CINCINNATI -- Instant analysis from No. 5 Cincinnati's 24-21 win over No. 25 West Virginia:
How the game was won: West Virginia had a good game plan: Run the ball between the tackles, move the chains and keep Cincinnati's offense off the field. The Bearcats had just 21 points with under three minutes left, so the defense did its job. The Mountaineers simply couldn't come up with key plays at the end of drives and were held scoreless in the second half until a final-minute touchdown.
Turning point: West Virginia trailed 21-14 with about seven minutes to go and drove the ball to the Cincinnati 25. But Noel Devine was on the sidelines getting his ankle re-taped, and the Mountaineers decided to hand off to Jock Sanders on 3rd-and-9. After that netted just one yard, West Virginia went for it on fourth down but was stopped as the Bearcats harassed Jarrett Brown into an incompletion with heavy pressure. Cincinnati then went the other way for a clinching field goal.
Player of the game: Sophomore running back Isaiah Pead took on a bigger workload since Jacob Ramsey was unavailable with a foot sprain. Pead was ready for the opportunity. He made the most of it, rushing for a career-best 175 yards, a touchdown and a crucial 43-yarder late in the fourth quarter.
What it means: The Big East is now officially a two-team race, with one game that will decide everything. West Virginia was eliminated from title contention from the loss, and the winner of Dec. 5 game between Pitt and Cincinnati will be the de facto Big East championship game, no matter what happens before then.
Unsung hero of the game: Tony Pike had only four plays in the game, but the senior quarterback made the most of them. He came in the game twice, both with Cincinnati inside the West Virginia 10, and threw two touchdown passes.