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Friday Q&A: Cincinnati's Tony Pike

9/18/2009



Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Tony Pike is off to a monstrous start for Cincinnati. The senior quarterback has completed 77.2 percent of his passes while throwing for 591 yards and six touchdowns in less than five quarters of action this season. Pike will try to guide the Bearcats to a win at Oregon State on Saturday, but first he had to tackle our Friday Q&A:

What's the feeling like on the team given the great start you guys have had?

Tony Pike: Obviously, it's been a great way to start the season. But we've been talking about it in the locker room. It's only two games, and we've got 10 more to play. And right now we've got to keep our focus. We know we're going out to Oregon State, where it will be a hostile environment and a tough place to get a win.

How much can a win out there make people pay attention to this team?

TP: I think, obviously, with the No. 17 ranking, that shows that some other people outside of Ohio are starting to take notice of us. And that's a great honor for us. But at the same time, we're not worrying about where we're at right now. We want to be up there at the end of the year.

What will you do to pass the time on that long flight to Corvallis? Any worries about jet lag?

TP: Hopefully they'll be showing a good movie. If not, then I might play some cards with some guys, maybe take a little nap. Play it by ear and see how you're feeling on the plane. I think we were all right going to Hawaii last year, so we should be fine.

Is it important for you guys to get a big nonconference win? Last year, you lost to Oklahoma and Virginia Tech.

TP: Absolutely. The Big East has been kind of taking some hits this offseason, with people talking about its BCS berth. It's a huge opportunity for us playing against a Pac-10 team. That's a dominant league, and Oregon State beat USC last year. So this would be huge for the Big East and huge for our program to get a nonconference win over the caliber of program like Oregon State.

You and the offense have made things look so effortless this year so far, though I'm sure it's not. How does it feel to be guiding such a precise attack right now?

TP: I think the biggest thing is we're sticking with the game plan that we put in all week and worked on all offseason. We're staying with our reads and doing what we've been coached to do, and I think last year when we deviated from that, we got in some trouble. And maybe we got rattled a little bit and tried to branch out on our own. This year, I think the first two games showed us the success we can have if we stick to what the coaches have been driving into us all offseason. Hopefully we got it in our heads so if we do face some rough times, we'll do what we're coached to do and everything will come out all right.

It seemed to me last year that you had a tendency to force some throws at times, which sometimes worked out and sometimes didn't. It doesn't seem like you've done that this year. Is that a fair thing to say?

TP: Sometimes last year I was living dangerously too much, and that's something you don't want to do as a quarterback. And we did a good job in the offseason of all sitting down and looking at that stuff and really understanding that, yeah, we forced it here and we might have completed it, but if you go through your progressions a little bit more you've got a wide-open receiver standing there. I think that's the biggest thing, just understanding your reads and knowing somebody is open on the field.

You've got great field vision at your size and can make all the throws. Is that something that's hard to learn, that you can't try and make all the difficult throws?

TP: I think it is. I think last year I got to a level where maybe I was too confident in making throws or hitting receivers. Where as a quarterback, you need confidence, but you need to be smart with it. The biggest thing is, like I said, staying with what we've been taught.

Your coach, Brian Kelly, is personable and funny with the media. Is he like that with you guys, telling jokes and stuff, or is he more intense and business-like?

TP: Off the field, he'll joke with us. On the field, I think he reads how practice is going. I think he understands if we're out here practicing hard, then maybe he can relax a little bit and let us lead the practice. But if he sees us slowing up and not where we need to be, he can jump into us and get us going. He definitely knows when to wake us up.

What do you remember about the win over Oregon State in 2007? That was the team's first big win under Kelly.

TP: I just remember it was a crazy night here at Nippert (Stadium). I think that game put us on the map and showed people they can't take us lightly, they have to come in and try to outwork us. I think we used that as a springboard to where we are now.