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This just in, that Collaros guy is pretty good

November 9, 2009
By MIKE MATHISON, Sports editor

Every year us sportswriters get together to choose the Eastern District football teams in Ohio. And, every year, we have to nominate a player for Mr. Football in Ohio.

Three years ago I nominated a kid named Zach Collaros. At the time, he was 25-0 as the regular starting quarterback for Steubenville Big Red and was about to become the first quarterback in Ohio high school history to lead his football team to back-to-back undefeated state championship seasons.

Another writer nominated another player and there was actually some discussion on which one we should nominate.

I still cannot believe there actually was something more than a 15-second conversation.

Be that as it may, Collaros was the Eastern District's nominee for the award, which eventually went to Brandon Saine, now at Ohio State.

Taking nothing away from Saine, I wrote then and I am writing now that Collaros should have been the choice.

Three years later, that other kid is no longer in football, Saine is still a Buckeye and Collaros is tearing up the collegiate football scene at No. 5 Cincinnati.

Collaros took over in the middle of the game at the University of South Flordia, when regular quarterback Tony Pike was injured, and led the Bearcats to a win.

He was 4 for 7 for 72 yards and an interception. He also ran the ball 10 times for 132 yards and a score.

In his three starts since, Collaros is 66 for 82 (80 percent), 1,028 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions.

The sophomore signal-caller set a Big East Conference record with 555 yards of total offense (480 passing, 75 rushing) in Saturday's 47-45 victory against the University of Connecticut.

He was 29-of-37 for 480 yards and one TD through the air and carried the ball 13 times for 75 yards and two touchdowns. His 480 yards passing was the fourth 400-yard passing game in school history and ranks second all-time in Cincinnati history behind Greg Cook who threw for 554 against Ohio in 1968.

Collaros is one of four finalists for this week's AT&T All-America Player of the Week Award.

He joins Stanford running back Toby Gerhart, Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward, and Texas wide receiver Jordan Shipley in this week's top-four.

"I'd have to be a real bummer to pick apart his performance," Bearcats coach Brian Kelly said after the game. "He sees the field extremely well and made plays all over the place.

"He has great help with receivers, and great balance. I don't know what else you can say offensively.

"With all that offense, we didn't turn the ball over and I think that says a lot about the discipline that we had tonight."

Things haven't always been this way for Collaros at Cincinnati.

"It (waiting) was frustrating to him," Big Red coach Reno Saccoccia said of Collaros. "We've talked a lot. The tougher the times got, the tougher he got. He waited his turn. The toughest time for him was down at Marshall last year when he was expecting to start and didn't.

"He has fought through all of the frustration. He has fought through some tough times. He stuck with it and his sticktoitiveness has paid off.

"Zach is a very confident young man. He's cocky, but in a good way. He is team cocky - not as an individual. He knows he can get a team to rally around him. The best thing I can say is he makes everyone around him better, including his coaches.

"Nothing he does surprises me. I have learned when you coach kids sometimes you know them better than their parents know them. Sometimes waiting brings out the best in you."

Saccoccia also credits Big Red assistant coach Mike Haney with his work with Collaros.

"Zach and Mike had a really good relationship here," said Saccoccia. "They worked hard together. Most people don't know this, but Mike spent about four years playing football and coaching in Europe. He is a good technician. He is good with the little things.

"He and Zach really took to each other. The little things Zach does well is because he and Mike worked together for two years."

Congratulations to the Weir High boys and girls soccer teams for making it to Beckley.

Although the outcome wasn't what neither wanted, both losing to Charleston Catholic, the teams have set the bar high for their respective programs when it comes to making it to the state tournament.

The Lady Red Riders have lost two years in a row to the Irish. The boys lost in the finals this season after dropping a semifinal contest a year ago.

After watching 340 minutes of soccer, I want to know if the WVSSAC is getting the best of the best to don the stripes and the whistle in the state championship contests, including the semifinals?

And, if not, why not?

I also say this about every other sport in West Virginia and Ohio - football, basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, etc...

Are the best officials in the state working the semfinals and finals?

It is unfair to the kids if those blowing the whistles are not the best of the best.

As anybody who has read this column, I understand the plight of officials. I understand the job is not easy.

You cannot expect the two best teams in the state to play their best and not give them the best in officiating.

My biggest complaint with soccer reared its ugly head over the weekend and her name is Elizabeth Lambert.

By now most people have seen the ESPN footage of the University of New Mexico player and her Thursday antics that, at any other place, would be considered criminal.

She was suspended Friday by the school.

Look, plain and simple, the girl should never be allowed to put on a uniform again to represent the university. Keep her on scholarship and let her attend school to get her degree.

Besides that, though, I have a few other questions.

Where was the New Mexico coach during all of this?

"Liz is a quality student-athlete, but in this instance her actions clearly crossed the line of fair play and good sportsmanship," New Mexico coach Kit Vela said.

Dear coach, you obviously didn't seem to mind her actions until her yellow card in the 77th minute.

Where were her teammates during all of this?

Teammates cannot be afraid to challenge a teammate when their actions are hurting the team.

Where were the four referees during all of this?

Yes, four - referee, two assistant referees and one on the sideline.

"My actions were uncalled for," Lambert said in a statement released by New Mexico. "I let my emotions get the best of me in a heated situation.

"This is in no way indicative of my character or the soccer player I am. I am sorry to my coaches and teammates for any and all damages I have brought upon them. I am especially sorry to BYU and the BYU women's soccer players that were personally affected by my actions."

Let's get this straight, it is indicative of her character. In the media guide it says, "is fearless when making a challenge."

She is sorry because she got caught and what would have happened if this game was not on television?

Referees are too lenient when it comes to players beating the tar out of each other playing soccer.

I understand the tugs, pulls and other things that go on.

I watched my nephew play four years as a starter on the University of Pittsburgh's soccer team. I watched guys get after it pretty good, but nothing like this.

This gets down to an adult problem - coaches and referees letting it go.

Wonder if mom and dad were really proud of their daughter when this hit the airwaves?

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at

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