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2018 MAC Football Game Preview: Cincinnati Bearcats at Miami RedHawks

The Battle for the Victory Bell returns to Paul Brown Stadium with a talented Miami team and a UC squad that knocked off UCLA.

Cincinnati v Miami Ohio Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Beat the streak.

That has been the mantra for the Miami RedHawks under Chuck Martin in the Battle for the Victory Bell as the team has dropped 12 straight contests to the hated Cincinnati Bearcats. Under Martin, the ‘Hawks have been highly competitive in these games as UC’s largest margin of victory in the last four years has been a touchdown. The bonehead throw and pick-six from last season notwithstanding, Miami has had chances to end the streak and this Saturday in Paul Brown Stadium will be no exception.

Last week against the Marshall Thundering Herd, the RedHawks got off to a slow start on offense as they found themselves down 14-0 at the end of the first quarter. They had no success running the ball on a defense that brought back nearly all of its starters from 2017, but the passing game came to life in the second quarter as the offense tallied 143 yards in the quarter. Jack Sorenson hauled in a 19-yard touchdown pass from Gus Ragland to breathe some hope into the Miami sideline before the half.

The offense came out flat in the third quarter as it posted back-to-back three-and-outs and found itself in a 28-7 deficit. The ‘Hawks rebounded with a six-play, 72-yard drive that was capped off by 1-yard plunge by Alonzo Smith to cut Marshall’s lead in half. The offense put together another long drive the ensuing series but a turnover on downs early in the fourth quarter made the comeback more challenging.

Miami came out swing on the next drive as it drove 61 yards in three plays as Andrew Homer hauled in a six-yard score. Now down 35-21, MU marched down the field fairly quickly on a seven-play, 75-yard drive and closed the gap with a 3-yard touchdown catch in the flat by Kenny Young. After the defense forced a three-and-out, the ‘Hawks had one more chance 3:02 remaining but came up short after four plays and five yards lost.

Defensively, the defensive ends and linebackers didn’t hold the edge for Miami very well and Marshall took advantage of that to the tune of 171 rushing yards. In the first half, the Herd was able to patiently pick apart the RedHawks’ base Cover 4 look as they were able to sustain drives with short and intermediate throws. The defense made the adjustments at halftime and only allowed one long drive out of seven chances in the final periods. However, a poorly hit punt set up Marshall’s final score, which proved to be too much for Miami to overcome.

For Cincinnati, the Bearcats outscored the Bruins 26-7 after getting down 10-0 in the first quarter. UC scored 17 points unanswered in the second quarter as Michael Warren scored twice on 1-yard runs while the defense forced an interception and a punt. UCLA knotted things up with a 74-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter, but a 12-yard loss on a UC strip-sack resulted in two points for the Bearcats. Cincinnati finished the game with another one-yard Warren score on fourth and goal.

Warren compiled 142 yards on the ground while quarterback Desmond Ridder added 63 rushing yards and 100 yards through the air. Defensively, UC came up big with five sacks, an interception, and forced Chip Kelly to go 0-2 on fourth down. Special teams were good for the Bearcats as punter James Smith pinned UCLA inside the 20-yard line five times and Ryan Jones recorded four touchbacks on five kickoffs.

Miami has to do better against the run in order to have a chance to win Saturday. For UC to have as much success being a one-dimensional running team against a Power 5 defense is impressive, regardless of how good UCLA is. I don’t think UC is as good as Marshall was (the Herd will probably finish at or near the top of the C-USA), but if it can run the ball effectively it will be a long night for the RedHawks. I expect Miami to start faster on offense Saturday as they try to get more creative with the running game, even though it showed some flashes of success this week. I don’t why the ‘Hawks don’t do more with rub routes to shake James Gardner loose, but if they have other WRs step up every week then opportunities will open up for everyone. 45-38 Miami in a thriller.