It’s now been a decade since Miami has won the Battle for the Victory Bell rivalry over University of Cincinnati.
For the third year in a row, Miami (1-2) gave Cincinnati (2-1) the game in the fourth quarter. This time, during MU’s homecoming, it was by a 37-33 score.
The RedHawks led by three points with 4:14 left in the game, but miscues on both sides of the ball allowed UC to seal the victory with an eight-play, 66-yard touchdown drive that left Miami with 1:13 to counter.
“Last drive, we just started doing what bad teams do – start running around like a chicken with your head cut off,” head coach Chuck Martin said. “We’d run all day and we did fine, but when the game’s on the line, championship teams lock in and make the plays, and teams that aren’t championship teams cower under pressure, which we did.”
The game was close throughout. The Bearcats led 14-7 after one quarter and 24-23 at halftime. After three quarters, it was 30-30.
“We had opportunities,” Martin said. “We’ll vomit when we watch the tape and look at all the stuff we left out on the field.”
Earlier in the second half, junior defensive back Buchi Okafor intercepted redshirt freshman quarterback Hayden Moore, and senior defensive back Bryson Albright recovered two UC fumbles, but the RedHawk offense couldn’t capitalize on the turnovers.
“The defense gave us six drives at the end of the game for us to try to seal the deal, but we didn’t execute,” redshirt senior quarterback Drew Kummer said. “We know we could have won that game.”
Despite the turnovers, redshirt senior defensive back Brison Burris said he saw missed opportunities.
“Making plays is the big thing with any defense,” Burris said. “I feel like if we would have gotten one more turnover, that would have capped off the game. We just gotta fight to the end no matter what.”
“We didn’t see anything that we haven’t seen already. We’ve watched the film, we’ve seen the routes. We just weren’t there to make the play.”
MU redshirt freshman linebacker Brad Earnest intercepted Moore 30 seconds into the fourth quarter, giving Miami short field position at the Cincinnati 37. However, the drive ended the way it started – junior safety Zach Edwards intercepted Kummer at the 3-yard line and returned it 29 yards.
UC ran two plays before Albright scooped up Moore’s fumble. Again, the ’Hawks did not take advantage of the turnover: their next two possessions were three-and-outs.
“[We] threw that pick when we were in the red zone, and you know, the ball was on the ground a couple more times,” Kummer said. “But it wasn’t their defense changing it up too much. It was us, the offense. We just gotta execute better.”
Albright’s second fumble recovery set Miami up for a first and goal with 8:44 left in the fourth quarter. MU didn’t pull through with a touchdown, but senior Kaleb Patterson knocked in a 21-yard field goal to put Miami up 33-30.
Cincinnati took over at their 32-yard line and moved their way up the field. Okafor’s interception gave Miami traction with 5:39 left, but they were forced to punt after three plays.
Again, Cincinnati took over on their own 34 with 4:14 on the clock. This time, the drive was successful. After three 14-plus yard passes and a couple runs from junior running back Tion Green, Moore rushed up the middle for a 1-yard TD run. The extra point gave UC a 37-33 lead.
With 1:13 left, Kummer took the field. After two incompletions, he finished a 5-yard pass to sophomore wideout Sam Martin, setting up a fourth and 5 at their own 29. Kummer opted for a short pass to sophomore tight end Ryan Smith, but UC junior linebacker Eric Wilson deflected it.
Kummer said the only thing going through his mind before the play was getting the first down.
“Then [it was] an incomplete first down,” he said. “We just gotta execute. They called good plays for us. Just as quarterbacks and receivers, we just gotta execute better.”
Though Chuck Martin said his team played “one thousand percent better” than it did last week, the loss still hurt.
“Since I’ve been here, I know how important this game is to Miami faithful, I really do,” he said. “There’s not a day where I talk to someone and they don’t mention Cincinnati.”
“I don’t know what they [UC] think. I don’t care what it means to them. But it means a lot to Miami, so it means a lot to me. I know we let a lot of people down.”
The loss was especially rough for Kummer, a Cincinnati native.
“It’s tough, honestly, it’s very tough. But you know we gotta watch the film, we gotta get better, we gotta move on.”
A bright spot in the loss is the number of contributors Miami had.
“We definitely had more weapons,” Chuck Martin said.
Sam Martin led receivers with four catches for 124 yards and one touchdown. Redshirt junior Sam Shisso’s only catch was a 21-yard touchdown pass. It was his first career touchdown. Smith also scored his first career touchdown. He scored twice on two catches for 16 yards.
On the ground, redshirt freshman Kenny Young led with 62 yards on six carries. Redshirt freshman Alonzo Smith notched 13 touches for 57 yards.
All three Miami quarterbacks saw playing time. Kummer led the trio, going 11-for-25 for 176 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Freshman Billy Bahl completed 3 of 8 for 52 yards and his first career touchdown pass. Redshirt freshman Gus Ragland had one incompletion and rushed 48 yards on four carries.
On defense, Burris and senior linebacker Kent Kern each totaled 11 tackles, and junior linebacker TJ Williams had 12.
Cincinnati’s Gunner Kiel completed 15 of 26 for 145 yards and a touchdown before leaving early in the third quarter with a head injury. Moore, his substitute, threw 7-for-14 with two interceptions. Sophomore RB Mike Boone totaled 118 yards and one touchdown on four touches.
Miami closes out non-conference play on the road next Saturday against Western Kentucky University.