Not So Perfect - But Perfect

The game may not have been a thing of beauty but the outcome was "Perfect" as the University of Cincinnati football team posted a perfect season by beating Pittsburgh 45-44 in front of 63,387 fans at Heinz Field.

With snow flurries flying the University of Cincinnati football teams looked to match Pittsburgh score for score. After the first quarter it was still any body's game, but that was soon to change as the Panthers posted 24 second quarter points.

But like most of the Bearcats season, Mardy Gilyard looked to give the team a spark before going into the half and showed why he'll go down as one of the Bearcats all-time most exciting players with a 99-yard kickoff return with 1:10 left in the quarter. It would not be the last time Gilyard would play a factor in the game.

But if Pitt fans were excited and thinking about grabbing a share of the Big East title and BCS berth with the Panthers going in with a 31-17 lead, they soon learned why the Bearcats entered the game with a perfect mark.

Mardy Gilyard reared his head aging with a 68-yard touchdown reception with 8:12 left in the third quarter and the Bearcats felt they were back in business with a chance to charge back before the game ended.

The fourth quarter may go down in UC and Pitt lore as punches were traded with Pitt getting a second touchdown from Dion Lewis early in the quarter only to have the Bearcats storm back down the field and score on Tony Pike to D.J. Woods touchdown.

But this is where the lore part enters the game. With a poor snap Bearcats kicker Jake Rogers hit the upright and watched as the ball bounced back onto the Heinz Field turf.

As Bearcat fans felt the wind coming out of their sails, Panther faithful felt this would be the last dagger the Bearcats could take. But the Bearcats proved they'd still had a life and made a defensive stop and starting a drive with 8:54 left in the game.

In just over three-minutes the Bearcats would see Isaiah Pead cross the goal line and the Bearcats had to go for a 2-point conversion to tie the game. Tony Pike's pass to Mardy Gilyard in the middle of the end zone was good and the game was back where it hadn't been since the first quarter.

The Panthers responded with a strong drive as Dion Lewis scored his third touchdown of the day with 1:36 left on the clock. But while the Panthers started to feel they had closed down the Bearcats for good, Andrew Janocko was not able to get the snap down and was tackled giving the Bearcats to score and hit an extra point for the win.

It didn't take long for Gilyard to give the Bearcats good field position as he returned the kick 26 yards to the 31-yard line. It was here that Tony Pike would make up for his sluggish day needing only five plays before hitting Armon Binns for a 29-yard touchdown leaving only the extra point and a few seconds left on the clock.

Rogers made the kick and the Bearcats had their first lead with only 33 seconds left for the Panthers to make another stab of earning a share of the Big East title.

After three incomplete passes by Bill Stull, the Bearcats defense got it's biggest sack of the season pulling down the Panthers quarterback for an 8-yard loss leaving only a victory formation by the Bearcats to close out a perfect regular season at 12-0 and hopes of a Texas loss to put them in the National Championship game.

Brian Kelly said after the game that last years Orange Bowl loss payed dividends in todays win.

"Tony Pike stuck with it today. Early on, we threw three passes inside the 10 and we threw all imcompletes. He just stuck with it and kept telling the receivers that he would get them the ball. I think that he's matured since last season's Orange Bowl."

Kelly was also not interested in talking about rumors of him talking with Notre Dame as he wanted to cherish the success of his teams perfect season. He also used this time to scold a few members of the media for just putting out stuff they have no knowledge about.

The Bearcats finish a perfect regular season and will learn Sunday night where they'll be playing in the Bowl Championship Series. Could the football gods put the Bearcats in the national title game? We'll have to wait and see.

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