Duhart's Forced Fumble Keys Defense

After getting run all over the field by Navy just 10 days earlier and struggling during the first half against Cincinnati Saturday, Pitt's defense turned things around and shut out the Bearcats during the second half to give the Panthers a chance to pull out a 24-17 victory at Heinz Field.

Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt, who coached from the press box due to knee and Achilles surgery just a few days earlier, was impressed and a bit confused at the same time.

"I said all last week that our play (in past games) was not an indication of our defense,'' Wannstedt said. "I thought in the second half that the coaches and players did a great job of finding a way to force some turnovers. How? I have no idea, except that the guys were playing hard.''

Cincinnati was ranked 23rd nationally and also had a high-rated offense and defense, but the Panthers made plays against both units. Pitt ran for 260 yards and had 427 total against the Bearcats and outscored them 14-0 in the second half to secure the Big East victory.

"Defensively, we made some plays and capitalized on their mistakes,'' middle linebacker Scott McKillop said. "It put our team in a good position to win the game, and we did it. We had to put pressure on their quarterback. ... I thought we did a good job shutting down their quarterback.''

Pitt actually forced three turnovers in the fourth quarter. Outside linebacker Shane Murray and defensive tackle Tommie Duhart forced fumbles, while cornerback Aaron Berry had an interception. Cornerback Kennard Cox and safety Eric Thatcher had the fumble recoveries.

Duhart's was the most critical, primarily because it followed a Pitt turnover. The Panthers took a shot downfield, and quarterback Pat Bostick threw the ball to the outside, while wideout Oderick Turner went inside to the post. After two short runs, Cincy quarterback Ben Mauk tossed a five-yard pass that would have been enough for the first down, but Earnest Jackson was quickly wrapped up. That wasn't enough for Duhart, who played off his block and finished the play by pounding Jackson to knock the ball loose.

Pitt got within one point with a field goal after that and got the go-ahead touchdown after Murray's forced fumble. Berry's pick gave the ball back to the Panthers offense to seal the win.

"We did a lot of drills in practice on stripping the ball and forcing turnovers, and that was one of the main things that we focused on this week,'' Duhart said. "And it turned out well for us. The turnovers were real big, and what we did in practice showed up in the game. On my play, I saw that guy still standing up, and I just wanted to hit him as hard as I can.

"When I turned around and saw one of my teammates on the ball, it was just a celebration after that. We stepped up against a big-time team today, and that shows we're not dead. We're still here. Pitt is still here, and it's just a matter of time before we beat more ranked teams. As long as we keep working hard, it'll happen. I'm sure of it.''

Duhart continued to say that he and his teammates just got tired of losing. Pitt had lost four straight before it beat Cincinnati.

"When you lose four games in a row, you can start to get down on yourself,'' right offensive tackle Mike McGlynn said. "But when you beat the No. 23 team in the nation, that's big. We've never lost to Cincinnati. We're 7-0 against them now, and we get to keep that River City Rivalry trophy in our house. So, this win really feels great, and we really needed it.''

Bostick, who had his most consistent game, agreed.

"It's big any time you beat a conference opponent and when you beat a ranked team of that caliber,'' Bostick said. "So, this just shows the type of team we can be, and we didn't show that up to this point. But I think we proved a lot out there today.

"So, it felt real good to win this game. We had a lot on our shoulders to get this W, and we also made the statement that we haven't given up on this season. We're still around, and we're not done yet. So, look out for us the rest of the season.''

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