PITTSBURGH (AP) -If Pittsburgh's Top 25 game at Cincinnati is tight in the fourth quarter Saturday night, both teams know what will happen when the Panthers have the ball.
The same thing that happened in last year's Panthers-Bearcats game. The Pitt-Notre Dame game earlier this month. The Pitt vs. then-No. 2 West Virginia game last season.
LeSean McCoy, college football's road runner, is going to get the ball. A lot.
McCoy is only a sophomore, but he might be the Panthers' best big-game rusher since Heisman Trophy winner Tony Dorsett in the 1970s. McCoy doesn't pile up his yards against the lightweights on the Panthers' schedule or in games in which they're leading big.
McCoy is often at his best when the games are the biggest, a quality not all 1,000-yard rushers possess. Especially in road games, where McCoy has gained more than half of his career yardage.
``We don't want to take the ball out of Shady's hands,'' offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh said.
For good reason, too.
or 101 yards - from the fourth quarter on, finishing with 169 yards and a touchdown. That performance came during a four-week stretch in which he ran for 613 yards and 10 touchdowns against South Florida, Navy, Rutgers and Notre Dame.
McCoy gained 137 yards as Pitt beat then-No. 23 Cincinnati 24-17 last season. Later in the season, he ran for 148 yards on 38 carries - on the road - as Pitt defeated West Virginia 13-9 in the biggest upset in school history.
McCoy's ability to get tough yardage in difficult circumstances has allowed Pitt to win its last five road games, beating two Top 10 teams (West Virginia and then-No. 10 South Florida), plus Notre Dame.
Now, No. 20 Pitt (7-2, 3-1 in Big East) will try to beat another ranked team on the road in No. 19 Cincinnati (8-2, 4-1), which is 0-7 against the Panthers.
``Playing good on the road, that's worked out real well for us,'' said McCoy, who has 1,043 yards and 16 touchdowns this season after running for 1,328 yards and 14 TDs as freshman. ``This is in the point in the year where we really need it. We have a big game with Cincinnati on the road, so we have to keep our streak going.''
His streak, too. McCoy has rushed for 142 yards or more in each of his last five road games, and has gained 120 yards or more in seven of his nine career games away from Heinz Field.
ce, a 60-yard game at Rutgers last season. He has gained 1,202 of his 2,371 career yards and has nine touchdowns in his nine road games, an average of 133.6 yards.
According to Stats, Inc., the only running backs on Top 25 teams who have gained more road yardage than McCoy the last two seasons are MiQuale Lewis of Ball State (1,287 yards in nine games) and Chris Wells of Ohio State (1,282 yards in nine games).
A big game from McCoy is almost a necessity if Pitt is to win at Cincinnati, which can all but wrap up the Big East title and a BCS bowl bid with a victory. The Bearcats' only remaining conference game after Saturday is against Syracuse (2-8, 1-5).
``Cincinnati, I'm sure they're going to do their best to stop the run,'' quarterback Bill Stull said. ``Louisville put a lot of extra time into doing that and was successful, but that allowed us to mix in a couple of other things with some reverses and trick plays.''
Louisville was so geared up to stop McCoy, limiting him to 39 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries on Nov. 8, that the rest of the offense pretty much did what it wanted. Stull passed for 216 yards and a touchdown and the Pitt defense scored two touchdowns during a 41-7 victory.
Cincinnati's rushing defense is the third best in the Big East, allowing an average of 112 yards.
ary, but we believe they'll try to stop the run first. That's fine with us.''
A victory opens the door for the Panthers to win the conference if they can beat West Virginia and Connecticut in their final two games.
``Maybe we can be the team to do what we did to West Virginia last year, we can knock everybody else out,'' McCoy said. ``That's our mindset. We have three tough games left against three tough teams, so the way we look at it is, `How bad do we want it?' ``
``The leaders on this team, they want it bad. ... So does coach (Dave Wannstedt). Coach, he wants this real bad.''

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