Tony Pike had a career night Saturday leading the No. 19 Cincinnati Bearcats (9-2, 5-1) to a 28-21 victory over the No. 20 Pittsburgh Panthers (7-2, 3-2). It was the first win for the Bearcats over the Panthers in eight tries in what has become known as the River City Rivalry, and it couldn't have come at a better time. With the win, Cincinnati is now firmly in the driver's seat to win the BIG EAST Conference title and earn a trip to the Orange Bowl.
The Bearcats have now knocked off three teams in the Top 25 in the last month or so. In addition to that, they have, for the first time in school history, secured all three of their rivalry trophies (Victory Bell from Miami (OH) rivalry, Keg of Nails from Louisville rivalry, River City Rivalry Trophy from Pittsburgh rivalry). The next trophy they're looking to add to their collection is the BIG EAST Conference trophy.
Pike threw three touchdowns to three different receivers Saturday night. He finished the game 26-for-32 for 309 yards. He ran the no-huddle, spread offense to near perfection and showed now ill effects of his broken non-throwing arm that he suffered earlier in the season.
The Bearcats fell behind early 7-0, but they wouldn't stay down or behind for long. Pike led Cincinnati on a 99-yard drive the first time they got the ball. The drive would end with a 20-yard hook-up with Marcus Barnett for a touchdown. From that point the Bearcats' defense took over and kept the Pittsburgh offense off the scoreboard. The Panthers were down 28-7 at one point before they made an attempt at a comeback.
Pittsburgh cut the lead to seven points with 1:22 left to play and then chaos ensued. The defense came up with a huge stop with what looked like the final play of the game and the students and fans rushed the field. The referees stopped them and pushed everyone back as they put four seconds back on the clock. And then chaos happened again.
It appeared that the Bearcats' defense had sacked Panthers' quarterback Bill Stull so the students rushed the field again. But Stull had gotten the ball away and the lateral-fest began, with fans on the field. Oranges were flying all over the place as well. The students turned around and ran back and then stormed the field one more time after the Bearcats recovered the ball on one of the lateral attempts. It was a crazy finish to an amazing night.
With the win, the Bearcats moved up to No. 16 in both the AP poll as well as the BCS rankings. They are one win away from winning the BIG EAST. If they beat Syracuse this coming Saturday afternoon, the BIG EAST title is their's and with that comes a berth in a BCS Bowl, most likely the Orange Bowl in Miami, FL.