Alex Frank | Sports Director
Cincinnati is part of several sports rivalries including the Bengals-Steelers, Reds-Cardinals and the Bearcats-Musketeers Skyline Chili Crosstown Shootout
The oldest rivalry featuring a Cincinnati team, however, resides in college football with the University of Cincinnati Bearcats and the Miami (Ohio) University Redhawks in the Battle for the Victory Bell which has been held 123 times and once every year since 1909.
“Rivalry weeks are, to me, what make college football great,” head coach Luke Fickell said at his weekly press conference Tuesday. “But for us rivalry week is about one thing, and that’s respect. We got to do a really good job of respecting the rivalry and coming back to work and making sure we’re well-prepared for Saturday.”
The Bearcats are back to work after a statement-making 26-17 win at University of California Los Angeles last Saturday in the Rose Bowl.
After falling behind 10-0 early and with senior quarterback Hayden Moore struggling, Fickell sent in freshman Desmond Ridder and the Louisville, Kentucky native led two sustained drives that led to 10 points.
Those two drives sandwiched one that produced a go-ahead touchdown, at the time, by sophomore running back Michael Warren II following an interception by sophomore safety James Wiggins.
It was the second of three one-yard touchdown runs for Warren and his third, and most important, proved to be the game-clincher when Fickell opted to roll the dice on fourth-and-goal with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
““There’s a lot of things, you know people just say, ’you had guts and you went for it,’” Fickell said. “There’s a lot of other things that go into making that decision. It was an opportunity we felt like it was time to put it on the shoulders of our senior offensive line and believe in what it is they’re doing.”
Cincinnati went into Pasadena, Calif. as a 14 ½ point underdog but proved to themselves while playing in front of a national audience on ESPN that they are developing in some areas early in Fickell’s second year as head coach.
“We weren’t by far perfect, there’s a lot of opportunities we missed, a lot of opportunities they missed, we didn’t make the plays when we needed to,” Fickell said. “But the reality is what we proved to each other is in tough situations, when guys cramping up, with the heat, with traveling 2,000 miles, what you’re starting to see is that development and I feel like, not just being on the road, that you were able to overcome a lot of those.”
The next obstacle for the Bearcats to overcome is going back to work following a big win and preparing for Miami (OH), where they look to extend their current 12-game winning streak against the Redhawks.
Linebacker Malik Clements’ game-winning interception return for a touchdown with just over a minute left capped off an improbable fourth quarter comeback-win last year at the Redhawks’ Yager Stadium.
Fickell said, though, that he brought it up to the team that they were outplayed against Miami last year and the last five years overall.
“It’s so difficult in college football to have a win like that to come back and now you’re jumping into a rivalry game and it’s all about preparation and all about respect,” Fickell said. “The last one is the last one. The reality is rivalry week is all about respect. Understanding the history of the rivalry, understanding what it’s all about, understanding what you see on film is not what you’re going to get.”
Cincinnati’s 12 straight wins is the longest streak in the rivalry’s history and they will look to make it a baker’s dozen Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium.
Fickell said playing on an NFL field will be different than playing on a college football field.
“It’s different,” Fickell said. “The numbers are different, the hashes are ticks. When you’re specific about what you do, there’s a lot of things you’re used to having. It’s a big deal for us.”
Saturday’s game at Paul Brown Stadium will get underway at 8 E.T. and will be broadcasted locally on FOX19 and nationally on ESPN3.