When talking about most upcoming football games, especially rivalry games, it’s the players who are the most worked up and the coaches trying to keep it business as usual.
The roles were a little reversed in Oxford this week.
Miami was preparing to try regaining possession of the Victory Bell from Cincinnati for the first time since 2005, but RedHawks’ fifth-year senior quarterback Gus Ragland was working on helping his teammates maintain their focus.
“It’s a huge game,” Ragland, who grew up closely following the rivalry as a Greater Cincinnati native and Moeller graduate, said. “It’s the next opportunity to get a win. All the guys in the locker room are excited, but I think it’s pretty much business as usual for us. We can’t let guys distracted. We have to stay focused on our game plans. You can’t make it more it more than that. If you do, that’s when you run into trouble.”
Then there was Miami coach Chuck Martin, who’s usual off-the-charts level of excitement about coaching any football game seemed to be amped up a couple of notches. He ticked off the reasons.
“One, it means a lot to Miami,” he said. “Two, we haven’t won in a long time. Three, we’ll be lining up across from a team that physically dominated UCLA. They lined up and went toe-to-toe with them. (Cincinnati’s) tailback carried the ball 35 times. We’ve got a lot of crazy stuff to be excited about.”
Miami and Cincinnati are scheduled to meet for the 123rd time at 8 p.m. on Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium, the home of the Cincinnati Bengals. Brown graduated from Miami before going on to revolutionize the sport as a coach at Massillon Washington High School, Ohio State University and with the Cleveland Browns before founding the Bengals
Miami is coming off a 35-28 season-opening loss at home to Marshall in which the RedHawks fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter and never could catch up. The Bearcats created a major college football ripple by traveling west to the storied Rose Bowl in Pasadena and upsetting the heavily favored Bruins, 26-17.
Running back Michael Warren II gained 142 yards and scored three touchdowns for Cincinnati. Redshirt freshman Desmond Ridder came off the bench in relief of senior quarterback Hayden Moore and threw for a workmanlike 100 yards. He didn’t throw for a touchdown, but he also didn’t throw an interception.
A win by the RedHawks might help them generate some early-season momentum, a commodity rare in Oxford for almost a decade. The last time Miami beat a Football Bowl Subdivision team in either of the first two games of a season was in 2010, when the RedHawks edged Eastern Michigan 28-21 in Game Two. They followed up with a 31-10 win over Colorado State on the way to finishing 10-4 overall and 7-1 in the MAC, capping the season with a 26-21 win over Northern Illinois in the conference championship game and 35-21 win over Middle Tennessee State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl. Lance Guidry coached Miami in the bowl game after Michael Haywood left for the University of Pittsburgh job.
None of that was on Martin’s mind. He was revved up about Miami playing Cincinnati at an NFL stadium.
“Playing at PBS creates a lot of energy” he said. “It creates a lot of excitement. It creates a lot of intrigue. There’s as much interest in an upcoming Week 2 game as any I’ve ever been a part of.”