For the first time since 2005, the Victory Bell has made its way back to Oxford.
The Miami University RedHawks recaptured the Bell on Saturday night with a stunning 31-24 victory over the University of Cincinnati Bearcats.
“There will be people who don’t know what our end-of-year record is,” Miami head coach Chuck Martin said. “But they’ll know we beat Cincy.”
The last five minutes of the game read like an Agatha Christie novel. With the game tied at 24, the RedHawks forced a huge three-and-out by Cincinnati. The RedHawks were going to get the ball back with about four minutes remaining.
Then the Bearcats faked a punt on fourth-and-nine from their own 26-yard line and converted it for 27 yards.
From there, Cincinnati marched the ball down the field, chewing time and gouging chunks out of the RedHawk D. Martin used all of his timeouts, but when the last fourth down rolled around, there were only nine seconds left on the clock.
The game was over. Cincinnati had won. All they had to do was nail an easy 35-yard field goal as time expired.
And the RedHawks blocked it. Yahsyn McKee flew around the right side of the Cincinnati line and snatched the Bell from the jaws of the Bearcats.
“The right tackle, the whole game, whenever they had a chance to kick a field goal, he was stepping down super far,” McKee said. “I knew eventually I was gonna block one.”
The RedHawks kneeled to end regulation. After a short break and a lot of slack-jawed head shaking, Miami would get the ball to start overtime.
On the first play of overtime, Gabbert dropped back and was quickly surrounded by Bearcat rushers. He stepped up and took off, winding over the left sideline for 17 yards. On the next play, he floated a pass to redshirt-senior Joe Wilkins, who caught it falling out of the end zone. The RedHawks had their score, they just needed a stop.
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The Bearcats' turn lasted 11 plays. Miami backed them up to third-and-12 on the first series of downs, but Cincinnati completed a pass for the first down. On the next play, another pass got them to the two. A penalty backed them up, but a play later they got to the one yard line. Another penalty on third-and-one backed them up to the 11. They gained nine on third down, and the Battle for the Victory Bell was down to one play.
On fourth-and-two, the day’s hero came through again. Cincinnati’s pass was intercepted in the end zone by McKee, and the RedHawk sideline went wild.
One of the main stories of the game is Miami’s red zone defense. The RedHawks let the Bearcats into the red zone eight times. They allowed them over 500 yards. They gave up just 24 points.
Miami had 16 first downs in the game compared to 30 for Cincinnati. The Bearcats possessed the ball for 36:18, compared to Miami’s mark of 23:42. It was a weird game.
The first play of the night was a 79-yard touchdown pass from Gabbert to junior receiver Gage Larvadain. After Week 3, Larvadain leads all of Division I in receiving yards with 449. He’s tied for third place in the country with five touchdowns.
After the Game, the RedHawks hit Brick Street with the Victory Bell. They undoubtedly had an enjoyable night.
“People will talk about this win for a long time,” Martin said. “People will remember this win for a long time.”