Pitt Falls to Cincinnati 27-21

Cincinnati RB Corey Kiner ran for 153 yards as the Bearcats defeated the Pitt Panthers 27-21 (Vince Butts/UMT Sports)

By Ray Porter Jr

PITTSBURGH, PA–After their 45-7 victory over Wofford the Pitt Panthers were expecting to keep the success going as the Cincinnati Bearcats came into town. Unfortunately, it did not end up being a successful night for the Panthers as they fell to the Bearcats 27-21 at Acrisure Stadium.

“Obviously not happy with the performance out there today. I thought we played a better second half. But we didn’t make enough plays,” said Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi. “The game of football is opportunities, and we had opportunities out there. We didn’t make a play. I thought we started off defensively, just couldn’t make a play. Didn’t stop their run. If you don’t stop their run and you don’t run the football, it’s hard to win the game. Didn’t get any turnovers in the first half.”

What doomed the Panthers was their inability to keep up with the Bearcats in the first half. Cincinnati stormed to a 10-0 lead on their first two plays, and even though Pitt closed the deficit to 10-7 in the first quarter as QB Phil Jurkovec found WR Kunta Mumfield for a 5-yard TD, that would be the only time they would score in the first half as QB Jurkovec and the offense were unable to get into a good rhythm-which is a dangerous place to be against a team like the Bearcats, who went into the half with a 20-7 lead on TDs by RB Payten Singletary and 2 FGs by K Carter Brown. It got even worse in the 3rd quarter as the Bearcats added another TD (QB Emory Jones to WR Braden Smith) to extend their lead to 27-7.

“I think first thing, it starts with the offensive line. It takes 11. Everybody is going to point at the quarterback. He’ll get all the glory when you win football games,” Narduzzi said. “He’s a great quarterback; got a lot of faith in him.

And we’ll check out the videotape. Again, I told our guys, this is the opener. The opener wasn’t last week; today was the opener, and you find out where you are and where your weaknesses are. We didn’t see any weaknesses. You guys didn’t see any weaknesses. We made some improvements in special teams, I think. But again, it’s a good football team. They know how to win, and Coach Satterfield does a nice job.”

But then the Panthers made adjustments as the defense did not allow the Bearcats to score again the rest of the game and Jurkovec and the offense went to work as he threw 2 TD passes (one to Mumfield and another to TE Gavin Bartholomew) to close the deficit to 27-21 in the 4th quarter. The Panthers’ defense also forced a turnover as DB Marquis Williams picked Jones off late in the 4th quarter. All signs were pointing to the Panthers taking a possible lead to close out the game, but Jurkovec and the Panthers failed to execute and convert on 4th down. On the ensuing (and final) drive, Jones and the Bearcats converted 2 first downs to close out the game as the Panthers were out of timeouts.

“Again, the big thing is our guys didn’t quit. When everybody would have thought, okay, it’s not looking good, our guys are coming back, and we’ve got a chance to win the game. If we don’t miss a field goal early in the game, we’re in field goal range, we’re tying it up and we’re going to overtime, and you guys are working overtime. But we didn’t make enough plays,” Narduzzi commented.

“But there was too much pressure. Phil got sacked five times. That can’t happen. When was the last time we won a game with five sacks on the quarterback. We’ve got to shore up the protection. We’ve got an idea where we are now, what we have to do to protect the quarterback, and that was one of our goals going in is to make sure we protected the quarterback, and we did not do that.”

Jurkovec finished passing for 179 yards (10/32) with 3 TDs. The running game had a total of 83 yards (led by C’Bo Flemister’s 43), and Bartholomew led with 80 receiving yards on 3 receptions, including a 68-yarder that set up their 2nd score of the game. For the Bearcats, Jones passed for 125 yards, 2 TDs, and an INT. Kiner led all rushers with 153 yards and a TD and Smed led with 59 yards on 5 receptions.

The Panthers must now learn from this loss and prepare to travel to Morgantown to face the West Virginia Mountaineers who defeated another Pittsburgh team in a 56-17 rout over Duquesne.

“Again, I give Cincinnati credit. They’re a good football team, as we know,” said Narduzzi. “They were in the playoff a year ago, so it’s a good football team. They’ll win a lot of games in the Big 12. Again, it’s a non-conference game is the way I look at it, and then we’ve got West Virginia this week, so that’s where our focus will go.”

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