Mike Phillips, right, and Kennard Cox, left, break up a pass in the end zone intended for Cincinnati wide receiver Dominick Goodman in the first quarter. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Oct. 20, 2007
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Two weeks ago Cincinnati was one of the most surprising teams in the nation, undefeated and thinking about championships.
After a 24-17 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday, the No. 23 Bearcats are tied for last place in the Big East.
"What you saw out there was a poorly coached football team and that stops and starts with me," first-year coach Brian Kelly said after his team allowed two 100-yard rushers and was shut out in the second half. "We were poorly prepared and we didn't execute in any facet of our game... I hold myself accountable for the game today."
LaRod Stephens-Howling rushed for 100 yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown with 5:03 to play and LeSean McCoy had 137 yards on 25 carries as Pitt (3-4, 1-1 Big East) beat a ranked team for the first time since 2004.
The Panthers, who had lost four in a row, took their first lead when Stephens-Howling scored on a 7-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Cincinnati was coming off its first loss in 10 games after being beaten by Louisville. The Bearcats' No. 15 ranking heading into that game was their highest in 53 years.
Pitt had lost nine of its last 10 to major college teams.
"We knew we had a lot on our shoulders to get this W," Stephens-Howling said. "So we can get out of the hole, one, and then also make a statement that we haven't given up on our season. That let's people know we're still coming out every week to play."
Cincinnati (6-2, 1-2) entered with the Big East's best rushing defense but Pitt ended up with two 100-yard rushers in a game for the first time since Curvin Richards (202) and Darnell Dickerson (108) did it against Rutgers on Nov. 5, 1988.
"We are going to win right now with our running game," said Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt, who was confined to the press box after tearing his left Achilles' tendon and needing arthroscopic knee surgery earlier in the week.
Stephens-Howling started the pervious two seasons but was passed on the depth chart this fall by McCoy, a highly touted freshman from Harrisburg. It was Stephens-Howling's first 100-yard game of the season and McCoy's fourth.
"It's big to have two runners over 100 yards," McCoy said. "LaRod motivates me all the time. I know how good he is. When he gets the ball, he knows what to do. The line did a great job today."
Ben Mauk was 21-of-32 for 237 yards and rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown for the Bearcats, who uncharacteristically had three turnovers in the fourth quarter.
Panthers freshman Pat Bostick, making his Big East debut, was 18-for-29 for 165 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
It appeared the Bearcats were on their way to a rout when Mauk took Cincinnati's first play from scrimmage a career-high 55 yards and then scored on a 1-yard sneak in the first quarter. After the Panthers were stopped on fourth-and-inches at their own 28, Jake Rogers' 37-yard field goal gave Cincinnati a 10-0 lead with 8:05 into the game.
Pitt, playing a ranked team for the first time this season, answered with two scores and tied it midway through the second quarter when Bostick threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Darrell Strong, the only passing play of a 67-yard drive.
"It makes your job a lot easier when you have two (running backs) playing the way they were and the line playing the way it was," Bostick said.
Doug Jones' second carry of the season was good for a 3-yard touchdown run 4 1/2 minutes later that gave Cincinnati a 17-10 lead.
Rogers missed a 26-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, and Lee cut the deficit to four with a 25-yard field goal with 8:01 left in the third quarter.
"We shot ourselves in the foot today for sure," said Mauk, whose team had 12 penalties for 98 yards. "There were a lot of things that went wrong."
Cincinnati entered the game fourth in the nation in turnover margin, and the Panthers were 110th in forcing turnovers with six. But Dominick Goodman's fumble after a reception at the Cincinnati 17 early in the fourth quarter led to Lee's third field goal.
The Bearcats turned it over again on the ensuing drive when Butler Benton fumbled after a 24-yard run. That led to Stephens-Howling's touchdown and a 2-point conversion pass.
With 2:48 remaining, Mauk threw an interception on what would turn out to be Cincinnati's final play.
"Our football team did not play up to its capabilities today," Kelly said. "That was a sloppy game by a poorly coached team. It stops and starts with me and I deserve all the criticism."
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