For the first time since 2005, the traveling Bell trophy for the rivalry between Miami (OH) and Cincinnati will not be spending the year in Nippert Stadium. The Scott Satterfield era gets its first loss in an overtime thriller with a final score of 31-24 as the Bearcats fall to 2-1 on the season. A disappointing loss to say the least. After coming off a great high early in the season in last week’s win over Pitt, succumbing to a rival in front of a sold-out, night crowd was a brutal way to follow.
Perhaps the Bearcats were looking ahead to a huge matchup next week when Oklahoma comes to town. It will be the first Big 12 Conference game in school history, so this match against Miami was a prime look-ahead spot. Yet, there’s no excuse.
The Chuck Martin-led program came in and busted the door down with a 79-yard touchdown from Brett Gabbert to Gage Larvadain on the first play of the game. They set the tone for the day. UC battled back and seemed in control for some time. Cincinnati was ready to win it at the very end of regulation with a short field goal try when Miami’s Yahsyn McKee came off the edge to block the winning kick. But, credit to the Miami team that stayed in it the whole time and simply executed better when it meant the most.
How It Happened
If you look at the box score, one would think Cincinnati won the game. They had 13 more first downs, ran almost double the plays on offense, and held the ball for 37 minutes to Miami’s 23. But in crucial areas of the field and moments of the game, Miami stood stout and Cincinnati couldn’t convert.
After the first play touchdown for Miami, Cincinnati marched down the field pretty swiftly. Running back Corey Kiner punched in a four-yard touchdown to tie the game early in the first quarter. That was the only Cincinnati touchdown in the redzone out of seven total trips.
Miami defenders were tough and unforgiving when their backs were against the wall. Linebacker Matt Salopek had a game-high 18 tackles, Safeties Jaquez Warren (13 tackles) and Silas Walters (9 tackles) swarmed the ball at critical times and kept UC to field goals. Seven redzone trips to produce just 16 points won’t cut it for this offense.
Combatting the Cincinnati Defense
In his last Battle for the Victory Bell, Gabbert played exceptionally. He was resilient, and gritty, and did whatever he needed to do to win. He finished with 237 yards and three scores through the air, while adding 75 yards with his feet.
The Redhawks wanted to get the ball out fast. The best way to stiffen the fierce Cincinnati front. It worked just to Martin’s plan as Jowon Briggs, Dontay Corelone, and Eric Phillips had somewhat quiet nights. Just four tackles and no sacks.
That’s not to say that the Bryan Brown defense played badly. It just seemed as if the Miami offense was ready for whatever Cincinnati threw at them. Gabbert elected to use his legs much more than he usually does and did it effectively. The secondary of Cincinnati wasn’t a liability outside of the busted coverage on the first play. When Gabbert felt pressure or his guys weren’t open, he found a way downfield to consistently move the chains. Then the Redhawks converted in the redzone.
Some Positive Takeaways
There’s no way around it, there will be a sour, sour taste in Cincinnati’s mouth all the way until the next meeting. The spot in the trophy case where the Victory Bell sat might get dusty while Miami makes room for it in theirs.
There are some positive things to take away from this defeat, though. The first was wide receiver Xzavier Henderson playing the way he did. Miami’s secondary was the weakness to their defense and Henderson was able to go off against them. 12 receptions for 140 yards is a great silver lining from this loss.
The rushing attack was quite balanced as well. The Redhawks had some key to stop Kiner that no one’s had yet, holding him to 14 rushes for 31 yards. But, Myles Montgomery had his day and went for 104 yards on 20 carries. It seems like Satterfield is shifting back to the by-committee approach he had pre-season. He went mainly with Montgomery this week as the hot hand.
Emory Jones was also able to be effective on the ground. 20 carries might be a little much to sustain, but the Cincinnati offense did run 84 plays to Miami’s 46. 101 yards on the ground for Jones shows what a dual threat he can be.
On to Week Four
Cincinnati cannot let this loss snowball for them. Just like that, it’s time for long-awaited Big 12 play. What better way to start it than with the Oklahoma Sooners coming to Nippert Stadium? A Fox Big Noon Kickoff, it will be the 14th straight sold-out crowd. The Sooners are no joke and have been lighting up the scoreboard so far this year. Satterfield has to get his team past this loss and be ready to bounce back in a big way. Cincinnati must be prepared to pull off an upset in the first Big 12 conference game of school history.
Photo courtesy: Carter Skaggs/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK