By WILL GRAVES AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Corey Kiner is keeping receipts.
The Cincinnati running back stuck around after former coach Luke Fickell bolted for Wisconsin last winter following a hugely successful run with the Bearcats. There was a sense — outside the program anyway — that Fickell’s departure combined with a move to the Big 12 meant the good times were over.
Kiner ran for 153 yards — including 18 on a final drive that bled the clock out — and a touchdown as the Bearcats held off Pittsburgh 27-21 on Saturday night. Not bad for a program that has yet to receive a Top 25 vote after being a fixture in the poll for the majority of Fickell’s tenure.
“We knew nobody else had faith in us but us,” Kiner said. “We know people counted us out before the season even started.”
A daunting conference schedule awaits, but Cincinnati hardly looks to be a pushover. The Bearcats controlled the line of scrimmage for long stretches, collecting five sacks on defense and holding onto the ball for more than 34 minutes on offense.
“It’s one win, you know, but it’s (a) good (win),” first-year head coach Scott Satterfield said. “It’s on the road against an ACC team that won the ACC two years ago.”
Emory Jones threw for 125 yards and two scores for the Bearcats (2-0), who built a 20-point second-half lead before holding on in the renewal of the River City Rivalry after an 11-year hiatus.
Phil Jurkovec threw for three touchdowns for Pitt (1-1), including a pair in the fourth quarter to get the Panthers within six.
Jurkovec, however, was sacked on fourth down with Pitt in Cincinnati territory with just over 4 minutes remaining. The Bearcats then ran out the clock in the return of a series that was briefly among the most entertaining in the Big East during the final years of the now-defunct conference.
“We just kept doing what we had to do,” Kiner said. “The o-line and the receivers and the tight ends kept opening up the holes and we just kept hitting them.”
The Bearcats dominated the Panthers early, scoring on each of its first two possessions and using a 17-play drive to set up a field goal that helped them build a 20-7 halftime lead.
Jurkovec fumbled on Pitt’s first possession of the second half and Jones responded by finding a diving Braden Smith for a 21-yard score that seemed to have the Bearcats firmly in control.
Pitt responded behind the erratic Jurkovec, who completed just 10 of 32 passes for 179 yards but had some success late lobbing the ball up to see what might happen. He connected with Konata Mumpfield for a 9-yard touchdown and Gavin Bartholomew for a 16-yard score that gave the Panthers life.
Yet he couldn’t take advantage of an interception by Marquise Williams that gave the Panthers the ball inside Cincinnati territory with 5:44 to go. Pitt reached the Bearcats 29 before back-to-back incompletions followed by the Bearcats’ final sack ended any hopes of a comeback.
“There was too much pressure,” Panther head coach Pat Narduzzi said. “Phil was sacked five times. You can’t win when your quarterback gets sacked five times.”
Cincinnati: The Bearcats may have one of the best defensive players in the country in sophomore nose tackle Dontay Corleone. The player known as “The Godfather” sacked Jurkovec for a 10-yard loss late in the third quarter when he pushed a Pitt lineman back so far Corleone was practically standing next to Jurkovec when he cast the lineman aside and threw Jurkovec to the ground.
Pitt: Jurkovec’s homecoming also reunited him with offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti, who held the same position at Boston College during Jurkovec’s best season with the Eagles. Yet whatever comfort they found in Chestnut Hills has yet to materialize with the Panthers. The pass protection has been spotty at best and when he does have time, Jurkovec is struggling with his accuracy and his decision-making.
Cincinnati: Returns home next Saturday to face Miami (Ohio). The Bearcats have won each of the last 16 meetings with the RedHawks.
Pitt: Travels an hour south to Morgantown, W.V. next Saturday to face West Virginia in a renewal of the “Backyard Brawl.” The Panthers edged the Mountaineers 38-31 last season.