Yager Stadium was engulfed in a sea of white, as the Miami University RedHawks took on the Cincinnati Bearcats in the 112th Battle for the Victory Bell.
However, the sea of white quickly dried up as Cincinnati ran away with the game, scoring early and often, and marching to a 47-10 victory-its first win at Yager since 1999.
“Obviously, I don’t think it’s any surprise, they were a better football team than us today,” Miami Head Coach Shane Montgomery said. “We knew it would be a challenge coming into the football game today.”
The RedHawks took the field without running back Brandon Murphy, who suffered a knee injury last week in Minnesota. A slew of RedHawks went down with various injuries throughout Saturday’s contest.
Starting off the injury merry-go-round, backup running back Andre Bratton, already filling in for the injured Murphy, fell awkwardly in his first run of the game. He was replaced by Austin Sykes, who did the best he could to contribute to a stagnant offense, running for 76 yards, but was kept out of the end zone.
The second RedHawk to have his wings clipped was receiver Dustin Woods. After going up for an incomplete pass, he took a late hit to the head from a Cincinnati defensive back. Woods left the game and according to Montgomery, he is listed as day-to-day.
Finally the third, and most concerning, injury of the day happened during an early fourth quarter Cincinnati drive. Redshirt sophomore Wendell Brunson made a tackle headfirst into Cincinnati running back Butler Benton, and didn’t get up.
After last week’s near-paralyzing injury of the Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett, the team was quick to bring out a backboard and loaded Brunson into an ambulance.
“Obviously the big concern is Wendell Brunson being taken off the field and hopefully he’ll be OK,” Montgomery said. “I haven’t really heard anything yet, but obviously our prayers and thoughts go out to him and his family.”
After being re-examined, Brunson’s injuries were not as severe as were initially believed. He was back with his team Sunday, watching practice from the sidelines with normal feeling in his body.
Unfortunately for Miami, the problems didn’t end with injuries.
After forcing a Cincinnati punt in the Bearcats’ first possession, the RedHawks were unable to contain a high-powered Cincinnati offense the rest of the game.
Cincinnati capitalized quickly off of the first Miami turnover, a fumble by quarterback Mike Kokal on his first pass attempt of the game. The Bearcats’ Benton ran the ball in from two yards out for the first touchdown of the game.
“We really self-destructed in the first quarter,” Montgomery said. “We came out and held them and forced them to punt. We had a lineman fall down on the first play and it lets their defensive end come in and get a hit and force a fumble, which really took a lot of momentum out of us.”
A Kokal interception in the second quarter and a 23-0 deficit was all Montgomery needed to bring in second string quarterback Daniel Raudabaugh into the game, much to the delight of the RedHawk fans.
Raudabaugh showed signs of a potential turnaround as he quickly led the ‘Hawks down the field and set up Miami’s first points of the game, a 21-yard field goal by Trevor Cook. However, at the half, Miami trailed 26-3.
One positive for Miami in the first half was linebacker Joey Hudson who was listed as doubtful on the team’s injury report, entered the game toward the end of the first half. He quickly made his presence felt, recording two quick tackles.
“When I first got out there I was a little rusty,” Hudson said. “I only got about five or six reps with the team during practice. I think when I settled down I played a lot better. It didn’t bother me once, didn’t think about it. Yesterday, they got me into a custom fit brace and it felt 100 percent then, and today it was the same.”
Starting the third quarter Raudabaugh and the RedHawks marched down the field and scored the first touchdown Cincinnati had allowed all year on a 16-yard touchdown pass to Armand Robinson.
The touchdown broke Cincinnati’s streak of 10 consecutive quarters without a touchdown. Although Raudabaugh did throw two interceptions, one that was returned for a touchdown, the team’s offense seemed to come alive with him under center. Montgomery would not announce who would start next week in Colorado.
“I don’t want to make any statements right now,” Montgomery said. “We’ll look at the film and we’ll make a decision on that early in the week. Even though we haven’t played well at that position this year, I still feel like we’ve got two guys there that are pretty good quarterbacks. Whether it’s them or whether it’s been our offense as a whole we’ve been inconsistent at times this year, and that does not allow us to be consistent on any phase.”
Raudabaugh evaluated his performance after the game, adding that if he’s to start sometime down the road, he needs to work on his game.
“I’m very unpleased with my own performance,” Raudabaugh said. “I feel I could have made better reads, and better throws. I thought we blocked pretty well up front, we didn’t give up too many sacks. We played OK, but for me, I feel I could have made more plays to help the team win. I don’t think (the fourth quarter interception) disrupted my composure so much, it hurt our moment. I made the right read on the play; I just made a bad throw. I don’t want to say it hurts the team, because we try to play through adversity, but those plays don’t help the team.”
The team will take this week to heal their injured, regroup after a lopsided defeat and prepare to take on the Colorado Buffaloes in Colorado Saturday.