OXFORD, Ohio – The University of Cincinnati scored its most incredible victory in the 122-game Battle of the Victory Bell series with Miami on Saturday night.
The Bearcats put up 15 unanswered points in the last three minutes to take home a 21-17 victory, shocking the RedHawks and their homecoming crowd of 21,811.
Malik Clements returned an interception 14 yards into the end zone with 1:42 left for the winning score, then the UC defense held off a furious, desperate drive by Miami.
"It's an incredible program win," said first-year UC coach Luke Fickell in his third game. "To put yourself behind the 8-ball a little bit like we did and see the guys continue to fight and scratch and claw, there was no give-up in that.”
Down 14-3, Cincinnati (2-1) scored 18 points in the fourth quarter. Josh Pasley kicked his second field goal - a 36-yarder - but Miami (1-2) answered with Samuel Sloman's 37-yard field goal to make it 17-6. The UC offense, which hadn’t scored a touchdown and had blown several good opportunities, suddenly came alive.
Quarterback Hayden Moore marched the Bearcats on an eight-play, 75-yard drive, capped by a 20-yard touchdown pass to Kahlil Lewis with 2:52 to play. The pair then connected on the two-point conversion to cut the deficit to three.
Then things really got crazy.
On the ensuing kickoff, Miami's Jaylon Bester, a true freshman, made the mistake of not downing the ball in the end zone and was tackled at the 5. Martin had called on Bester because of injuries.
The fateful delay-of-game penalty came on third-and-2 at the 13.
"Not his fault, my fault," Martin said of the official. "Obviously, I thought he knew we were calling timeout. He did not know and he threw a flag on me."
Forced into a passing down, Gus Ragland threw to Kenny Young in double coverage, and Clements picked him off.
Still, UC wasn’t out of the woods yet.
Ragland drove Miami to the Cincinnati 20-yard line, but his pass on fourth-and-5 was incomplete to end the game.
Miami took a 14-3 lead on Ragland’s 24-yard TD pass to Luke Mayock in the first quarter and Young’s 1-yard run in the third. Meanwhile, UC stumbled on offense for the first three and a half quarters and the Miami defense came up with big plays.
UC drove to the Miami 15 in the first quarter, but a Miami sack by Pasquale Calcagno held UC to Pasley’s 41-yard field goal.
In the second quarter, UC drove to the Miami 25, but De’Andfre Montgomery intercepted a tipped Moore pass.
The RedHawk defense came up with another big stop to open the second half, stuffing Moore’s QB sneak on 4th-and-1 at the UC 34.
Later, UC drove to the Miami 25, but a false start penalty forced a long field goal try and Pasley’s 47-yard attempt hooked wide right.
On its next possession, UC drove to the Miami 6, but Moore's pass was intercepted in the end zone by Cedric Asseh and run out to the 46-yard line.
It was time for the UC defense to make a big stop, and it did. Then the Bearcats finally turned a long drive into Pasley's field goal with 11 and a half minutes to go, setting up the wild finish.
UC didn't have starting running back Mike Boone, who twisted his left ankle on the final play of the Michigan game last week. Redshirt freshman Gerrid Doaks started and gained 71 yards on 11 carries. Freshman Michael Warren added 51 yards on nine carries.
Moore completed 24 of 43 for 222 yards with two interceptions.
Ragland completed 16 of 31 for 222 yards with one TD pass and one pick. He was sacked three times and finished with minus-4 yards rushing on 10 attempts.
UC hasn't lost to Miami since 2005. Miami still lead the series, 59-56-7.
UC plays at Navy next Saturday while Miami visits Central Michigan.