OXFORD, Ohio – There has never been an ugly afternoon in Oxford, unless you count what happened inside Yager Stadium Saturday.
Cincinnati beat Miami, 14-0, its eighth consecutive victory in the Battle for the Victory Bell, but this was not the blowout it was expected to be. The Bearcats needed two late touchdowns, including a 1-yard touchdown run by Hosey Williams with 4:55 remaining, to overcome a feisty Miami team that, at least defensively, took a big step forward in its season.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as people like to say. Especially people who win ugly games.
“Good thing it was a nice day,” said UC coach Tommy Tuberville, “otherwise I might have left early.”
Actually Tuberville was much happier than could have been expected. UC outgained Miami 369-87 but three turnovers, a missed field goal and a blocked attempt plus seven penalties and a highly-energized Miami defense kept the game scoreless for 55 minutes. Miami had been outscored by a combined 93-21 in its opening two games at Marshall and Kentucky but made the Bearcats offense earn everything it got.
“It was a hard game, one that we needed,” said Tuberville. “We didn’t need to come in here and win by a bunch when we’re getting ready for conference play after an open date week. I think that will wake some of our guys up in terms of what they’ve got to do.
“I know a lot of people will say, ‘Man, that wasn’t very pretty,’ but it was to me. Running the ball, playing defense and winning the game is always pretty to me.”
Perspective is everything. Being 3-1 with a bye week coming up helps that perspective. Miami managed just one net yard of offense in the second half. UC’s defense had nine tackles for loss, including five sacks of quarterback Austin Boucher, and picked off Boucher twice. The RedHawks had 45 snaps on offense; only 11 of them resulted in gains of at least five yards.
Miami was a 23-point underdog coming into the game. It might be just three games into the season but the RedHawks appear headed for their seventh losing season in the last eight years. They are young – 19 players were appearing in just their third Division I game – and are challenged on offense but the RedHawks did not lie down.
That’s got to be worth something, doesn’t it?
“We can look at it as we gave up just 14 points and use that to motivate us but it still hurts to lose,” said Miami senior cornerback Dayonne Nunley. “We’ve just got to try to fight and come back next week and get ready for Illinois.”
Nunley had 10 tackles, one interception and broke up three passes from UC quarterback Brendon Kay. He nearly had a fourth PBU but was called for hitting tight end Blake Annen a split-second too early on a fourth-and-1 play on what ended up being the winning touchdown drive for the Bearcats.
Sophomore linebackers Kent Kern and Josh Dooley had 15 and 11 tackles, respectively, for Miami. The RedHawks defense had eight tackles for loss.
At least history was made in this game. It was the first FBS game since 2007 to be scoreless through the first three quarters. Miami was involved in that game, also, against Akron.
Out of the ugliness, however, UC took the win as a badge of honor. None of its first three games came down to the wire, as this one did. This kind of situation is going to come up later down the road.
“We prepared the best we could, we came out here and got what we got and I’m proud of everybody and how they played. Especially upfront,” said UC senior defensive tackle Jordan Stepp. “These wins – and I think any college player will tell you this – the ones that you have to fight for ‘til the very end are the ones that matter and the ones that build the character of your team. This is going to be a season changer.
“I’m glad the score wasn’t any different and the game wasn’t any different than how it was. We’ve learned so much from this game, not only from each other but the product we put out on the field. I think this is the best thing that could have happened before this bye week and we go into this conference stretch.
“This was a fantastic win. It was my favorite one of the season.”