Pitt-Cincinnati Notebook

Roc may have been covered in snow during Saturday's game, but that was nothing compared to what his Cincinnati counterpart got mixed up with during Saturday's game.

In the second half, a member of the Cincinnati athletic department informed reporters in the press box that its official mascot had been detained and arrested for throwing snowballs during Saturday's game. A substitute, or backup mascot, was brought in as the original one was sent home after being escorted out of the stadium, and denied re-entry, the same treatment any fan would have received for doing such a thing.

The person in the mascot costume was asked to stop throwing snowballs, at which time the individual--who was not identified--continued to throw snowballs, even shoving the officers on duty before being arrested. It is unknown yet of what kind of penalty the individual will receive, or has received.

In 2005, when still athletic director at Pitt, Jeff Long instituted the "River City Rivalry," in which the annual winner of the Pitt-Cincinnati game received a giant trophy that resemble that of the old steamboats that used to travel between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh on the Ohio River.

After the game, when asked if it felt good to get a win over Cincinnati, after the Bearcats singlehandedly cost the Panthers its last two shots as the Big East's BCS representative. Wannstedt stalled, when trying to think of the name of the trophy, which was last won by the Panthers in 2007.

"We got the (trophy)--I should probably know this, but I don't--it‘ll probably make a story," Wannstedt said. "The bell, the River City Rivalry Trophy. We got the Trophy back."

It's been a hot topic, going back to week one. Is there a rhythm, or a plan on how many carries to get for both Dion Lewis and Ray Graham? Both backs have shared the workload for most of the season, and after Saturday, both have had career days when carrying the ball strictly by themselves.

Saturday, Graham was the one sitting out, as Lewis carried the ball 42 times. Earlier this year, Lewis had to sit out and watch Graham put up 277 yards, second-most in school history. In fact, when Lewis needed a breather, it was Chris Burns who came in the game. Ray Graham didn't take his first carry until the second quarter. Wannstedt said after the game that Graham was limited in practice this week, and he expected that Lewis was going to get the bulk of the reps.

Earlier in the week, Lewis was asked if he'd like to have a big game--a game where he'd be given a big number of carries, like the 42 carries he had Saturday. Looking back on his comments from Wednesday, it's eery seeing as how the game actually played out.

"It would be nice to have a good offensive game that's capable of scoring points," Lewis said then. "We're probably going to try and score as many points as we can on offense. That will help our defense a little bit. We'll see what happens.

"I want (a lot of carries). I've always wanted to get the ball as much as possible and make plays for the team. If that happens, then great. If it doesn't, and we win, then I'll be fine."

Saturday he was asked the same question, and he clearly sounded like a back proud of his 261-yard performance, feeling a sense of accomplishment, and ready for the next challenge or obstacle.

"It feels good to get the ball a lot, to get in a groove," Lewis said. ""It felt good."

Saturday, Lewis showed what he's capable of, what the offense is capable of, and more importantly what Pitt can do when there is one back taking the bulk of the reps, and making the plays. Lewis carried the ball 10 times in the first quarter along. On that 11th carry of the game--the first play of the second quarter--he broke it for a 76-yard touchdown run. By the law of large numbers, he was definitely due for that run--something he or Graham might not have been due for, had they been sharing carries.

Though Wannstedt likes to preach the two-back system, Lewis showed that it's clear to be successful running the ball, Pitt needs to find one back, and stick with him. Graham showed the same earlier this year against Florida International, when he was the one back getting all the carries. He responded with 277 yards.

Pitt's bowl bid will be announced this evening, but with West Virginia's win over Rutgers occurring at the same time as the Panthers' win over Cincinnati, players knew almost immediately that there was no hope for a possible trip to Phoenix for the Fiesta Bowl.

With UConn's win, that BCS bowl bid--a likely trip to the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, now belongs to the Huskies. West Virginia now waits to see if they are heading to the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando. The Mountaineers are only waiting to see if the Champs Sports representatives choose Notre Dame since the Irish have a tie-in with the Big East.

If West Virginia ends up going to the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, that likely opens the door for the Panthers to return to Charlotte, North Carolina for a back-to-back trip to the Meineke Car Care Bowl, against an opponent from the ACC. If Notre Dame ends up in the Champs Sports Bowl, then West Virginia will be the likely choice of the Meineke reps, with Pitt then going to either the Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama against an opponent from the SEC--possibly Georgia, Kentucky or Tenneessee, with Kentucky being the slight favorite for that game. If not the Compass Bowl, the Panthers could slide into a December 21 appearance in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg, Florida, against Southern Miss.

As mentioned in the recap, Max Gruder was responsible for the two first-half turnovers that resulted in touchdowns. It was a career-game for Gruder in that sense, as he recorded the first interception of his career. Still, he gave credit to a pair of his teammates. Gruder's fumble recovery was his second of the season, and third overall for his career.

"I didn't make the play," Gruder said of his turnovers. "I just played off Chas (Alecxih). Chas made a great deflection (on his interception), and Myles had the forced fumble. I just played off of what my teammates did."

Dom DeCicco came up with a couple of big plays on defense; his two fourth-quarter interceptions. Wannstedt said after the game he couldn't have been happier for Dom, after the Cincinnati's lone touchdown pass sailed through his fingers in the end zone.

"Dom DeCicco, I couldn't be happier for a guy," Wannstedt said. "You talk about a guy who has paid his price around here. To end his regular-season career the way he did, was just outstanding."

A number of players were out with the first group, and even some longer than expected. For example, K'Waun Williams filled in for Antwuan Reed at corner, starting with the second series of the game. Reed left the game with a concussion, and did not return.

In Reed's absence, Williams played practically a full game as if he was a starter. In the third quarter, Cincinnati quarterback Zach Collaros aimed a deep ball intended for Armon Binns. Though he had help on the play from safety Jarred Holley, Williams' timing was perfect. He had tight coverage on Binns, turned and looked at the exact right moment and tipped the pass away.

Another freshman played a great number of snaps, and that was defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Myles Caragein was helped off the field by the trainers, who were initially looking at his left knee. Wannstedt said after the game it's too early to determine the severity of Caragein's injury, but he also praised Donald for the job he did on Saturday.

Aside from Pitt using the three tackles--Caragein, Alecxih and Donald in place of the injured Caragein, Bryan Murphy was Pitt's third defensive end on the day, though he played very limited reps.

Jason Hendricks got "a little banged up" according to Wannstedt, which resulted in Andrew Taglianetti filling that safety spot for much of the game. Hendricks--like Reed--went down early in the game, meaning Taglianetti also played like a full-time starter. He finished the game with three tackles, including one tackle for a loss on Cincinnati running back Isaiah Pead.

Pitt had one of its best performances on third down all season long, converting 9-of-16 third down opportunities. Six of those nine converted first downs were completions to the receivers. The other three were touchdown runs by Dion Lewis. While Lewis carried three times for 104 yards and three touchdowns on third down, Jon Baldwin looked every bit of the role of go-to receiver on Saturday. Baldwin led Pitt with five catches for 57 yards. Three of his receptions converted third downs into first downs, and went for a total of 47 yards.

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