For the sixteenth straight season, Miami University football came up short in its bid for southwestern Ohio football supremacy. The RedHawks lost the 126th battle for the Victory Bell, and for the first time since 1915 the University of Cincinnati now holds the all-time lead in the series, 60-59-7.
Miami chose to receive the ball after winning the opening coin toss. They immediately shoved the Bearcats back on their heels. Six plays and two first downs into the first RedHawk drive, Aveon Smith, redshirt first-year quarterback, found Mac Hippenhammer, star senior receiver, in the end zone with a 36-yard strike to the pylon.
Then, early in Cincinnati’s first drive, John Saunders Jr., sophomore defensive back, punched the ball out of a Bearcat’s grip and the RedHawks pounced on it. A couple of minutes later, Graham Nicholson, sophomore kicker, pinned a 36-yarder to make it 10-0 Miami.
The announced attendance for the game was just over 30,000, but it was at least 70% Cincinnati fans. At this point, you could hear a pin drop on the south side of Paycor Stadium, where the opposing student section was set up.
The Bearcat faithful wouldn’t stay silent for long, however, because on the next drive Cincinnati flew down the field — 70 yards in eight plays without a single huddle. The Bearcats punched it in with just under three minutes remaining in the first quarter to drop the fleeting RedHawk advantage to three.
Smith and the ’Hawks converted one first down on their next drive before they had to punt. But on the second play of the next Cincinnati series Michael Dowell, redshirt junior defensive back, forced another Bearcat fumble, and Miami took over possession on Cincinnati’s 20-yard line. A few plays later Smith found Jack Coldiron, redshirt sophomore tight end, in the flat for a two-yard score with 12:39 remaining in the first half.
The extra point made the game 17-7, and it was the final points Miami would put up in the game.
Again, the RedHawks’ two score lead didn’t last long. By the time the clock ticked into half, Cincinnati was up 24-17.
“We [didn't] play very good defense for the rest of the first half and gave up the lead,” Head Coach Chuck Martin said after the game. “...all day we had plenty of chances to stop them. They converted some second and longs and some third downs that we need to make plays on.”
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Cincinnati scored again early in the second half, then the teams traded punches and punts for the rest of the third quarter.
As soon as the fourth quarter started, a 28-yard completion and two positive runs left the RedHawks on the Cincinnati one-yard line. The Bearcats stuffed the RedHawks on third down and again on fourth, despite Smith breaking three tackles on the final play.
“[Smith made] an incredible effort on the fourth down play,” Martin said after the game. “He did not get in, but he did everything he could to get in. He missed by six inches after he made like four guys miss and lunged and dove and put his body in harm's way for his teammates.”
It was Miami’s last good chance to score. Cincinnati found the end zone once more in garbage time, and the game finished 38-17.
“I love the way our kids come out,” Martin said. “I love the way they prepare. I love the way they compete. We have to execute better. We have to clean things up on both sides of the ball. We have to clean things up on special teams.”
Offense starts strong, then struggles
The RedHawks came out strong. Similar to the Kentucky game two weeks ago, Miami made life hard on a much better team and stayed in it until halftime. Also like to the Kentucky game though, it all fell apart coming out of the intermission. Cincinnati outlasted Miami on Saturday.
On offense, Miami had trouble all day. They were surgical on the first drive, and they capitalized on both Cincinnati fumbles for points. Other than that they couldn’t get much going. Smith finished 9/21 with 116 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in the game. It was a towering task for him Saturday, facing one of the best teams in the country in just his second career start.
The run game never got rolling, which just made life harder for Smith. When Miami dropped back, Cincinnati was consistently generating pressure with four and five man rushes. Smith’s receivers just couldn’t find separation down field.
Defense holds its own
On defense Miami was pretty decent. They forced three turnovers and kept the Cincinnati rushing attack from any super crazy numbers (although the numbers were pretty good). They forced the Bearcats to punt five times, which is no small feat. Miami’s pass rush was outmatched by Cincinnati’s offensive line, but that’s no surprise since Cincinnati consistently recruits such high caliber athletes.
With where both of these teams stand now, this game is not set up to be competitive.
It was a lot more competitive than last year though, when Miami lost 49-14 and gave up 9.5 yards per play (that’s like a first down every snap!), compared to 6.6 yards per play this year. So things are looking up!
Miami has one more non conference game before the Mid-American Conference schedule commences. The ’Hawks travel to Evanston Ill. to play Northwestern at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 24. You can catch the game on the Big Ten Network, or without a paywall on RedHawk radio.