The Tony Pike story begins and pretty much ends with an ultimatum that Brian Kelly gave to Pike during fall camp in 2008. To that point Pike had simultaneously titillated and frustrated two very different offensive coaching staff for the exact same reason. Gregg Forest, the QB coach under Kelly, used to call him the 7 on 7 king because he would effortlessly shred any coverage he saw. But when things went live Pike would go haywire. One day he would display complete control of the offense. The next Pike wouldn't be able to hit water if he was standing in a boat. That meme was the prevailing notion for a long time. Don Treadwell, the former Offensive Coordinator for Mark Dantonio and current Miami head coach. One remarked that Pike was far and away the most talented QB on the roster. He also knew that he simply couldn't play him because he never had any idea what version of Tony Pike would show up that day. The prevailing notion was that Pike simply wouldn't put it together. Ever.
Kelly changed that with a really simple statement, (paraphrasing here) You aren't owed a 5th year. If you want to play show me something. Grutza had all but wrapped up the starting job, last minute hail mary Ben Mauk decision not withstanding. After the ultimatum Kelly gave Pike a week to show him something, anything. And to the surprise of most Pike rose to the occasion. But still the job was Grutza's.
The narrative from here is familiar. Grutza goes down to injury in the Oklahoma game. Pike comes in and performs well under the circumstances but UC still loses. Pike draws the start against Miami, his first since high school. There were some nerves. I wasn't exactly exuding confidence in Pike at this point. But he couldn't have performed better in a demolition of the Redhawks.
Pike looked to be on his way to stellar two year run to wrap up his time as a Bearcat. But it wasn't that simple. It was never simple for Pike. He went down in the Akron game, missed the Marshall and Rutgers contests and was brought back, a little too soon, for the UConn game.
The UConn game was an unmitigated disaster for Pike. In my estimation his worst performance as a Bearcat, because that was a UConn team that UC should have destroyed but nothing went right offensively. Still Pike bounced back nicely for the rest of the year.
The two games that I will always remember Pike for are the 2008 and 2009 Pitt games. The 2008 was his best game as a Bearcat IMO as he absolutely dominated the Panthers in every conceivable way and all but clinched the Big East crown in the process.
The 2009 Pitt game was kind of the essence of Tony Pike. Everything had to go wrong before it could go right.
In the end Pike will always be remembered in Cincy as the best QB since Greg Cook, all due respect Gino Guidugli. Pike simply has to be remembered in those terms because there hasn't been a QB here that has accomplished what Pike did over his final two seasons.
Down The Drive Ring of Honor Nominees
Conor Barwin; Jack of All Trades
Mardy Gilyard; Cincinnati's Dreadlocked Hero
Trent Cole, Cincinnati's Big Game Hunter