After enduring several issues that led to long delays during their first two road trips of the 2023 college football season, the Miami RedHawks are hoping for an easier trip when they travel south from Oxford to meet non-conference arch-rival Cincinnati on Saturday.
They’re also hoping for an outcome that’s different from what they’ve been able to accomplish in close to two decades.
The Bearcats, who are in their first season of playing in the Big 12 Conference, have won a series-record 16 consecutive games against Miami, a streak rendered even more remarkable since the rivalry ranks as college football’s oldest west of the Allegheny Mountains after the first game in 1888. Saturday’s 7 p.m. kickoff is set for Carson Field at 38,088-seat Nippert Stadium.
Cincinnati has surged into a 60-59-7 lead in the series and has a stranglehold on the coveted Victory Bell, which is awarded to each season’s winning team.
“It’s always different against UC,” Miami junior linebacker Matt Salopek said about the rivalry. “Obviously, we haven’t beaten them in a long time. Rain, snow, sunny, whatever it is, we’re always excited to go down to Nippert and have a chance to beat UC. It’s the type of game that helps you as a team and as a player on this team leave a legacy here at Miami. If we’re able to do this, it’s a big momentum shift for Miami football.”
Salopek had nine tackles and a sack last year in the 38-17 loss to UC. The 6-foot-1, 230-pound middle linebacker leads the RedHawks with 17 tackles and is part of a defense returning nine starters.
The RedHawks are 1-1 after losing, 38-3, at Miami (Fla.) and winning, 41-28, at the University of Massachusetts. Cincinnati is 2-0 after walloping Eastern Kentucky, 66-13, at Nippert before a 27-21 win at Pittsburgh last Saturday.
Tenth-year Miami coach Chuck Martin already was impressed with the Bearcats after their decisive win over Eastern Kentucky. He was even more impressed after the Colonels led at Kentucky in the third quarter.
“Then (the Bearcats) went to Pitt and Pitt’s been very good the last few years and it’s 27-7 at half (actually after three quarters) and it’s a whuppin’” Martin said. “Coach (Pat) Narduzzi’s teams are always physical and nasty, and Cincinnati really took it to them in the first half.”
Cincinnati is led by 6-3, 212-pound redshirt senior quarterback Emory Jones, a transfer with previous experience at Florida and Arizona State. Also on hand is 5-9, 215-pound junior running back Corey Kiner, a transfer from Louisiana State who was Ohio’s 2020 Mr. Football as a Roger Bacon High School senior.
“I think he had like 3,600 yards one year in the SEC running and throwing (actually, 3,492 in 2021 at Florida),” Martin said about Jones. “You’re doing it against the best of the best. He’s completed 75 percent of his passes in two games, and he’s a big strong horse as a running threat.
“The Kiner kid is tremendous. You talk about contact, balance, power, physical, speed and strength, he’s every bit as good as the Miami, Florida running backs. Maybe a hair better if you ask our defensive coaches.”
Martin also respects the Bearcats’ defense, which includes 6-2, 212-pound senior linebacker Deshawn Pace, the younger brother of former Miami linebacker Ivan Pace.
“Their down three kids are just big, physical dudes,” Martin said. “They’re fun to watch. Not fun to play against, but fun to watch. They are wreaking havoc. They’ll drop eight and rush three and those three guys are very immovable. Three guys take up more than three gaps in there.”
The RedHawks are scheduled to open their home schedule on Sept. 23 against Football Championship Subdivision Delaware State, a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.
Miami at Cincinnati, 7 p.m., ESPN+, 980, 1450, 102.7