Talk about an ugly win...
The game began with a fast-paced Cincinnati drive. Facing 3rd and 4, Gunner Kiel throw a pass into a crossing Shaq Washington. Washington took a hit to the head, stood up - clearly dazed - and then fell to the turf. He was immediately taken to the locker room. Cincinnati converted the fourth down and Mike Boone ran the ball in from four yards out shortly after.
With the 7-0 lead, Miami got the ball for the first time and drove down the field with little resistence. The Cincinnati defense looked almost caught off guard and on their heels as the RedHawks moved down the field for a touchdown on a jump ball in the end zone to Sam Shisso.
Cincinnati's next drive was a quick three and out. Kiel tried through the air, but it just wasn't happening. The RedHawks defense was feeding off the early home energy and were flying around the ball.
Miami' offense got the ball back and after six plays, the Cincinnati defense settled down to force the punt.
The Bearcats got the ball back and began to rely on the run game. Three plays and the Bearcats had another touchdown and a 14-7 lead. Miami drove down the field with an impressive run game of their own, but were forced to settle for a 22-yard field goal, pushing the score to 14-10.
Cincinnati couldn't respond, only managing 16 yards in five plays, giving the ball back to the RedHawks, who could only manage seven yards themselves before punting back to the Bearcats.
The Cincinnati offense continued to struggle with only 10 yards on their next possession. The RedHawks, however, drove down the field with relative ease, keyed by a 36-yard run by Gus Ragland, a 40-yard catch by Sam Martin and capped off with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Billy Bahl to Ryan Smith. Cincinnati seemed to struggle wrapping up the ball carrier.
Cincinnati started their next drive fast with a 24-yard run from Boone yards, but a holding call from the Miami 18, and the resulting 1st and 20, was too much for Cincinnati to overcome. They settled for a 42-yard field goal by Andrew Gantz.
How long before the scoreboard would light up again? 12 seconds. The RedHawks used their first play on their next possession to score with a 75-yard pass to Martin. They missed the extra point, leaving Miami with a 23-17 lead with four minutes until half.
Cincinnati methodically drove down the field, mixing the pass and run well. Kiel found Chris Moore for a 14-yard touchdown pass and Gantz knocked through the extra point to take the 24-23 lead, heading into half.
Miami began the second half with the ball and a quick three and out, giving the ball to Cincinnati. Just when it looked like the Bearcats had their offense moving again, Kiel took a late hit, that was called a roughing the passer penalty. He was on the ground for a couple minutes before heading to the locker room under his own power. Hayden Moore replaced him. Gantz finished the drive with a 46-yard field goal.
Miami took their next drive 65-yards and capped the drive off with a two-yard touchdown pass from Kummer to Smith.
With Kiel still in the locker room, Moore entered the game at quarterback and, honestly, looked a bit anxious. Cincinnati went to the ground, but when Moore was asked to throw, the first couple were high for his receivers. He settled down, had some nice runs himself and then made some key throws as the Bearcats reached the redzone. After a couple conservative quarterback runs, Gantz hit another field goal, this one 24 yards.
Following a Miami three and out, the Bearcats began the fourth quarter with the ball but Moore threw an interception to Miami's Brad Earnest. The Cincinnati defense stepped up though with Zach Edwards intercepting Kummer five plays later.
Hosey Williams carried the load early on their next drive, as the Bearcats tried to pull ahead but another turnover, this one a fumble by Moore, gave the RedHawks the ball once again.
Unable to take advantage of the second Bearcat turnover, Miami nearly threw another one of their own, but ultimately went three and out.
Cincinnati followed suit, with a three and out of their own. Miami's next drive was another quick three and out, but was highlighted by an injury in the Bearcats' secondary. Adrian Witty nearly had an interception, but the Miami receiver knocked the pass out of his hands and fell on top of Witty. Witty stayed down and was eventually carted off the field unable to put any weight on his legs.
Two plays into Cincinnati's next drive, Moore fumbled again, giving the RedHawks the ball eight yards from another Miami touchdown. The Bearcats' defense stepped up, holding Miami to only three yards and a 21-yard field goal, giving the RedHawks a 33-30 lead.
Cincinnati nearly gave the ball back on the very next offensive play when Hayden Moore hit Chris Moore for a 27-yard reception and Chris fumbled. Williams was there to recover but only four plays later, the RedHawks picked off Hayden Moore again. It appeared that Alex Chisum was hit well before the ball got there, but there was no call.
Miami couldn't put the game away with their offense though, only running 1:25 off the clock and Cincinnati got the ball back with 3:01 left to play. Moore was calm and collected, hitting Nate Cole twice for receptions for 18 yards each. This set up a one-yard touchdown run for Moore with only 1:13 left in the game. Cincinnati took the 37-33 lead with Gantz' extra point.
Miami couldn't piece together on final drive and gave ended with the Bearcat pulling off their 10th straight over the RedHawks in an ugly, ugly win.
- Miami really should have won this game. Watching the game, you couldn't help, but feel the RedHawks were winning the entire time, even if the scoreboard didn't reflect it. Miami came out playing hard and flying around the field. Miami really should have taken a one or two touchdown lead early in this game, but their talent wasn't great enough to take advantage of their fast start. On the other hand, the Cincinnati defense was on their heels early. The offense was against struggling with consistency, but they did move the ball when they needed to with Kiel at center.
- Speaking of Kiel, the offense was doing well in the early going with him in the game. The offense was more effective when Cincinnati ran the ball and then up the passing game. Kiel wasn't perfect, but he led the offense down the field when they needed to score and respond to Miami. The RedHawks appeared to essentially be dropping most of their defenders back into coverage and forcing Kiel into check downs, which limited big plays and was effective in forcing three and outs if the Cincinnati run game didn't move the ball on early downs. Kiel went 15-for-26, 145 yards and one touchdown before exiting the game. The early diagnosis is that he was very dazed. Tommy Tuberville has said Hayden Moore is likely to be starting Thursday night against Memphis.
- Moore showed enough to give me some hope. The turnovers were bad and added up quickly. Two fumbles and two interceptions isn't going to cut it moving forward, depending on the extent of Kiel's injury. Moore was clearly anxious when he first entered the game, throwing high over the first couple drives. That's mostly nerves. Using his legs was smart of the Cincinnati coaches. He was effective, rushing for 29 yards and a touchdown, and it helped settle him down. His final drive was the most impressive though. Even after accounting for four turnovers himself, he showed poise in the pocket on two key throws to Cole and had a nice nine-yard run, plus the one-yard touchdown run. When the lights were brightest, Moore stepped up, even after a rough outing overall.
- I mentioned above Cincinnati's struggles with tackling. The Cincinnati defense may have a very real problem with their rush defense, giving up 220 yards to a team that managed minus-three total rushing yards last week. While there were a number of runs that were assisted by the defensive line's inability to get off blocks and create havoc in the backfield, the tackling looked poor to me overall. Too many attempts were arm tackles or just whiffs. Cincinnati looked like they were on their heels for much of the game defensively and an inability to tackle or generate pressure on the Miami quarterbacks seemed to be at the route of their problems. They need to find a way to be the aggressor.
- The injury bug bit hard this week. Mckale McKay didn't even suit up and was apparently sitting out just because he was a little beat up. Washington had his injury that looked scary at the time when he stood and fell over after a hit to the head. He was back in and played most of the game though, so evidently it wasn't much of anything. Kiel's injury has been considered another head injury that left him "fuzzy" according to Tuberville. Moore is likely the starter against Memphis on Thursday. The most serious injury appears to be the one to Witty though. You have to feel for the guy.
- Linebacker Eric Wilson had 18 tackles for the Bearcats defense. Insane.
- Miami deserves some credit too. They came out firing and gave the Bearcats a game. They simply didn't have the talent to distance themselves or close out the game. On the flipside, Cincinnati showed great resilience. They looked deflated following the Washington, Kiel and Witty injuries, but picked things up shortly after. At times, they looked close to turning it in, but pulled things together to get the win.
1st Downs: Miami - 17, Cincinnati - 33
Total Yards: Miami - 448, Cincinnati - 545
Passing Yards: Miami - 228, Cincinnati - 263
Rushing Yards: Miami - 220, Cincinnati - 282
Turnovers: Miami - 1, Cincinnati - 4
Possession: Miami - 23:28, Cincinnati - 36:32
Cincinnati pulled out one of the ugliest wins you will ever see. They turned the ball over again and suffered a couple major setbacks due to injuries, but nonetheless, they won the "Battle for the Bell" for the 10th year in ago over the RedHawks. The defense now appears to be a very real problem area, particularly in the run game, and with WItty's injury, the Bearcats leave Oxford with more questions than they had when they came into the game. If Kiel is unable to go next week, Moore will get the start against a 3-0 Memphis team, on the road, that is clicking right now.
Either way, Cincinnati is 2-1.