5th and Goal College Football Tour - Victory Bell Recap
by Jonny Gaunt
In the Midwest, trophy rivalries are football’s lifeblood. From the battle for Paul Bunyan’s Axe between Minnesota and Wisconsin to the Old Oaken Bucket between Indiana and Purdue, the mythical stories behind these trophies are the stuff of legend. Enter the RedHawks and Bearcats. Miami and Cincinnati have been competing for the Victory Bell, originally stolen from Harrison Hall in Oxford, Ohio since 1888. It’s the kind of classic rivalry bred from proximity that you can still feel present day.
The 2022 edition was set to break the 59-59-7 all-time series tie and it didn’t disappoint with immediate intrigue after kickoff. Quarterback Aveon Smith and the Redhawks offense took advantage of some early Bearcat fumbles and lead 17-7 early in the 2nd quarter. When asked about the ball security issues afterwards, Cincinnati Head Coach Luke Fickell was blunt, stating, “We didn’t play clean, there are a lot of things we have to do better.” Untimely penalties and turnovers were the story for much of the 1st half, giving Miami’s otherwise struggling offense quality opportunities to score.
It appeared the favored Bearcats had completely weathered the storm when they quickly scored on a 41 yard touchdown pass from Ben Bryant to wide receiver Tyler Scott in the 3rd quarter to extend the lead to 14 points. Scott finished the game with a game-high 119 yards on 8 catches. Scott and fellow wide receiver Tre Tucker each finished with over 100 yards receiving, the first time two Cincinnati wide receivers have topped 100 yards since 2016. The duo credited their friendship and enjoying the moments of playing together for their success on the field.
Down 31-17, the RedHawk defense settled in and late in the 3rd quarter defensive back Jacquez Warren intercepted a pass from Cincinnati’s Bryant on a tipped pass to provide one more opportunity to get back in the game. Looking to make it a one-score game, Miami quarterback Aveon Smith was stopped just inches short of the goal line on 4th down as the Cincinnati defense walled off the end zone, effectively ending the game.
Cincinnati eventually added one more touchdown in the 4th quarter for the finishing blow in a hard-fought 38-17 victory over their rivals. A theme in the Cincinnati press conference afterwards was the pride of winning a hard fought rivalry game, while also acknowledging the need to grow in some key areas. Coach Fickell stressed, “The [turnovers and penalties] are an achilles heel, that’s where we have to continue to grow.” Still, there were bright spots all over the field for Miami and Cincinnati as they each continue their seasons with Big Ten opponents next week.
While it may appear from the outside that Cincinnati has outgrown the rivalry due to their success in recent years on the field (a current 16-game win streak over Miami), the team couldn’t disagree more. Despite the physicality of the game, each team was highly complementary of one another. Bearcat Linebacker Ivan Pace Jr., who has played on both sides of this rivalry, summed up the what the rivalry means to him in one word: “respect.” With recent conference realignment fracturing many regional rivalry games all over the country, it's a breath of fresh air to know the Battle for the Victory Bell will remain, even with Cincinnati’s departure for the Big 12 next season. While they aren’t placed in the national spotlight often, these regional rivalries are why people love football so much and in Southwest Ohio there isn’t a game that means more.
For the 16th straight season, it was the Cincinnati Bearcats who once again raised the Victory Bell.