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September 8, 2006
Kinder, Palko help lift Pitt over Cincinnati
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CINCINNATI - Elusive Derek Kinder turned Tyler Palko's sideline passes into a pair of long touchdowns in the third quarter, helping Pittsburgh end its road woes Friday night with a 33-15 victory over Cincinnati.
Kinder turned a short pass into an 80-yard score on the first play of the second half, avoiding two tacklers along the way. Minutes later, he ran past a defender for a 55-yard touchdown that put Pitt (2-0, 1-0 Big East) in line for its first road victory since the end of the 2004 season.
The junior receiver, who has fast become Palko's most dangerous option, had three catches for a career-high 172 yards.
Cincinnati (1-1, 0-1) unraveled once Palko started hooking up with Kinder. The senior quarterback went 11-of-21 for 267 yards, throwing three touchdown passes for the second straight game. He also had three during an opening 38-13 win over Virginia, including a 72-yarder to Oderick Turner and a 78-yarder to Kinder.
Two long plays also broke this one open.
Facing Cincinnati's blitz, Palko found Kinder uncovered near the left sideline on the first play of the third quarter. Kinder headed upfield, broke out of an attempted shoulder tackle by Antoine Horton, slipped past safety Haruki Nakamura and outran him across the field for the 80-yard score.
Kinder then beat cornerback John Bowie down the sideline for his 55-yard touchdown, which put Pitt in control 23-0.
Pitt ended the road slump in its first visit to Cincinnati since 1922. The Panthers were 0-5 on the road last year, a slide that began with a shocking visit to the other corner of Ohio. The Panthers lost to Ohio 16-10 in overtime, when Palko's pass was returned for a touchdown.
He had the right touch in this road opener, dramatically changing a game that had been dominated by defense.
The first half bogged down in a routine: Cincinnati would get a couple of first downs, stall around midfield, then pin the Panthers with a punt. Pitt's first five possessions started at its 15, 26, 15, 2 and 17.
An alert defensive play broke the pattern.
Cornerback Kennard Cox saw Dustin Grutza setting up a screen and intercepted at the Cincinnati 18-yard line. Two plays later, Palko faked a handoff, faked a throw down the middle and perfectly led Turner to the right corner of the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown with 1:49 left.
It was the first score allowed this season by the Bearcats' maturing defense, which was one of the nation's youngest last year. Cincinnati opened the season with a 31-0 win over Eastern Kentucky, its first shutout in 11 years.
Pitt's defense has come a long way, too. The Panthers held Cincinnati scoreless until a fumbled put set up a 1-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter.
A botched handoff by Palko resulted in a fumble that helped Cincinnati make it close. Grutza threw a touchdown pass with 4:35 left, and the fumble gave the Bearcats one last chance.
Grutza threw a completion that was initially ruled a first down, but the ball was moved back after the play was reviewed. Grutza then was stopped on a fourth-and-inches play at the 8.
Darrelle Revis' 57-yard interception return with 4 seconds provided Pitt's final points.
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