After starting off fast, Pitt fell short against the surging Cincinnati Bearcats on Saturday night, 26-23. Pitt led 16-13 at halftime and after an early second half touchdown, took a ten point lead. Unfortunately, though, that would be the end of the scoring for Pitt as they watched Cincinnati score 13 unanswered points on their way to the win.
For quarterback Tino Sunseri, it was a tale of two halves. In the first half, he outplayed Cincinnati’s Zach Collaros and looked sharp. Sunseri was 10-14 for 124 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions to Collaros’ 11-16 for 106 yards and one interception. The second half was an entirely different story, though.
Sunseri threw for only 94 more yards the rest of the way. He did throw a touchdown pass, but also threw a pick while having several balls nearly picked off. Sunseri also took several sacks and made poor decisions down the stretch as he was unable to lead Pitt to any more points after that early touchdown just after halftime.
Pitt was clearly at a disadvantage, playing without Ray Graham. They relied on the tandem of Zach Brown and freshman Issac Bennett. By getting into a game for the first time this season, Bennett’s redshirt has officially been lost. The duo ran for only 80 yards, but Pitt was determined to utilize the passing game a bit more as they only ran 17 times. Part of that, though, was also dictated by the fact that Pitt was playing from behind on their last few drives and throwing the ball more.
One beneficiary of that was wide receiver Devin Street, who had his second 100-yard game of the season catching eight passes for 118 yards.
For the Panthers, playing from behind resulted in the same outcome as the Iowa and Notre Dame games. When Pitt has needed a late drive to win a game, they’ve been unable to make enough plays. The Panthers did at least get close for a long Kevin Harper attempt, but pinning your hopes on a 50+ field goal at the end of a game is a bleak proposition.
Pitt played well against Collaros forcing him into two interceptions, but couldn’t shut down Isaiah Pead who, with the injury to Ray Graham, clearly is the best back in the Big East. Pead ran for 118 yards on the night and Pitt had a hard time containing him.
At 4-5, Pitt is not only far back out of the Big East race, but getting to bowl-eligible status is still a question mark. Playing Lousiville, West Virginia, and Syracuse to finish the season, the Panthers will face three teams with winning records. To make matters worse, two of those games (West Virginia and Louisville) will be on the road.
There’s still a chance to make an impact this season, but hopes of winning the Big East championship may have ended with the loss to the Bearcats.