The Cincinnati Bearcats and the Miami RedHawks had opposite blowout experiences last week.
The Bearcats (1-1) were pummeled, 42-0, at Ohio State Saturday afternoon.
Two and a half hours later, Miami (1-1) was dishing out a beating on its home turf, besting Tennessee Tech, 48-17.
The former faced much stiffer competition, in the form of the No. 6 Buckeyes, while the latter proved to be too much for an outclassed Division I Football Championship Subdivision team.
Now this Saturday, when the two teams clash for the Victory Bell at Nippert Stadium, Cincinnati will be seeking a bounce-back game, while the RedHawks hope to continue their momentum.
“It’ll be a lot more like playing Iowa than Tennessee Tech,” head coach Chuck Martin said at his weekly press conference. “We’re back to a juggernaut.”
In each of the last 13 years, the Bearcats have been a juggernaut for Miami. The RedHawks have lost 13 straight contests against Cincinnati, including the last five seasons under Martin.
“We’re going to take it like it’s a big game,” junior wide receiver Dominique Robinson said. “It’s a big rivalry game. We plan to bring the Bell back this year. That’s been the plan for the last few years that we’ve played them. We just haven’t been able to get it done.”
Despite the streak, Martin’s team has made things interesting during his tenure. The average margin of defeat has been 11.4 points per game, including last season’s 21-point shutout pitched by the Bearcats.
“The thing we’re focusing on this year is finishing,” Robinson said. “Every year, we’ve gotten closer and closer, and it comes down to final moments, for the most part, but we’ve just let it go. So the key is to finish this year.”
Martin emphasized his RedHawks’ need to play a clean game to give themselves a chance to win.
Miami’s offense has given the ball away only twice this season, while its defense has forced four turnovers.
Freshman quarterback Brett Gabbert, who won the starting job out of fall camp, has played a big role in that ball control. He has made smart decisions with the football in his first two career games, throwing an interception at Iowa but playing turnover-free against Tennessee Tech.
Martin said Gabbert will start this week, once again. He sat out the second half Saturday, as his backups redshirt sophomore Jackson Williamson and redshirt freshman AJ Mayer saw action.
Offensively, Cincinnati will rely heavily on its ground game. Junior running backs Michael Warren II and Gerrid Doaks form a dynamic one-two punch. It was on fully display Week One, when Warren rumbled for a touchdown and 92 yards, and Doaks added 53 more. Doaks missed the OSU contest and was replaced by sophomore Tavion Thomas.
Like the run game, sophomore quarterback Desmond Ridder struggled mightily against Ohio State. He lit up UCLA in UC’s season-opener, though. He also possesses great speed and adds another wrinkle to the Bearcats’ offense.
Cincinnati’s defensive numbers are skewed after last week’s blowout. In two games, the unit has allowed an average of 28 points per game. It has recorded two sacks and forced four turnovers.
The Battle for the Victory Bell will kick off at noon Saturday. The game will air on ESPNU.
“It’s one of those games that you’re thinking about all year,” redshirt sophomore defensive back Sterling Weatherford said. “It’s one of those things where, in the offseason, this is what you’re thinking about.”
The injury bug bites again
There is good injury news and bad injury news for the RedHawks this week.
The good: there are no new injuries this week.
The bad: some injuries suffered against Iowa are still lingering.
For the second straight week, Miami could be without its best running back, wide receiver, tight end and linebacker. Jaylon Bester, Jack Sorenson, Andrew Homer and Ryan McWood are all questionable to play Saturday.
Cincinnati has avoided major injuries thus far.
Doaks is questionable for this Saturday after sitting out last week.
After a scary situation last Saturday, redshirt sophomore safety Kyriq McDonald has been cleared by doctors for a return to the field.
McDonald collapsed without any contact with another player in the second quarter. He remained on the ground for nearly five minutes.
His status against the RedHawks has not been decided.
Quick rivalry facts of the week
Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell has continued his program’s recent winning tradition against the RedHawks. The last four Bearcat coaches, including Fickell, have gone undefeated in the Battle for the Victory Bell.
On Thanksgiving Day 1923, Cincinnati center James Nippert suffered a deep cut while playing Miami. He died a month later, on Christmas Day, after he developed a wound infection he never recovered from. Yes, that Nippert. The Bearcats’ home stadium is named in memory of a man who gave his life to the Cincinnati-Miami rivalry.