The Cincinnati Bearcats beat the Pitt Panthers, 27-21, in non-conference action on Saturday. Here are three thoughts on the game.
Bearcats Pass The Test
The Bearcats and the Panthers only have a smattering of meetings all-time, and most of them came during their days together in the Big East. But, for the Bearcats, this game meant something after getting an easy win over Eastern Kentucky.
Pitt represented Cincinnati’s first game with a Power 5 opponent since it moved to the Big 12. If you want success in the Power 5, you have to beat Power 5 teams — and not just in your conference.
So, when the Bearcats were up 27-7 in the third quarter, one had to wonder — can the Bearcats slam the door shut? Especially when the game is on the road?
Well, the Panthers didn’t go away. Pitt quarterback Phil Jurovec threw two fourth-quarter touchdowns to cut the Bearcats’ lead to six points with plenty of time to tie or take the lead. The Bearcats didn’t help themselves with three straight punts after taking the 27-7 lead. Then, quarterback Emory Jones threw an interception.
With a chance to tie or take the lead, the Panthers failed to get any points after Cincinnati’s Jack Dingle sacked Jurovec on 4th-and-9 from the Bearcats 28. The Panthers’ gamble for a touchdown didn’t pay off because the Bearcats’ defense came through with a big play.
The Bearcats salted away the final 4:10 of the game to claim the victory. It was a big one for a program that is trying to build confidence going into its first Big 12 season.
Run that Ball (In the First Half)
Cincinnati was up 20-7 at the break and the coaching staff had to be happy with how the Bearcats ran the ball. They racked up 180 yards, with Corey Kiner leading the way with 120, with a long of 68 yards, and a touchdown. The Bearcats averaged nine yards per carry.
You want to play Power 5 football and you need to be able to run the football effectively. For a half, at least, the Bearcats did just that.
Kiner, just 5-foot-9 and 215 pounds, gave Pitt a matchup issue with his speed. Kiner’s rushing touchdown in the first half was for seven yards. His long rush was 68. Take his other six carries and you get 7.5 yards per carry. Nothing about the first half was a fluke. He was consistently a thorn in Pitt’s side. The former LSU player (he started there in 2021) hasn’t rushed for 362 yards in either of his two college seasons.
Unfortunately for the Bearcats, the Panthers shut down their run game in the second half and it had an impact on the game. By game’s end the Bearcats had 216 yards rushing, but only 36 yards in the second half.
Rush That Passer
One of the takeaways for Cincinnati on Saturday was how good its pass rush was against Pittsburgh. The defense ended up with fivs sacks, with Dingle’s sack making the difference. Jowon Briggs, Dontay Corleone and Eric Phillips each had one, while Malik Vann and Daniel Grzesiak shared a sack. The unit also threw in seven tackles for loss.
The Big 12 plays a lot of high scoring games and to win those games, getting pressure on the opposing quarterback is key. The Bearcats showed they could get that pressure on a Power 5 team, and that has the chance to pay off next week against Miami (OH) and in Big 12 play when it starts later this month.
You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.