In the oldest active non-conference rivalry in college football, Miami takes on University of Cincinnati in the Battle of the Victory Bell.
The RedHawks lead the series 59-53-7, but their last win over UC was a 44-16 victory at Yager Stadium in 2005.
“Beating Cincinnati is a big part of being a Miami football player,” senior linebacker Kent Kern said. “That’s what you hear a lot of guys and alumni talk about — beating UC. It’s really important to me, especially, and all the other seniors.”
Though Cincinnati has won the rivalry for nine consecutive seasons, this year could be different — the 2015 squad is stronger and has more depth. Most of UC’s victories in its current win streak were blowouts, but Miami has kept it close in recent years.
Last year at Paul Brown Stadium, Miami came within a yard of tying the game in the fourth quarter when it had first-and-goal at the UC 1-yard line. However, the Bearcat defense pushed the RedHawks back on three straight plays and Miami missed a 30-yard field goal attempt. The Bearcats ran out the remaining 5:40 on the clock to secure the 31-24 victory.
The rivalry is important for redshirt senior quarterback Drew Kummer, who grew up in Cincinnati.
“I’ve been here for four years and I haven’t won against UC, so there’s a little more motivation,” Kummer said. “And being from Cincinnati as well. I’m just really excited about this opportunity. It’s going to be a great atmosphere.”
Miami enters this weekend after a 58-0 loss at University of Wisconsin last Saturday. The RedHawk defense was strong early, forcing two field goals and holding the Badgers running game to 58 yards in the first half, but turnovers and special team miscues led to their downfall.
Now MU faces a Cincinnati offense that averages 596.5 yards and 39.0 points per game. The Bearcats lead the nation in first downs (69).
“We can’t let them throw it over our head,” head coach Chuck Martin said. “They love throwing the ball down the field. They got real fast guys, their quarterback’s really accurate. … When they can run and throw, they’re almost impossible to stop … We gotta find a way to get to their quarterback and disrupt his timing and disrupt the timing of his receivers.”
After the Wisconsin game and during this week’s practices, Martin emphasized the necessity of eliminating turnovers. The RedHawks total three interceptions and three lost fumbles through two games.
“We gotta get the ball in a safe spot,” Martin said. “We gotta read the coverage and throw the ball where it’s supposed to be thrown, as opposed to sometimes last week, where we’re under pressure and we just fired the ball into a crowd.”
Kummer understands the need as well.
“No turnovers,” Kummer said. “Keep the ball out of their hands. No turnovers passing, no turnovers running. We gotta take care of the ball.”
On the flip side, the Bearcats have their fair share of turnovers. They’ve lost three fumbles through two games, and in last week’s 34-26 loss to Temple University, junior quarterback Gunner Kiel threw four interceptions.
“We really need to capitalize on turnovers,” Kern said. “They’ve had a lot of turnovers this year and that’s something we really need to capitalize on when we get the opportunity.”
Three Bearcat running backs average over 5.0 yards per carry: junior Tion Green (6.2 yards on 30 attempts), sophomore Mike Boone (5.4 yards, 19 att) and senior Hosey Williams (5.2 yards, 27 att).
Kiel has completed .649 percent of his passes to 12 different receivers, and seven wideouts average over 10.0 yards per reception.
UC’s offensive line surrendered one sack to a Temple front seven that totaled 10 sacks in its first game.
Cincinnati also ranks second in the nation in third down percentage, completing 18 of 26 attempts (69.2 percent).
“We’ve really been focusing on getting bodies on bodies on third down,” Kern said. “We don’t want there to be space between us and the offensive players, especially receivers. We want to get tight with them. We want to be able to contest every pass.”
And Kern’s defense is ready to do so.
Sophomore linebacker Paul Moses, the converted running back, leads the ’Hawks with 17 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. In last week’s loss to Wisconsin, Moses totaled 10 tackles and one sack. Redshirt senior defensive back Brison Burris has 14 tackles on the season, and Kern has 10. Redshirt junior defensive lineman JT Jones will help with the pass rush, as he has six quarterback hurries this year.
On the offensive side of the ball, redshirt freshman Alonzo Smith sees the bulk of the running game, averaging 5.8 yards per carry on 16 attempts. Two receivers average 15-plus yards per catch: redshirt sophomore Jared Murphy (15.4 yards on eight catches) and redshirt junior Rokeem Williams (21.0 yards on five catches).
Martin plans to rotate Kummer, redshirt freshman Gus Ragland and freshman Billy Bahl at quarterback.
Kickoff is 3:30 p.m. at Yager Stadium on Saturday.