said the biggest challenge that the Bearcats' quarterback presents has nothing to do with how well he can throw the ball.
"He's a winner. He's very smart. You talk about senior leadership – that's the type of guy you want to resemble," Miller said. "He's a great player, he can make great plays, and it's going to be a challenge for us to get after it. Defensively we're up for the challenge, and we can't wait."