After getting a first hand look at what Cincinnati quarterback Zach Collaros did to USF last year, the Bulls’ defense wants to make amends when it faces the Bearcats on Friday at 8 p.m.
“They are very aware of what Zach did to them a year ago,” Holtz said. “I don’t think it’s so much the taste in their mouth as much as the challenge. I don’t think it’s the revenge factor as much as they understand how good Zach is because they’ve seen him first hand. I think they understand they have a great challenge.”
With USF trailing 17-10 early in the third quarter of last season’s tilt of two top 25 teams at the time, injured Cincinnati quarterback Tony Pike was replaced by Collaros, who USF cornerback Mistral Raymond said wasn’t well known among his defensive teammates at the time.
“We didn’t know anything about him,” Raymond said. “To see him come in like that when Tony Pike went down, you kind of want to pin back your ears and go after the backup quarterback. That’s just the mentality of a defense. You smell blood, you’re going to go get it. He stayed composed.”
On third-and-11 at the Cincinnati 25-yard line, Collaros, on a quarterback sneak, darted through the middle of the Bulls’ defense, which was expecting a pass, for a 75-yard touchdown run. The Bearcats eventually won 34-17, and Collaros finished with 132 yards rushing on 10 carries.
“We got hit with a bullet,” Raymond said.
Collaros, a junior, has led an offense that ranks first in the conference in total offense, passing offense and pass efficiency.
“We will be tested more in the secondary on deep balls this week than we have been so far this year,” Holtz said.
For the Bulls, stopping Collaros isn’t the only thing on their mind. The team, trying to avoid a 0-3 start in conference play, has lost four straight games to Cincinnati, which outscored the Bulls 92-39 in the last three meetings at Nipper Stadium
“I don’t know,” senior receiver Dontavia Bogan said of the cause of USF’s struggles against the Bearcats. “Cincinnati and us has always been a physical matchup. I feel like they’ve out-physicaled us the last few years. We just have to go up and execute and make plays.”
While USF’s defense has risen to the challenge this season, Collaros and the Bearcats’ offense presents the biggest challenge yet, Holtz said.
“There’s a lot of them up there watching film the last couple days,” he said of his defense’s preparations for the matchup. “I think our defense is starting to build a little attitude, a little pride amongst themselves with what they’re doing.
“We’ll find out where we’re going to be,” he said. “I don’t think you’re just going to stop this offense with all the different weapons they have and all the different things they can do, but our defense is excited about the challenge they have in playing one of the better teams in the league this week.”