The Bearcats Blog Top 30 Countdown rolls on this fine Friday. Does anyone else still think "Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday?" No? Me neither. I don't know who would think that. Certainly not me. And certainly not now. The countdown continues with the most recent player of the 5 this week will cover. That player is none other than Tony Pike.
Every so often, there are a player and coach who compliment each other perfectly. The coach was Brian Kelly and the player was Tony Pike. Kelly had a great system that a very accurate QB with a big arm could excel in. Tony Pike was a very accurate QB who could show off his arm. It was a match made in heaven.
The product of Reading High, Tony Pike came to UC in 2005 and redshirted. In 2006, he was buried at the bottom of the depth chart. He finally got his chance his sophomore season. Pike played in 4 games that year. In his college debut against Southeast Missouri State, Pike went 6-9, 57 yards and 1 TD. The TD was a 7 yarder to Ben Guidugli. Pike ran for 67 yards in that game. Not only was it by far his career high, but that was over half his career total. Pike completed all of his passes (1) against Miami for 7 yards. He was not good in the last 2 games he appeared. Pike went 4-9, 27, 2 INTs against San Diego State and threw an INT in his only pass against Louisville. The INT was on a Hail Mary attempt and had nothing to do with the Bearcats loss that day. Pike finished the year 11-20, 91 yards, 1 TD, 3 INTS.
Tony Pike came into the 2008 season as the backup quarterback behind Dustin Grutza. Pike got some time in a season opening blowout of Eastern Kentucky, going 5-7, 52, 1 TD. The following week against Oklahoma, Grutza broke his leg late in the game. Pike entered and was not very good. He went 3-11, 21 yards, 1 INT. He would be named the starter for the next game against Miami. Pike shined. He completed 20-24 for 241 yards and 3 TDs, while running for 33 yards as the Bearcats stomped the Redhawks. Pike was sharp against Akron the next week, 23-34, 320, 2 TDs, but with the Bearcats trailing early in the 4th quarter, Pike broke his arm after completing a pass to Mardy Gilyard. Zach Collaros came in to finish the drive and the Bearcats won. Pike would miss the next 2 games after his injury. The Bearcats won both.
After the broken arm on September 27, Pike returned for the 10-25 game at Connecticut. He had a plate and screws in his arm. He wore a cast. It didn't help a lot. Pike was 10-27, 136, 1 TD, 1 INT in the first half of the game, which UC led 13-10. Pike couldn't play through the pain and was benched in the second half. UC lost 40-16. The Bearcats had a short turnaround before they hosted USF on a Thursday night. Pike had a new cast put on his arm. It was his lucky cast. Out of the shotgun the whole game, Pike connected on 20 of 28 passes for 281 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT as UC beat the Bulls 24-10. The following week, UC traveled to West Virginia. Pike ran for a TD in the first half and pushed UC out to a 20-7 lead. A safety, a TD, a 2 point conversion, an onside kick and a 52 yard field goal later, the game was tied. I should mention all of those things happened in the last 3 minutes of the game. West Virginia got the ball first in OT and had to settle for a field goal. UC got to the WV 2 in no time. That set up one of the best plays in UC history. Pike play faked to Jacob Ramsay, bootleged right and threw a pass to the wiiiiiiddddeeee open Kazeem Alli to lead the Bearcats to a 26-23 win. Pike was 16-30, 178, 1 TD, 1 rush TD.
The Bearcats went to Louisville 6 days later. Things were going well for Pike. He was 19-32, 250 yards, 2 TDs and the Bearcats were up 21-20. On 3rd and 7 at the UC 28, Pike was picked by Woodny Turenne and injured on the play. The Cards missed the field goal. Dustin Grutza returned and lead a scoring drive that gave UC the 28-20 final. Pike would be well enough to play the next week against Pittsburgh. And he put on a show. Pike was 26-32, 309, 3 TDs, as the Bearcats held off the Panthers 28-21. Pike helped take the Bearcats into the record books the next week. By going 28-44, 272 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, Tony helped the Bearcats to a 30-10 win over Syracuse, clinching the first Big East Championship for the school. The Bearcats were ranked 13th as they went to the small island nation of Hawaii to close the regular season. Pike threw a TD to get UC up 10-0, but by the time the 4th quarter rolled around, UC was down 24-10. The last Hawaii TD came off short field position when Pike was intercepted. After a drive and incomplete passes on first and second down, Pike was pulled. He went 13-21, 108, 1 TD, 2 INTs. Dustin Grutza came in the game, fired a 69 yard TD to Mardy Gilyard, and lead UC to the win. The defense and special teams had a lot to do with that.
UC played their first ever BCS game against the Virginia Tech Hokies. The first drive, Pike hit Dominick Goodman for 13, Gilyard for 38 and Gilyard for 15 and a Cincinnati touchdown. That would be the fun part of the game for the Bearcats. Pike would be intercepted at the Virginia Tech 8, on a bomb, at the UC 10 and the Tech 45. Oh and he had a goal line run stuffed. UC lost 20-7. Pike finished 16-33, 239, 1 TD, 4 INTs.
Tony Pike finished the season 199-324, 61.4%, 2,407 yards, 19 TDs, 11 INTs, 1 rushing TD. He was 3rd in the Big East in TDs, 3rd in completion percentage, 3rd in passing efficiency, 3rd in yards per attempt, 3rd in adjusted yards per attempt, 4th in yards, 4th in competitions, 4th in INTs, and 5th in attempts. For his work, Pike was named second team All-Big East.
Tony Pike took things to the next level his senior season. Pike was the engine behind an offensive machine that overwhelmed Rutgers. Pike was 27-34, 362 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT in a 47-15 romp. Pike was sharp the next week against Southeast Missouri State, as he should have been since it was Southeast Missouri State. Pike connected on 17 of 23 for 229 yards and 3 TDs. He even ran for a TD. Pike took the Cats into Corvallis, where the Oregon State Beavers had beaten 26 straight non-conference foes, went for 332 yards on 31-49, with 2 TDs and 1 INT, ran for another TD and powered UC to a 28-18 win. The Bearcat offense was barely on the field the following week against Fresno State. They had the ball 16 minutes, 18 seconds. Fresno had the ball 43 minutes and 42 seconds. That didn't matter to Pike and the machine. He went 18-26, 300 yards, 3 TDs in a 28-20 win. The biggest play was a 23 yard pass to Gilyard for a score to put UC up 28-17 after Fresno threw an INT in the end zone. Pike got to ring the Victory Bell one more time in a 37-13 win over Miami. Pike had his worst game of the season so far, 23-42, 270 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT. Pike was the talk of Heisman buzz. That would change 12 days later.
The Bearcats were playing an ESPN Thursday night game at South Florida. Pike hadn't been great, 12-25, 140 yards, 2 TDs, but he had the Bearcats up 17-10. Following an incompletion early in the 3rd quarter, Pike went off the field holding his previously broken arm. Pike needed surgery on the arm because the plate in his arm was damaged. He missed the next 3 games completely. He returned in front of one of the largest crowds in Nippert Stadium history against West Virginia, but in a closing role. With the Bearcats at the 10, Pike threw the game's first TD to Armon Binns. Early in the 3rd quarter, he hit a 6 yard TD to DJ Woods. Pike went 2-4, 16 yards, 2 TDs. He had 2 weeks to recover before UC played their next game. And he would make history.
UC played host to Illinois the day after Thanksgiving. People wondered if Tony Pike was completely healthy. He responded by throwing a 59 yard TD pass to Ben Guidugli, a 6 yard TD pass to DJ Woods, a 2 yard TD pass to Guidugli, an 11 yard TD pass to Mardy, a 10 yard TD pass to Binns and a 21 yard TD pass to Gilyard. Pike dropped 6 TD passes on the Fighting Illini, a Cincinnati record. He threw for a career high 399 yards on 32-46 passing. It was one of the most incredible games in UC history.
The following week, Pike had a chance to lead the Bearcats to their second straight Big East title at Pittsburgh. Early on, Pike helped UC keep pace by leading a TD drive and a FG drive to see the score at 14-10. Pitt scored another TD, then Pike was picked off. Pitt added 3 more to make it 24-10. The Panthers took advantage of a Jake Rogers miscue on a punt by scoring on a short drive to make it 31-10. Mardy Gilyard took a kick back to make it a 14 point game. Pike threw another pick before for the half that Pitt returned into UC territory, but Aaron Webster picked a pass off in return. Pike helped cut the lead to 7 by hitting Gilyard with a pass that Mardy went 68 yards for a TD with. Pike got picked on a later drive, but Dominique Battle made a huge INT at the UC 7. UC couldn't do anything with the ball and Pitt scored again. But a huge kick return set Pike up to complete 3 straight passes, the 3rd being an 8 yard TD to DJ Woods. Pike picked Pitt's defense apart to get UC in the end zone. He hit Gilyard with a 2 point conversion pass to tie the score. The Panthers scored a TD with 1:36 left, but missed the extra point. With the ball at the 39, Pike hit Gilyard for 7, Woods for 10, Gilyard for 15. That got the Bearcats to the Pitt 29. With 39 seconds left, Pike threw the most beautiful pass in the world that Armon Binns caught for a TD and the Big East Championship. Pike was 22-44, 302, 3 TDs, 3 INTs on the game.
The season for Pike ended on a down note. His numbers looked decent, 27-45, 170 yards, 3 TDs, but he didn't throw any of those TDs until UC was down 37-3. The Bearcats were Gator bait against a much, much better Florida squad.
Tony Pike completed 211-338, 62.4%, for 2,520 yards, 29 TDs and 6 INTs. He ran for 2 TDs. The 29 TD passes are a school record. Pike was first in the Big East in completions, attempts and TDs, second in yards, passing efficiency and adjusted yards per attempt, 4th in yards per attempt and 7th in INTs. Pike with 7th in the NCAA in passing TDs. He was named first team All-Big East. In the last decade, he's 11th in the Big East in TDs with 49.
Why He Made the List
Tony Pike makes this list because he was the center of the best offensive teams that we will probably ever see as Cincinnati fans. Pike broke Cincinnati records and left a big mark on the Bearcats history. You can't think of the rise of Cincinnati football without thinking of Brian Kelly. You can't think of how Brian Kelly's system can look so beautiful without thinking of Tony Pike. Look at how BK is doing at Notre Dame.
The reason Pike ranks so low on the list is rather obvious, he was plagued by injuries. He was in the midst of Heisman buzz when he took his second big injury against USF his senior season. Some of his legacy was hurt by Zach Collaros filling in for him so well and not skipping a beat. But, you can't deny what Pike accomplished. He was a Cincinnati great. Will we see 15 retired? Probably not. But will we look back fondly when we see a 15 jersey? Absolutely.
What He's Doing Now
Pike had a tryout with the Bengals in the spring and is trying to rehab his NFL career. He was drafted in the 6th round of the 2010 draft by the Carolina Panthers. He appeared in 1 game in 2010, going 6-12 for 47 yards. Injured his throwing arm and was released by Carolina. He's on twitter, TPike16.