PITTSBURGH — Cincinnati’s undefeated Bearcats generate offense like they’re playing a video game, scoring 41 or more points three times in their last five games. Their starting quarterback goes down, and the backup plays even better than the regular did.
No. 14 Pittsburgh couldn’t help but being impressed while watching No. 5 Cincinnati pile up 711 yards behind backup quarterback Zach Collaros during a 47-45 victory over Connecticut, a team the Panthers trailed by 15 points before rallying to beat.
“They’re throwing the ball all over the place,” Pitt defensive lineman Gus Mustakas said.
Throw it all over Heinz Field on Saturday, and the No. 5 Bearcats (11-0, 6-0 in Big East) will be trying to unleash their dare-you-to-stop-us offense in a BCS bowl.
Regardless, Pitt (9-2, 5-1) hasn’t spent the week trying to rig up some gimmick defense to slow quarterback Tony Pike or wide receiver Mardy Gilyard, the players most responsible for Cincinnati’s 28-21 win over the Panthers last season. Pike has thrown eight TD passes in his last two games, six against Illinois on Friday, but Pitt knows there is only one way to effectively control him.
Don’t let him get the ball very often.
While the Bearcats don’t give up yards and points as quickly as they produce them, they yield a lot — 1,338 yards and 102 points in their last three games. If the Panthers avoid turnovers, get a big day from freshman running back Dion Lewis (1,446 yards) and Bill Stull (19 TD passes, 6 interceptions) spreads the ball among his receivers, their best defense against Cincinnati might be a good offense.
“Every time we go on the field, we think we can score on every possession,” coach Dave Wannstedt said. “That’s the way it’s drawn up. That’s how we practice. That’s what our kids believe.”