Pitt Defense Keys In On Collaros, Pead

Chas Alecxih calls Cincinnati quarterback Zach Collaros and its running back Isaiah Pead the greatest challenge to Pitt's defense since West Virginia's Pat White and Steve Slaton.

Chas Alecxih said that stopping Zach Collaros and Isaiah Pead this week will be the biggest challenge the defense has had this year.

He then went on to say that Collaros and Pead are similar to the way Pat White and Steve Slaton were for West Virginia. In the 2006 Pitt-West Virginia game, White rushed for 220 yards and two touchdowns. Slaton rushed for 215 yards and another two touchdowns.

Take it from the man who called the plays in that game, Calvin Magee, who is now Pitt's co-offensive coordinator. For this week's matchup, though he's not in charge of coaching against the Cincinnati offense, Magee is a good person to refer to when trying to think of how Cincinnati will call its plays this week.

"I don't spend a lot of time watching that other side, but I'm familiar with them because I know those coaches real well," Magee said. "I know the head coach (Butch Jones), and I know what they do. We looked at Isaiah Pead (when he was at Michigan), so I know he's a good back. Kollaros, I've seen him running around, so I'm sure our defense will be ready."

Collaros has thrown for at least 230 yards and at least two touchdowns in four of the Bearcats' seven games this season, including a 389-yard performance two weeks ago against South Florida. He's also gained another 225 yards on the ground with six rushing scores. Pead has 703 yards and eight touchdowns on the season.

"In all seriousness, they're both very talented," Alecxih said. "Kollaros, I talked to him last year after the game, and he's a high-character guy. I think he, other than (Notre Dame QB Tommy) Rees, is maybe the best quarterback we've gone against this year. (Isaiah) Pead, I think is the best running back I've gone against. We got our work cut out for us."

It's just the latest challenge for the Panthers in this series, that was forcibly named the "River City Rivalry" in 2005 when Cincinnati joined the Big East. Including this week's matchup, every meeting since 2007 has had one of the teams ranked. Pitt upset then No. 23 Cincinnati in 2007 for Dave Wannstedt's first win over a ranked opponent. Both teams were ranked in the 2008 matchup, a game that ultimately decided the Big East Championship. The 2009 regular season finale also determined the Big East champion, with Cincinnati prevailing at Heinz Field. Those three games were decided by a touchdown or less.

Even though last year's Pitt win didn't have the same implications, Alecxih feels that game was equally challenging. The rivalry resumes with first place in the Big East on the line.

"Obviously, they're much better this year," Alecxih said. "Even last year, they almost beat Oklahoma in the fourth game of the season. I think they're playing with a lot of confidence this year. A couple very good players on offense. It's going to be a fight. They've beat us every year since I've been here, every year except for one or two. I'm excited for this one."


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