‘Cats Keep BCS Dreams Alive

Nippert Stadium's largest crowd in history didn't leave Saturday night disappointed. Before an audience of 35,098 screaming fans, the University of Cincinnati football team won in the River City Rivalry's "Ring of Red" game and against the University of Pittsburgh Panthers for the first time in UC history.

There was no good quick start for the Bearcats on this night, as Pitt marched 69 yards down the field on the game's opening possession and LeSean McCoy ran into the south end zone on a six-yard scamper to put the Panthers on top 7-0 in 10 plays and 5:44 into the game.

The ensuing kickoff and return produced both good and bad news for Bearcat fans. The good news? Marshwan Gilyard's 26-yard return put him on top in the UC record books for the most single season kickoff return yards. The bad news? Gilyard capped off the 26-yard return with a fumble, recovered by Pitt's Nate Nix.

Head coach Brian Kelly would call the ensuing Bearcat defensive stand one of key importance in the game. The ‘Cats forced a three-and-out, keeping the Panthers from going up by two scores early.

Tony Pike then made his way onto the field. This was the true game-changing moment, as Pike would go on to deliver his finest outing to date. Pike completed eight of his nine pass attempts in the offenses initial possession, including a 20-yard touchdown strike to Marcus Barnett, the first score of the sophomore wide out's season.

The remainder of the second and entirety of the third quarter would belong exclusively to the ‘Cats. Tony Pike would go on to complete 26 of his 32 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns, with Gilyard and Dominick Goodman would be his main recipients. Goodman's four-yard touchdown catch with 3:33 to play in the first half moved him into sole possession of first place in the UC record books with 22 career receiving touchdowns.

On the other side of things, Cincinnati's defense held up its end of the bargain. Pitt running back LeSean McCoy, averaging 115.89 yards per game, was held to 82 yards as the Panthers would rush for a total of just 35 yards on the night.

Playing without All-Big East cornerback and UC's career interception leader Mike Mickens, out with a knee sprain, Brandon Underwood took on Kelly's "next man in" approach playing corner and left little to be desired. Panther quarterback Bill Stull would finish the night 18-of-28 passing for 229 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Connor Barwin and the defensive line were able to do their part against Pitt's offensive line to keep Stull under pressure and never able to quite get comfortable. Barwin collected three sacks on the night, giving him a total of ten sacks on the season, his first at the defensive end position. Terrill Byrd added another two sacks while Cedric Tolbert and Corey Smith each had one of their own.

Up three scores in the fourth quarter, this one looked all but over for the Bearcats, but fans who watched the team face West Virginia know it's not over till triple zeroes are on the scoreboard.

McCoy would run in his second touchdown of the night with just over ten minutes to go, and with UC just trying to run out the clock, Pitt would get the ball multiple times with Stull eventually able to hit an open Dorin Dickerson for a 41-yard touchdown bringing the Cincinnati lead to just seven points.

This one had a wild finish with fans, fruit, and pandemonium on the field before it was even over, but at the end of the night, the ‘Cats would hold their lead and beat the Pitt Panthers for the first time in school history, 28-21.

The win gives Cincinnati sole possession of first place in the Big East, where a win next week over Syracuse can guarantee the Bearcats their first BCS bowl appearance in the school's 100+ year history.

The showdown with Syracuse is set to begin at twelve noon Saturday, preceded by UC's Senior Day celebrations.

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