As most of you who are reading this already know, the Bearcats capped off a magical undefeated regular season today in the most exciting of ways. They went into a hostile environment at Heinz Field, overcame a 21 point deficit, and took the Big East Title for the second straight year. Though, I normally do not discuss Bearcat athletics on the blog, today there will be an exception. I am going to give you a chronicle of my day and a recap of the game.
So my alarm went off at 4:15 this morning. Most people are not excited to get up this early, but on this day I was. This day had been circled on my calendar since the schedule had been officially released last spring. The bus departed from Clifton at approximately 5:37 and we were on our way to Pitt. Normally around a 4 hour trip, due to heavy snow, and many accidents on the highway, we walked into the stadium right at kickoff. At first glance, I was dumbfounded by the neat look of Heinz Field and had to stand and take it in for a minute. Pictures of legends like Mike Ditka, Tony Dorsett, and Dan Marino were plastered all over the place. After taking this all in for a second, I sprinted to my seat with my buddies.
Along with 50 of my fraternity brothers, we took our place in Section 218 in the middle of thousands of hostile Pittsburgh fans. The first half was an extremely unusual half for the Bearcats. Pittsburgh came out looking like the dominant team that was undefeated, immediately taking a commanding lead on the Bearcats. For much of the first half, in very rare fashion, the Bearcat offense sputtered, while Dion Lewis ran the ball down the Bearcat defense’s throat. With 1:26 left in the half, Pitt had just taken a commanding 31-10 lead over my beloved Bearcats and I cannot describe to you how upset I was. I saw our perfect season going down the drain.
On the ensuing kickoff, the go to guy for the Bearcats all year came up with possibly the biggest play of his career. Yes sir, Mr. Gilyard took the kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, making the score 31 to 17. Without this dynamite run by Gilyard, the Bearcats chances of coming back in this one were slim to none. Pittsburgh was rolling both offensively and defensively, they had the home crowd, snowy weather, and just had the appearance of a team ready to take a Big East Title.
At halftime, I scurried to the nearest concession stand and grabbed a hot dog. I was still very upset, but feeling much better about our chances in that Mardy had stolen some of the momentum back for the Cats. While eating my hotdog, I sat in my seat wondering what BK was preaching to his players. I will probably never know exactly what he said, but BK and the coaching staff lit a fire under the team and they came out rejuvenated and ready to play Bearcat football in the second half. The defense looked great, while the offense little by little began to click like the offense we are accustomed to seeing. It would be impossible for me to describe the roller coaster that went on in the second half in words. But either way, lets just say, I ended up extremely happy, when Tony Pike had trips left, saw the Pitt free safety shift towards the trips, and hit Armon Binns with a picture perfect TD pass with 33 seconds left. Binns thrives in the isolation booth and things proved no different on this afternoon.
After the game, most Bearcat fans remained in the stadium, sang the fight song and just took in the events that had just transpired. We were all high fiving, hugging, and yelling at anybody that we saw in red or black. To simply describe the moment, it was euphoric. I do not think there is another way to paint the picture for you. The Bearcats were 2 time Big East Champions and heading to their 2nd consecutive BCS Bowl Game!
Eventually we boarded the buses and sat in very heavy traffic leaving the city. Most of the guys on the bus immediately got out their Blackberries and were following the stats of the Florida-Bama game. Halfway through the ride, Tim Tebow was blubbering, and Texas was getting set to take on Nebraska.
We arrived back in Clifton around 11. I scurried back to my apartment and caught the 4th quarter of the Nebraska vs Texas game. Nebraska made it very interesting and really should have won the game. Unfortunately, due to a blunder by their kicker and an ill-advised horse collar penalty, Colt McCoy and the Longhorns escaped by the slimmest of margins with a 46 yard field goal as time expired.
All directions at the time pointed to the Bearcats having a date on Bourbon Street with Tim Tebow and the powerful Gator attack. I went to sleep thinking what could be better than knocking off Tim Tebow, arguably the greatest College Football player of all time, in his final game on national television?
By far, today, was my greatest day as a Bearcat, and a day that I will never forget.
I know that this is turning into a very long issue so I am going to keep the recap short. First of all lets look at some numbers:
89 total points! 5 turnovers! 740 yards of total offense! A blocked punt! 2 mixed extra points in the 4th Quarter! Freezing cold snowy weather! A sold out stadium with thousands of hostile Pittsburgh and UC fans! A 21 point comeback! And a Big East Champion at the end of the day!
Really what else could you want from a football game?!!
The Bearcats in very uncharacteristic fashion had 3 turnovers yesterday. Dion Lewis set a school record with 47 rushing attempts. Tony Pike had 44 pass attempts. Pitt rushed the ball as a team 55 times to UC’s 18 rush attempts. One team lived on the pass, while the other lived on the run. Two very contrasting styles, which on this freezing cold day on Pittsburgh’s death grass surface, lended itself to a phenomenal game.
Tony Pike showed great resilience after a very tough first half. UC’s offensive line kept Pitts vaunted D-Line attack in check all day, while Pittsburgh showcased one of the best running backs in the country. Mardy Gilyard put a Bearcat team that he has led all year on his shoulders and made things happen. The storylines of this game could go on and on.
But in my eyes the main thing that people should take from this game is that UC showed the heart of a champion. They could have easily folded when they got down 21 points with a little over a minute left in the first half. Pittsburgh had all the momentum, the home field advantage, and the ability to run the ball at will. But not this Bearcat team. Even though the Bearcats had not been down by even half of 21 points all year, they refused to give in. They had come to far to fold against anyone, coming out in the second half, and taking the Big East Title away from the Panthers.
So at the end of the day, we will find out if the Bearcats do indeed have a date with Tebow on Bourbon Street, but either way, I want the fans, the city, and the team to all take a step back and think about what this team has already accomplished. 3 consecutive seasons of over 10 wins. 2 Big East Championships. 2 BCS Bowl Bids. I mean really how many of you thought this would happen when Dantonio jumped ship for Michigan State 4 years ago?
So BK may be with us next year or he may be at Notre Dame. But either way, please enjoy the moment as the Cats look to cap off a perfect undefeated season around New Years.
There is still one chapter left, but this has truly been a magical journey..
Stay tuned for the next edition of the Sportskraze.