CINCINNATI – Just when it seemed like Tony Pike was torching Pitt with his arm, the Cincinnati quarterback showed off his fleet feet to keep the Bearcats’ offense moving.
Pike ran for 11 yards on a draw, then gained 10 yards on a keeper that set up his 39-yard touchdown pass to Mardy Gilyard to give No. 19 Cincinnati a 21-7 lead over No. 20 Pitt after three quarters of the River City Rivalry before a sellout crowd at Nippert Stadium in a pivotal Big East game.
Cincinnati scored on a six-play, 62-yard drive to open the second half and had the ball at the Pitt 28 when it ended. A victory over Pitt will put the Bearcats in position to claim the Big East title by beating Syracuse.
Cincinnati had a 14-7 halftime lead, thanks to second-quarter scoring drives of 99 and 83 yards.
Pinned by a Dave Brytus punt at its 1-yard line, Cincinnati responded with a 16-play drive that covered 99 yards and seven minutes, 54 seconds, and saw the Bearcats convert three third-and-longs and a fourth-and-short.
Pike completed a 12-yard pass to Marcus Barnett on third-and-10 at the Pitt 49 and a 5-yarder to Dominick Goodman on fourth-and-1 at the Pitt 28 before the first quarter ended, then found Barnett on third-and-9 at the 21 before Pitt defensive end Jabaal Sheard could get to the ball.
The Bearcats took the lead on an 11-play, 83-yard drive highlighted by Goodman turning an inside slant on a third-and-4 into a 33-yard gain to the Pitt 6. Three plays later, Pike found Goodman standing all alone in the back of the end zone for a touchdown with 3:33 remaining in the half.
Pitt scored on its opening possession, a 10-play, 69-yard drive capped by McCoy’s 6-yard run. Bill Stull completed a 21-yard pass to Oderick Turner on third-and-13, and Aundre Wright drew a holding penalty by safety Cedric Tolbert on a third-and-4 at the 12 to set up McCoy’s scoring run that gave the Panthers a 7-0 lead with 9:20 remaining in the first quarter.
Cincinnati’s Mardy Gilyard was stripped by Antwuan Reed on the ensuing kickoff, and Nate Nix recovered at the Bearcats’ 34. The Panthers lost 12 yards over the next four plays and were forced to punt, which was downed at the Cincinnati 1 by Michael Toerper.