Battle for the Bell in Oxford - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Battle for the Bell in Oxford

By JOE KAY

AP Sports Writer

CINCINNATI (AP) - No need to run coach Butch Jones' special

"Bearcat Swag" drill these days. A lopsided win over North

Carolina State has put a lot of bounce back in Cincinnati's step.

It's also moved Cincinnati one win away from a noteworthy mark.

The Bearcats (3-1) can match their win total from last season

when they play at Miami of Ohio on Saturday afternoon. They were

two-time defending Big East champions when they plummeted to 4-8

last season, their first under coach Butch Jones.

They seem to be back in stride.

"I think we just needed a year of repetition to know what the

coaches want, how things should be run," running back Isaiah Pead

said. "To have the whole defense return and a majority of the

offense return and leaders starting to lead instead of sweeping

things under the rug - I think a lot of things have changed in the

course of the year."

Starting with that record.

The Bearcats can get that fourth win before they start

conference play, the best indication that it's a much different

year. They've won five straight against the RedHawks (0-3) in the

nation's oldest nonconference rivalry. It started in 1888 in

Oxford, has been played 115 times and has its own unique traveling

trophy - a "Victory Bell" that goes to the winner.

Cincinnati has dominated the series lately, winning by scores of

24-10, 47-10, 45-20, 37-13 and 45-3 last year at Nippert Stadium.

The RedHawks recovered from that drubbing and went on to win the

Mid-American Conference championship.

Miami has opened this season with a 17-6 loss to Missouri, 29-23

to Minnesota and 37-23 to Bowling Green.

"It's a rivalry game, so we can't really go off of the other

teams they've played," Pead said. "They're going to play us

tough. You're going to know the mindset they have - if they don't

win a game all year but they beat us, their season is completed."

It's not quite that big of a rivalry - a one-win season in

Oxford would be a huge disappointment under first-year coach Don

Treadwell - but it's still one of their biggest games.

"When you came off the field, you weren't running and jumping

around unless you had the Victory Bell," said Treadwell, a

four-year starter at Miami from 1978-81. "But even then, later

that day and the next day, you knew you'd played in a physical

rivalry game, which is what it's all about."

Miami receiver Andy Cruse grew up in Cincinnati and already knew

about the rivalry, but was surprised by the intensity the first

time he played in it.

"It's definitely not like what you see on TV," the redshirt

junior said. "I'd say it's definitely a date you circle on your

calendar."

The RedHawks will be playing a team that's gotten its confidence

back.

Cincinnati got pushed around during a 45-23 loss at Tennessee in

the second game of the season, leaving the Bearcats at an early

turning point. Did they want another four-win season? Were they

going to allow themselves to get knocked around for another year?

That's when Jones introduced his "Bearcat Swag" drill, having

his players practice getting up quickly after a hit to show

toughness. It was part of an emphasis on being physical and not

getting pushed around. The Bearcats beat Akron 59-14 and followed

that with a 44-14 win over North Carolina State that was their most

complete game during Jones' two seasons.

"It definitely felt good, I'm not going to lie to you about

that," quarterback Zach Collaros said. "It kind of felt like a

monkey was taken off our back. We won a big game, a BCS-caliber

team that went to a bowl game last year. So it was a big game

leading up to it all week.

"I think it's done a lot for us, just from a mental standpoint

and an energy standpoint. There's a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of

passion."

And more than a little dislike.

"An immature team or a team without leadership would look past

this game," Collaros said. "If we lose this game, it's not going

to be a good thing. We're approaching this week as if it's a Big

East opponent.

"And, it's a rivalry. We don't like them. They don't like us."

---

AP freelance writer Mark Schmetzer in Oxford, Ohio, contributed

to this report.

 

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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