Cincinnati fights off No. 25 West Virginia's rally for overtime victory

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Enough talk about Tony Pike's surgically repaired left arm. His right one is working just fine and has Cincinnati in a first-place tie in the Big East.

The still-mending Pike threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Kazeem Alli in overtime to lift the Bearcats to a 26-23 win over No. 25 West Virginia on Saturday night.

West Virginia (6-3, 3-1) scored 13 points and recovered an onside kick in the final 1:11 to force overtime, including Pat McAfee's 52-yard field goal as time ran out. McAfee added a 27-yard field goal on West Virginia's overtime possession.

Cincinnati (7-2, 3-1) managed just three first downs after taking a 20-7 lead into halftime, but answered the field goal with a well-run drive and created a first-place logjam with West Virginia and Pittsburgh.

"Obviously, giving up the points we did late, all of the momentum was with West Virginia," Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly said. "It was just a great football game, one that we knew that we had to win if we wanted to talk about being a Big East contender."

Pike, part of Cincinnati's four-quarterback rotation due to injuries, made his third straight start and played his first complete game since returning from the broken arm, which required a plate and six screws. He started against West Virginia because Dustin Grutza still isn't fully healed from a broken leg.

Pike found Dominick Goodman on a 10-yard pass to start Cincinnati's overtime possession. A roughing-the-passer penalty on Sidney Glover on the next play moved the ball to the 7. After Jacob Ramsey ran for 5 yards, Pike faked a handoff and flipped to Alli, who was alone in the end zone.

"That's a play that we rely on in the red zone," said Pike, who went 16-of-30 for 178 yards. "We can run off of it and I think that's what West Virginia was banking on.

"To come out and see Kazeem so wide open is probably the hardest throw I've had to make. It seemed like the ball was in the air for a minute."

Cincinnati was outgained 317-260 but beat the Mountaineers for only the second time in 17 meetings all-time. The Bearcats held the West Virginia duo of quarterback Pat White and running back Noel Devine to 99 yards rushing combined, 90 below their average.

"I saw some pretty good defense on both sides of the field," Mountaineers coach Bill Stewart said.

West Virginia turned the ball over on downs twice inside the Cincinnati 10-yard line in the fourth quarter but it was the Bearcats who seemed to self-destruct near the end.

Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber ran out of the back of the end zone with 1:11 left to give West Virginia its first points since midway through the first quarter.

West Virginia got the ball back at its 38 and needed just seven plays to score. White threw a 3-yard TD pass to Dorrell Jalloh with 19 seconds left and White converted the 2-point conversion run to make it 20-17.

Mortty Ivy recovered the ensuing onside kick for West Virginia and White threw to Jalloh for 21 yards to the Cincinnati 35 with 10 seconds left. After an incomplete pass, McAfee tied his career-long field goal.

West Virginia's kickoff team ranks worst in the 119-team FBS in yards allowed and Cincinnati exploited the Mountaineers from the start. Mardy Gilyard returned the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown.

Pike's 4-yard run capped a 77-yard drive and put Cincinnati ahead 20-7 late in the second quarter. The lead could have been larger but the Bearcats failed to capitalize on several other early opportunities.

The Bearcats twice took over inside the West Virginia 35 in the first quarter -- once on a fumble and the other time on a bad punt and West Virginia penalty -- but settled for field goals.

Pike also overthrew an uncovered Alli far downfield on a trick play, and Jake Rogers' 29-yard field goal attempt hit the upright just before halftime, his first miss of the season.

West Virginia trailed at halftime for the third straight game. This time, the comeback wasn't enough and its five-game winning streak ended.

"We have a hurt football team in there," Stewart said.