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November 9, 2011

Making a Difference

A college football contest can often be decided by a few key plays. A close 26-23 win like Cincinnati experienced Saturday night in Pittsburgh can be collapsed into three big plays.

Today we look at those three big plays more closely.

Play #1

Walter Stewart's forced fumble and subsequent fumble recovery.

---Setting the Stage---
Cincinnati had just managed to cut the Pitt lead to seven points with a Tony Miliano 32-yard field goal.

Pitt led 23-16 with 3:57 left in the third quarter.

---The Play---
Pittsburgh was just three plays into their drive when QB Tino Sunseri rolled left. Stewart wrapped him up and simultaneously knocked the ball free.

"I was actually supposed to be in man coverage on the back," said Stewart. "They ran a read zone play. The quarterback kept it. I don't know why he kept it and he tried to shake me. I just stripped him."

Converted linebacker Stewart has been incredibly patient and disciplined all year with scrambling quarterbacks.

"Once I saw the ball I jumped on it," said Stewart. "I wish I could have scooped it, but knowing the situation..."

He doesn't bite for fakes or scurry around aimlessly. Stewart stays in his lane so well that counter players routinely fall into his lap. Each time he given outside contain responsibilities UC thrives.

--Impact--
Stewart's forced fumble set up a very manageable drive for UC. QB Zach Collaros needed just three plays to punch home the Bearcats second touchdown. It tied the game and set the stage for a exciting yet low-scoring fourth quarter.

"We thought Walter Stewart probably played his best game as a Bearcat and he had a hand in both turnovers," said Coach Jones. "Great play where he stripped the ball from Tino Sunseri and then recovered it and then deflection of the pass that Cam Cheatham was in the right place at the right time and was able to bring in the interception."

Play #2

Tony Miliano's fourth and final field goal.

---Setting the Stage---
The fourth quarter had just started. Pittsburgh backed in while Cincinnati attempted to build upon a 10-0 scoring run.

UC began the drive with spectacular field position courtesy of the Camerron Cheatham interception.

Three plays after Cam's INT Cincinnati was lining u for a field goal.

QB Collaros could not complete to either D.J. Woods or Kenbrell Thompkins.

---The Play---
With the Pittsburgh student section howling in his face Elder graduate Tony Miliano calmly nailed a 41-yard field goal.

"We were lucky enough to have little wind tonight and it was pretty cold," said Miliano. "The conditions were optimal."

Miliano's kick cemented his place as UC kicker. For the first month of the season Coach Jones continued to profess that the kicking spot was up for grabs and would be decided on a week-to-week basis.

"The kicker is a part of the team," said Isaiah Pead with a smile. "Miliano. That is our boy. We mess with him in practice when he misses a field goal and we celebrate him when he makes one."

--Impact--
The three points ended up deciding the outcome as no team scored again.

"When you look at our kicker Tony Miliano, to be able to go into Heinz Field with the wind factor and kicking off of grass and going four for four," said Coach Jones. "I thought was a big factor in the game."

Play #3

Zach Collaros throws a fourth quarter interception. Nerves run high everywhere but on the sidelines.

---Setting the Stage---
With a tiny three point lead UC Offensive Coordinator Mike Bajakian gets a conservative midway through the fourth quarter.

"It is hard playing with a lead," said Collaros. "Do you keep uptempo? Do you slow it down? We are not that kind of a team."

A two yard rush followed by a safe pass to Pead sets up a third and long. Collaros gets a little greedy with hopes of deadbolting the door to a Pitt comeback.

---The Play---
Collaros spots Kenbrell Thompkins deep down the left sideline. He believes he can loft the pass over the cornerback K'Waun Williams.

"That was my fault," said Collaros. "I tried to do too much."

--Impact--
Pittsburgh gets the ball on the UC 40 with plenty of time for a table-turning drive. That Pitt went four and out does not diminish the fact that Collaros put his team's victory in jeopardy.


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