Cincinnati, OH —The Bearcats held off the Miami RedHawks (1-2) from Oxford, 38-17 at Paycor Stadium on Saturday.
The 126th Battle for the Victory Bell ended in coach Luke Fickell’s 50th victory with the program. Cincinnati has beaten Miami 16 straight to take its first lead in the series, 60-59-7, since 1915 and hasn’t lost to the RedHawks since a Mark Dantonio-led team dropped a Wednesday night affair in Oxford in 2005. Since then, they have been rolling.
“We had talked about that all week and we’re really excited and proud,” UC coach Luke Fickell said. “The respect for the rivalry is definitely alive and well in what we do. That being said, they Miami came out and had a really good game plan and did a really good job.”
Bearcats quarterback Ben Bryant was 26-for-35 for 337 yards and two touchdowns for his second 300-plus yard game of the season. Tyler Scott had eight catches for 119 yards and a touchdown, Trey Tucker seven for 115, and Nick Mardner caught three for 47 including a touchdown. UC scored 14 unanswered points in the second half to beat the RedHawks.
It was the first game since 2016 where the Bearcats had two receivers gain over 100 yards.
Miami came out firing on all cylinders and jumped out 10-0 in the first quarter.
Down 17-7 in the second, the Bearcats scored 31 unanswered points to keep the Victory Bell on their campus in the Lindner Center. They hadn’t led the series since 1915 when Woodrow Wilson was in the White House.
The Bearcats took a 24-17 lead with just 13 seconds left before the break.
“We found a way to feed off each other,” Fickell said. “When the defense wasn’t doing quite as well and struggled a little bit, the offense hung in and flipped the energy and momentum.”
Miami quarterback Aveon Smith was 9-for-22 for 116 yards and two touchdowns to Mac Hippenhammer and Jack Coldiron but he was intercepted once and sacked four times.
“We want to make history,” Scott said of the effort with Tucker. “We were part of it last year and we’re trying to continue to do it. It’s something we envisioned.”
Said Tucker, who missed most of last week’s game injured, “During this whole week it was, ‘I can’t miss this game!’ This is my last one for the bell. Whatever it took to get back out there I was going to do.”
Senior running back Charles McClelland led the ground game with 101 yards and two touchdowns, with Corey Kiner finding the end zone once on a 32-yard sprint. It was McClelland’s best outing since gaining 121 yards against Alabama A&M in 2018.
“Chuck has kind of showed us that he can be the feature back,” Fickell said. “But, he can’t do it all by himself.”
It was not the best of starts for the Bearcats as Miami opted to receive the opening kickoff and drove the ball 75 yards for the lead when Smith hit Hippenhammer from 22-yards out. UC’s Jadon Thompson then fumbled a pass at midfield leading to a 36-yard field goal by Graham Nicholson. That led to an early 10 points RedHawks advantage.
UC went to the run and pound game which featured McClelland, who got the Bearcats on the board before quarter’s end, 10-7.McClelland had a costly fumble in the second series giving the RedHawks field position at the Bearcat 20 yard line. Smith capitalized by hitting Covington Catholic grad Coldiron for a 2-yard score.
The Hawaii transfer Mardner gave them their first lead with just 13 seconds left in the half. UC had three fumbles in the first half with two going to Miami.
“Going into half that score (by Mardner) gave us not only energy and momentum but also settled our guys in a little bit more,” Fickell said. “There’s a lot of things we’ve got to do a lot better but I really do think we were in control and had a better grasp and a feel for what it was we were doing.”