Miami looks to snap `15-game skid vs. rival Cincinnati

Saturday’s battle for Victory Bell will be 126th meeting between two programs

OXFORD -- Miami football coach Chuck Martin checked in with redshirt freshman quarterback Aveon Smith during the RedHawks light practice on Sunday, the day after their 31-14 win over Football Championship Subdivision Robert Morris.

“I asked him, ‘How do you feel? Are you sore?’” Martin said. “He said, ‘I’m good, Coach.’ I said, ‘You’ll be sore next Sunday.’”

Martin’s Miami teams have played enough big-time opponents during his nine seasons with the program that he knows the toll those games can take on his players. He anticipates some wear-and-tear as the RedHawks take on Cincinnati in Saturday’s “Victory Bell” rivalry game, followed by a trip to Evanston, Ill., to face Northwestern of the Big Ten the following Saturday.

The RedHawks and Bearcats both are 1-1 going into Saturday’s 126th meeting, set for noon at Paycor Stadium -- formerly Paul Brown Stadium -- in downtown Cincinnati. The RedHawks will be the home team at the facility formerly named in honor of the Miami graduate who founded two professional football franchises, including the Bengals, who call Paycor home.

The Bearcats have won the last 15 games in the series to pull even at 59-59-7. That run includes last season’s 49-14 drubbing of Miami at UC’s Nippert Stadium, the opener of the Bearcats’ historically successful season that ended with an American Athletic Conference championship and berth in the four-team College Football Playoff, where they lost in the semifinals to Alabama, 27-6.

“I don’t think we played and executed very well, but I’d say 90 percent of it was Cincinnati,” Martin said. “We couldn’t get open. They got open. We couldn’t cover them. They covered us. We couldn’t get off blocks. We couldn’t block them. We couldn’t tackle them. They could tackle us. We were overwhelmed from a physical standpoint a year ago. Could we have executed better? Yeah. It wouldn’t have made much difference in the outcome of the game. They pretty much physically dominated us and ran circles around us on the perimeter.”

Cincinnati has undergone some roster changes after last season, especially at quarterback, where Ben Bryant is replacing long-time starter Desmond Ridder. Martin remains impressed with the Bearcats, who lost by a touchdown at Arkansas against a Razorbacks team that not only was ranked 19th in the nation by the Associated Press at the time, but went on to beat South Carolina, 44-30, in Week Two.

The Bearcats shook off that opening-game loss to roll over FCS Kennesaw State, 63-10, at Nippert last Saturday.

“Cincinnati is a totally different animal,” Martin said. “We know them. We play them every year. They’re really explosive and athletic. They come after punts like crazy. We have to do everything we can to protect our punter.”

“I think they’re a different team because of the transfer portal,” Miami sophomore defensive end Ty Wise said. “We have to focus on the new players. They run the same schemes, but they have different tendencies.”

Cincinnati knocked off Miami, 21-0, in a rainy game between the two teams at then Paul Brown Stadium in 2018. Martin will be interested to learn how much of a “home field” advantage his RedHawks will enjoy on Saturday. The two teams are scheduled to play at Paycor again in 2026

“I know it’s a neutral site,” he said. “We’ll see.”

Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell pretty much felt the same way.

“I don’t really look at the difference on who’s on the road and who’s home, and the only difference I know is we aren’t allowed to have our recruits there,” he said. “We had reached out to ask, and they said ‘Let’s try to do as best we can to get as many people in the stadium as possible.” We are playing in Paycor Stadium, but again, it’s their home game. Ours is in the next time we play in (Paycor Stadium).

“I don’t know that it’s a bigger deal who wears what uniforms. Neither one of us are truly at our own stadium, but for me more than anything, I just want it to be an environment, whether it’s their fans or our fans, that is exciting, and that’s what we want is more than anything.”

SATURDAY’S GAME

Cincinnati vs. Miami at Paycor Stadium, Noon, ESPNU, 700, 980, 1450

About the Author