Oxford, OH (U-WIRE) -- The ship has been righted. After the Miami University football team got into an 0-2 hole to start the year, the RedHawks have climbed back to .500 after smothering the University of Cincinnati on Wednesday, 44-16, to recapture the Victory Bell.
Playing in front of 19,163 people, and in front of a national television audience, Miami controlled the game on both sides of the ball from the opening kickoff to the final whistle.
"Obviously this was a great team win tonight," said head coach Shane Montgomery. "It's a game we've been waiting for, for awhile because we hadn't really played a complete game yet. Tonight we played really well, not only on offense and defense, but on special teams as well."
Offensively, the team picked up right where it left off piling up yardage against Kent State University. Quarterback Josh Betts, who sat out the first series due to a violation of team rules, commanded the offense with precision, completing 22 of 35 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns.
It marked the second game this season that he eclipsed the 300-yard mark. The primary beneficiaries of his passing were starting receivers Martin Nance and Ryne Robinson. The duo had 119 and 127 yards respectively. In so doing, Nance set a new Miami record with four straight 100-yard games.
"They've got good wide receivers, and we knew that coming into the game," said UC coach Mark Dantonio. "We didn't handle Robinson and Nance. And Betts was on target."
The target was clear as a bell for the 'Hawks. After winning three straight against their rivals to the south, Miami was booted out of Nippert Stadium last year.
During the game, the trophy was planted on the Bearcat's sideline, but Miami's players were determined that it would stay in Oxford this year.
"It was really frustrating last year," Betts said. "We know how important this game is, not only for us but for the alumni and community as well."
Given the significance of the 110th meeting between the schools, the RedHawks had reason to be nervous entering the match up. Against Kent State, All-MAC linebacker Terna Nande was relegated to the sideline Wednesday with a lacerated liver suffered against Kent State.
In addition, middle linebacker Derek Rehage missed his third straight game with a foot injury. Montgomery simply inserted David Hutzelman and Bryan Tyson, and the defense hardly lost a step.
The second tier of the defensive depth chart helped limit the Bearcats to a total of 67 yards rushing, and handled three of the team's five interceptions.
"We concentrated on stopping the run, and really made them a one-dimensional team," said linebacker John Busing, who was named MAC East defensive player of the week against the Golden Flashes. "We were really familiar with what they were going to give us, and the defensive line played tremendous."
UC's quarterback, Dustin Grutza, offered the Bearcats mobility outside the pocket, but seldom found room to run. He gained a mere 27 yards on nine attempts, and was sacked three times under a relentless pass rush.
Perhaps Grutza's most glaring mistake occurred early in the fourth quarter. With UC driving into Miami territory, Grutza dropped back to pass, but then nearly everyone on the field stopped playing, as they believed that the play was called dead by an official.
The play had not been blown dead, however, and after a few seconds Grutza realized and looked to go deep. Safety Joey Card made a break and intercepted the pass in the end zone. The Bearcats were mostly listless afterwards.
"We were in between our 4-3 and 3-4 (defense), and we only had 10 guys out there," Busing said. "I was about to call a timeout but they snapped the ball so quickly and everyone was confused so we just stayed in coverage."
On the ensuing drive, the RedHawks capitalized with a heavy dose of Brandon Murphy. All night in fact, the line blazed gaping holes for the diminutive Murphy who recorded his second straight 100-yard game.
Backup Jimmy Murray also got into the act, and gained 55 yards and a touchdown of his own, operating exclusively in mop-up duty.
Not all was golden on the day, however. The RedHawks committed 11 penalties for 125 yards, and squandered numerous red-zone opportunities. The team will have exactly a week to prepare, as they play another Wednesday ESPN game next week at Northern Illinois University.
(C) 2004 The Miami Student via U-WIRE