“All day, we had opportunities to get stops and we didn’t get stops,” Miami coach Chuck Martin said.
That was more than enough for a Cincinnati (2-1) team that opened the season ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.
“It sucks,” said seventh-year linebacker Ryan McWood, who led both teams with six solo tackles and 13 overall stops. “Six losses to those guys hurts. “I really don’t think those guys are 21 points better than us, but at the end of the day, that’s the score.”
Miami (1-2) scored 10 points off of two Cincinnati turnovers on the way to opening up a 17-7 lead with 12:39 left in the first half. Sophomore cornerback John Saunders Jr. forced a fumble by Cincinnati junior wide receiver Jadon Thompson and redshirt freshman safety Eli Blakey recovered at the 50-yard line for Miami with 9:20 left in first quarter. Sophomore kicker Graham Nicholson converted with a 36-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead.
Redshirt junior nickel back Michael Dowell forced a redshirt senior running back Charles McClelland fumble that junior cornerback Yahsyn McKee recovered at the Cincinnati 20 with 9:54 left in second quarter. The RedHawks converted in three plays, helped by a Bearcats pass interference penalty in the end zone that set Miami up with first-and-goal at 2. Smith found redshirt sophomore tight end Jack Coldiron from there for Smith’s second touchdown pass of the half and a 17-7 lead with 12:39 left before halftime.
The Bearcats responded by scoring 17 unanswered points, leading to a 24-17 halftime lead. The go-ahead score came after Smith was intercepted at the Cincinnati 12. The Bearcats marched 88 yards in 10 plays and scored on a 13-yard Bryant fade pass to senior wide receiver Nick Mardner, who made the catch over the leaping McKee.
Martin was furious on the sideline after seeing Cincinnati break the huddle with 12 players before sending one of them off. The RedHawks were penalized for the same infraction midway through the fourth quarter
Smith’s first touchdown pass was to redshirt senior wide receiver Mac Hippenhammer, who fought off a defender to make a 36-yard touchdown catch for a 7-0 Miami lead with 11:34 left on the first quarter.
Bryant opened the second half with a 41-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Tyler Scott on second-and-25 to help the Bearcats open up a 31-17 lead. The Bearcats broke the game open with McClelland’s 15-yard touchdown run with 5:33 left in the game.
The RedHawks stymied another Cincinnati possession when Saunders broke up a pass and produced a deflection that sophomore defensive back Jacquez Warren picked off for his second career interception. They drove to the 1 but were stopped on two plays.
“If you had told me it’d be 31-24 in the fourth quarter, I would’ve said, ‘OK. Let’s go. We’ll take that,’” Martin said.
The game was the third between the two teams at Paycor Stadium, previously named in honor of Miami graduate Paul Brown. The Bearcats have won all three, including 31-24 in 2014 and 21-0 in 2018.
The two teams are scheduled to play next season on Sept. 16 at the Bearcats’ Nippert Stadium on their Clifton campus.
Miami will play at Big Ten Northwestern next Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Cincinnati is scheduled to face Indiana at Nippert Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for either 3:30 p.m. or 4 p.m.