Pitt Forces 3 Late Turnovers, Earns Upset Win

During its four-game losing streak, the Pitt football team had no interceptions and recovered just one fumble, but Panthers created three turnovers in the fourth quarter to key a 24-17 win against No. 23 Cincinnati Saturday afternoon at Heinz Field.

Pittsburgh (3-4, 1-1 in the Big East) trailed 17-13 through three quarters, but forced a fumble deep in Bearcats territory a few plays in the fourth to set up Conor Lee's 37-yard field goal -- his third without a miss -- and caused another some three minutes later. Aaron Berry also picked off a pass at the end to seal the win.

A 10-play, 61-yard scoring drive that lasted 5:02 followed with junior tailback LaRod Stephens-Howling running it in from the 7. A two-point conversion pass from Pat Bostick to Oderick Turner set the final score.

LaRod Stephens-Howling finished with 100 yards rushing on 13 carries, including a seven-yard scoring run to cap a 10-play, 61-yard drive following the second fumble. A two-point conversion pass from Pat Bostick to Oderick Turner set the final score. LeSean McCoy ran for 137 yards on 25 attempts to help the Panthers run for 260 yards against Cincinnati (6-2, 1-2).

It was the first time since 1988 that Pitt had two 100-yard rushers. Curvin Richards ran for 202, and Darnell Dickerson added 108 against Rutgers.

"It was good to finally be out there again, getting the reps that I'm used to getting,'' Stephens-Howling said, "so it feels great to know that the coaches still have confidence in me. I've been having some bad games, but just to know that they still believe in me feels real good. And that's what kept me trucking today.''

Pitt didn't start off too well against Cincinnati, as Bearcats quarterback Ben Mauck bolted for 55 yards on the first play from scrimmage. He also capped the seven-play, 82-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge. Cincinnati stretched its early advantage to 10-0 after the Panthers were stopped on two runs for no gain after getting third-and-one at their own 28. A pass-interference call cut the short field in half, and Pitt's defense held for a 37-yard field goal.

The Panthers slowly worked their way back in the game after that. Lee boomed a 41-yard field goal in the first quarter, and two personal foul penalties aided a second-quarter drive. McCoy also ran for 21, and Stephens-Howling went for 11 to the 10. Three plays later, on third-and-goal, Bostick connected with tight end Darrell Strong for the four-yard score. Lee's extra point tied the score at 10-10.

"That was a play we've worked on, and Darrell was wide open for the short pass into the end zone,'' Bostick said. "It wasn't a very tough throw.''

Pitt's defense appeared to fold a bit in the final minutes during the first half, as Cincinnati went 79 yards in 10 plays and actually went 87 yards because a three-yard loss and five-yard penalty got things started. But a 29-yard pass got the Bearcats out of trouble, and a 19-yarder a short time later made it first-and-goal. Two plays later, Doug Jones plowed in from the 3.

Cincinnati got the ball back with time running out in the first half and with the help of a 38-yard pass from Mauck to Marcus Barnett got in field-goal range. However, Jake Rogers missed from 26 yards as the half ended.

The second half belonged to Pitt. Lee kicked field goals from 25 and 37 yards, while McCoy and Stephens-Howling ground out the yards. Sophomore wideout T.J. Porter, who started for redshirt junior Marcel Pestano after a good practice week, came through with seven catches for 85 yards. His 34-yard catch set up a Lee field goal. Lee has made 10 straight field goals after missing his first attempt this season

"I feel that any one of our receivers would have made those plays, but I was just in the right spot at the right time,'' Porter said. "I just caught the passes thrown my way. ... I'm not complaining about getting the ball, but I just think we have a lot of depth and anybody could step in and play well with the depth we have at wide receiver.''

Pitt drove out of a deep hole, from its own 1, and got to the Cincy 44. Three plays later, the Panthers punted, but the lengthy drive chewed up a lot of the third quarter. The Pitt defense gave up just 35 yards in the final five series by Cincinnati to give its offense a chance to win the game.

Notes: Pitt is 7-0 all-time against Cincinnati, 3-0 in Big East play. ... It was Pitt's first win against a ranked team since beating No. 21 West Virginia Nov. 25, 2004. ... McCoy has 805 rushing yards and is on pace to be the first 1,000-yard rusher since Kevan Barlow in 2000. ... The only injury was to OG Joe Thomas (strained hamstring). John Bachman finished the game. ... Pitt's Dave Wannstedt coached from the press box after knee and Achilles surgery. ... The attendance was 33,423.

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