(Saturday, November 22nd)
Final Score: (19) Cincinnati 28, (20) Pittsburgh 21
Cincinnati, OH (Sports Network) - Tony Pike picked apart the Panthers secondary for 309 yards and three touchdowns, as the 19th-ranked Cincinnati Bearcats recorded a 28-21 victory over No. 20 Pittsburgh in a spirited Big East Conference battle.
The victory was Cincinnati's first in eight all-time contests against the Panthers and fourth straight overall for the up-and-coming program.
Mardy Gilyard and Dominick Goodman each caught a touchdown pass while logging 110 and 101 receiving yards, respectively, for Cincinnati (9-2, 5-1 Big East), which, with a win over Syracuse next weekend, will wrap up its first-ever Big East title.
"The way I look at it, for me as a head coach, you don't enjoy the ride until you get there," a focused Brian Kelly of Cincy said. "We want to get to the Orange Bowl. We want to get to that destination. I'm going to get up early and start working on Syracuse. We have enough time to enjoy it later. I enjoyed it a little bit. It was a great atmosphere, for me, I won't take that in till I see the replays on television."
LeSean McCoy toted the ball 17 times for 82 yards and two touchdowns and logged a team-high six catches for 45 yards for Pittsburgh (7-3, 3-2), which was outgained 396-264 in losing its first road game of the season.
Bill Stull connected on 18-of-28 passes for 229 yards with a touchdown and an interception in defeat.
Cincy built on its 14-7 halftime lead with a quick scoring strike after the kickoff. Gilyard got behind the secondary, and Pike, who completed an impressive 26-of-32 passes, lofted a 39-yard TD to the speedy receiver 2:42 into the third.
The Bearcats bounced back after Jake Rogers had his 50-yard field goal attempt blocked, as Pike orchestrated a nine-play, 77-yard drive that spanned both the third and fourth quarters. Pike was 5-for-5 on the march, and let Jacob Ramsey finish things off with a two-yard run to the end zone.
The score came just 45 seconds into the final quarter, and McCoy helped bring the Panthers within striking distance on a 16-yard touchdown around the right end four minutes later, making the score 28-14.
The Panthers couldn't get anything going on their next drive but gave the Bearcats a scare when Dorin Dickerson hauled in a 41-yard TD with 1:22 to play.
Cincy recovered the ensuing onside kick, and Pitt's attempt at a miracle ending came up short, as the Cincinnati faithful stormed the field to celebrate the next step to a conference championship.
"Our kids were working too hard. And I know they wanted to do it then we went flat for about two and a half quarters," Pitt head coach Dave Wannstedt said. "Even when we came out in the third quarter. We didn't have anything going then all of the sudden in the fourth quarter we come alive and it's too late. In my estimation we probably played the first eight minutes of the game and the last eight minutes of the game. Everything in between we didn't make anything happen."
McCoy and the Panthers went right down the field after the opening kickoff and scored on the running back's six-yard run.
Gilyard fumbled the ensuing kickoff at his own 34, but a pair of sacks forced Pitt to punt.
Pike answered in the second quarter with scoring strikes down the middle to Marcus Barnett -- for 20 yards -- and Goodman -- from four yards out -- with the latter coming with 3:33 to play in the half.
Pitt closes out its regular season with contests against West Virginia and Connecticut in the next two weeks...Pike also led the Bearcats in rushing with 33 yards on nine carries...Cincy recorded seven sacks for 41 yards...The attendance of 35,098 marked the largest crowd in Cincinnati history at Nippert Stadium.
11/23 01:38:19 ET