Miami football fans can’t help but wonder.
Is THIS the year?
Will 2019 be the season that their RedHawks snap the Victory Bell losing streak against arch-rival Cincinnati that now has reached 13 games?
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Miami coach Chuck Martin has learned in his six years with the program that, to many RedHawk fans, beating the Bearcats and losing the other 11 games on the schedule would be acceptable. Miami doesn’t have to worry about that scenario after cruising past Football Championship Subdivision Tennessee Tech last Saturday, but even with a win in the books, knocking off the Bearcats on their home field at venerable Nippert Stadium on Saturday at noon would be a monumental breakthrough.
“For many of our fans, this is the one game they pay attention to,” Martin said. “That’s the way it is with rivalry week.”
The RedHawks can’t help but get caught up in the intensity of the rivalry.
“We’re going to take it like it’s a big game,” junior wide receiver Dominique Robinson said. “We plan to bring the Victory Bell back. Every year, it’s been close. It’s come down to the final moments, and we just let it go. We’re focusing on finishing. The key is to finish.”
Miami’s last win in the series was in 2005, 44-16 at Yager Stadium in Oxford. The RedHawks couldn’t get any offensive traction last season in the rain at Paul Brown Stadium in downtown Cincinnati, losing 21-0 while accumulating just 198 yards of total offense.
The previous four games all were decided by one score, which made the annual heartbreak even more severe for Miami fans aching for a win in the series that started back in 1888 and will be played on Saturday for the 124thtime. That the RedHawks still lead the overall results, 59-57-7, makes it even more difficult for Miami fans to figure out what happened.
Where did the dominance go?
Cincinnati is 1-1 in its third season under former Ohio State player, assistant coach and head coach Luke Fickell. The Bearcats followed up a season-opening home win over UCLA by being dominated in a 42-0 loss to the Buckeyes last Saturday at Ohio Stadium.
Fickell has coached just two games against Miami, but he quickly learned about the intensity of college football’s oldest rivalry west of the Allegheny Mountains.
“I grew up in Ohio and didn’t know the history of the rivalry, but I respect the hell out of it, and when you become a part of it, the worst thing you could ever do is not respect the rivalry,” he said.
Like Cincinnati, Miami is 1-1 with the loss coming on the road at the hands of a Big Ten team. True freshman Brett Gabbert started at quarterback for the RedHawks in a 38-14 loss at No. 20 Iowa in the season-opener on Aug. 31. Martin hopes the experience of playing in that game will help Gabbert and Miami on Saturday.
Third-year sophomore quarterback Desmond Ridder leads the Bearcats offense. Ridder was named the American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year last season and led Cincinnati with an even 100 rushing yards while also throwing for a touchdown against Miami.
“Obviously, it’s a lot more like playing Iowa than playing Tennessee Tech,” Martin said. “They’re more like a juggernaut. They’re really big and physical on both sides of the ball. They’ve got a slew of tailbacks. We know they have talent. Their quarterback makes great decisions down the field. He reminds me of the kid from Iowa, but the difference is he can run. He hurt us a year ago with a big run.”
Cincinnati led last season’s game, 7-0, going into the fourth quarter, but a tipped Gus Ragland pass turned into an interception that the Bearcats converted into a touchdown
That Miami has been in all five games Martin has coached against Cincinnati has him believing Satuday’s meeting will be no different.
“I think our kids are crazy excited to play UC,” he said. “That’s a big deal. Every year is different. Last year, we struggled to get anything going on offense. We held them down. They were milking the lead. The kids are confident. They will continue to play throughout the game. UC is going to make plays on both sides of the ball. We’re going to make our plays.
“The kids are confident. They will continue to play the whole game. For a while now, they have shown that nothing bothers them. They will try to make the plays down the stretch that you need.
“You get one week every season to play UC. We’re crazy excited to know what we’re up against.”
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