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