Sept. 25, 2006
REDHAWKS CLASH WITH ARCH-RIVAL BEARCATS IN CINCINNATI: Still in search of its first win of the 2006 campaign, Miami University's football team (0-4; 0-1 MAC) remains on the road Saturday where it faces arch-rival the University of Cincinnati (1-3; 0-1 Big East) in the 111th meeting between the two schools. The RedHawks are coming off a 34-14 loss at Syracuse last Saturday, while the Bearcats tumbled 29-13 at nationally-ranked Virginia Tech. The two programs first met in 1888 and have collided in every season since 1945. They play for the Victory Bell, a traveling trophy that is claimed annually by the game's winner.
SCOUTING THE BEARCATS: Cincinnati is coming off back-to-back hard-fought losses to nationally-ranked opponents Ohio State and Virginia Tech, hanging with the top-rated Buckeyes through much of the first half and leading the Hokies into the fourth quarter ... the Bearcats are coached by third-year mentor Mark Dantonio, who returns 44 letterwinners and 20 starters from a 2005 team that went 4-7 and finished sixth in the Big East ... Cincinnati is playing the first of back-to-back games versus the Mid-American Conference and hosts defending MAC Champion Akron next Saturday ... the Bearcats have lost six of their last seven overall games and have not defeated a NCAA Division I-A opponent since an Oct. 29 win at Syracuse last year.
SERIES HISTORY: Miami and Cincinnati are meeting for the 111th time in a series that began with a 0-0 tie in 1888 ... the rivalry is the longest continuous college football rivalry west of the Allegheny Mountains and the second-oldest among NCAA Division I-A institutions ... the RedHawks have won four of the last five meetings and own a 59-44-7 series edge ... Miami leads the series at Cincinnati, where the rivalry played out almost exclusively from 1900-1970, 43-36-5 ... the Bearcats won the last game played at Nippert Stadium, 45-26, while Miami won the teams' 2005 meeting in Oxford, 44-16 ... of the 14 meetings between the schools since 1992, nine have been decided by a touchdown or less, including a tie and two overtime games.
MIAMI-CINCINNATI TIES: Miami fans will notice some familiar faces on the Cincinnati sidelines ... Bearcat offensive coordinator Don Treadwell is a 1982 Miami alumnus and was a wide receiver for the Red and White from 1978-81. He still holds the program's career record for average yards per reception (21.5) ... Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi was Miami's defensive coordinator during the 2003 season, in which the RedHawks won a MAC Championship ... Mark Staten, UC's tight ends and tackles coach, is a 2001 Miami graduate and was a four-year starter on Miami's defensive line.
NEXT UP: Miami returns to conference play with a key nationally-televised date versus MAC preseason favorite Northern Illinois on Sunday, Oct. 8. The game, which kicks off at 8 p.m., will be carried nationally by ESPN and features two of the nation's most exciting players in Miami wide receiver Ryne Robinson and NIU running back Garrett Wolfe. The contest also marks Homecoming for the RedHawks, who do not play at home again until Oct. 28.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Miami plays five of its next seven games on the road, including three of the next four ... the RedHawks have posted a 4-4 road record under second-year head coach Shane Montgomery and have gone a solid 19-9 on the road over the past five years ... Miami won three straight road games to end the 2005 season but has lost to both Purdue and Syracuse on the road this season.
DON'T PANIC: While Miami's slow start in 2006 is certainly not what the team had hoped for, the RedHawks have a recent history of overcoming sluggish starts with fantastic finishes. Over the past three seasons, the RedHawks have posted a combined record of 21-3 over the course of their final eight regular-season games. The RedHawks have been under .500 five games into each of the last two seasons and went on to win MAC East titles in both years.
THE OFFENSIVE MATCH-UP: Miami's offense faces a Cincinnati defense that has given up 33.0 points per game in three outings since a season-opening shutout of Eastern Kentucky but which has put pressure on opposing offenses ... the Bearcats are averaging 2.25 quarterback sacks per game and rank 33rd nationally in tackles for loss per game (6.75) ... Cincinnati also has a formidable run defense that is allowing just 118.5 yards per game while ranking 55th nationally ... the Bearcats have been more susceptible to the pass, ranking 88th in pass efficiency defense (135.89) and 94th in overall pass defense (227.5 ypg) ... over the last two meetings, Miami has passed for 781 yards (390.5 ypg) and seven touchdowns versus the Bearcats.
FAILURE TO LAUNCH: Miami's offense has had a tough time getting off the launch pad through the first four games of 2006. Though the RedHawks finally scored their first first-half touchdown at Syracuse last week, they still have not scored a point in the opening quarter and have tallied just 10 first-half points this season.
HOGGING THE ROCK: Despite having trouble consistently converting possessions into points, Miami's offense has done a good job of eating clock and keeping its defense off the field. The RedHawks rank seventh nationally in time of possession this season, holding the ball for an average of 34:01 per game. Miami is holding the ball for an average of 9:55 in the first quarter but has still not scored in the opening quarter ... a year after averaging 7.1 plays on its scoring drives, the RedHawks are averaging 9.2 plays per scoring drive in 2006.
LEAVING EMPTY-HANDED: The majority of Miami's offensive problems have come not from failure to move the ball but from failure to finish drives. The RedHawks have advanced the ball into the opposition's territory 25 times this season but only nine of those drives have resulted in points (seven TDs/two FGs) ... furthermore, the RedHawks have had eight penetrations inside their opponents 30-yard line that have resulted in no points, including two last week at Syracuse and a season-high four at Purdue on Sept. 9 ... among Miami's drive killers have been four missed field goals, three failed fourth-down conversions, a pair of interceptions and a combination of sacks and penalties that have forced the team to punt.
THE DEFENSIVE MATCH-UP: Miami's defense faces a Cincinnati offense that has been effective through the air but struggled on the ground ... led by sophomore quarterback Dustin Grutza, the Bearcats are passing for 219.5 yards per game to rank 48th nationally ... the Bearcats rank 112th nationally in rushing offense (70.25 ypg) but were effective last week at Virginia Tech, running for 121 yards and averaging 3.2 yards per carry ... Cincinnati has struggled to protect the quarterback at times and is giving up 3.5 pass sacks per game ... last season, the Bearcats gained 248 yards through the air and 66 yards on the ground at Miami but also threw five interceptions.
KEEPING IT CLOSE: While Miami's offense has struggled to put points on the board in the first half, the defense has kept the RedHawks in games. The Red and White has allowed only three first-quarter scores this season and has permitted a total of just four first-half touchdowns. The RedHawks opened the season by blanking Northwestern in the first half and held Purdue without a score in the opening quarter. After allowing touchdowns on each of Syracuse's first two possessions last week, the defense allowed the Orange to gain only 13 yards over the remainder of the half.
MAKING A PUSH: Leading the way for Miami's defense this season is a young but talented defensive line that has had to replace three starters and has no seniors. That unit, which is expected to enter Saturday's game as close to full strength as it has been all season, broke out Saturday at Syracuse, plaguing the Orange for 6.5 of Miami's 8.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 of the team's 4.0 quarterback sacks. Leading that charge was redshirt freshman Travis Craven, who, in just his second career game, totaled career highs of four tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.0 quarterback sacks. In just two games, Craven has amassed 5.0 tackles for loss to rank seventh in the MAC. Sophomore Joe Coniglio leads the team with 2.5 quarterback sacks.
THE SPECIAL TEAMS MATCH-UP: Cincinnati has posted strong special teams play this season behind senior kicker Kevin Lovell and junior punter Brian Steel ... Lovell is 3-of-3 on field goals this season, including a season-long 46-yarder ... Steel is averaging 38.1 yards per punt but has placed 12 punts inside the 20-yard line while 11 of his 27 total punts have had to be fair caught ... the Bearcats' Dominick Goodman ranks 11th nationally in kickoff return average, posting 29.29 yards per kick return ... Derrick Stewart ranks 45th nationally in punt return average, netting 9.13 yards per return.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES: A year after showing a big leg but struggling with consistency, sophomore punter Jacob Richardson appears to be putting it all together. After averaging 38.4 yards per punt as a freshman, Richardson is flaunting an average of 42.76 yards per punt four games into his sophomore season. The sophomore, who ranks 22nd nationally in punting, hammered a career-long 69-yard punt versus Northwestern and averaged a career-best 53.0 yards per punt on three kicks at Purdue. He has pinned the opposition inside the 20-yard line six times this season, including twice last week at Syracuse.