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Win at Miami proves beauty in eye of beholder

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Many would view Saturday's 14-0 win as an ugly effort, but none of those were ringing the Victory Bell on Saturday at Yager Stadium. 

OXFORD, Ohio -- In the Xbox era of college football, beauty comes defined by different standards. Wild shootouts and broken passing records draw double takes and smiles from the boys. 

Physicality and frustrated offensive coordinators are demoted to a back room, sent out to the scrap heap along with Nintendo, Reebok pumps and other former objects of affection.

What once would be considered the definition of football in the Sunday newspaper today draws Twitter trolls. 

Not for Tommy Tuberville. Wiping his hand through graying hair to symbolize the number of 14-0 stress sessions he's witnessed during a 17-year coaching career, he smiles about a game that never made him feel uncomfortable even though his 23-point favorite Bearcats failed to find a lead as minutes ran off the clock in the final quarter. 

"A lot of people say that wasn't very pretty, but it was for me," Tuberville said. "Running the ball, playing defense and winning the game is always pretty to me."

To those who treasure broken noses and gnarly bruises Saturday was watching Picasso paint. 

The Bearcats allowed one yard of net offense in the second half. One. Uno. 

They held Miami to 0 for 11 on third downs and empty on three fourth-down attempts.

Of 45 RedHawks plays, the same went for negative yards (11) as went for more than five. 

Eight players owned piece of a tackle for loss. 

In the fourth quarter, Miami ran eight plays for minus-11 yards with one turnover and one punt. 

Tuberville, while reading postgame stats, spotted 29 and 7 listed next to each other on the box score and remarked how well the defense shut them down only allowing 29 rushing yards. Only, the numbers read opposite. UC held Miami to seven yards on 29 rushes. That's 0.24 yards per rush for those searching for a calculator.

Ugly? Maybe to those flipping to ESPN3. And certainly to fans whiting out Yager Stadium. But not for anyone found ringing the Victory Bell on the way to the team bus in Oxford. 

"That was one of the best wins I've ever had here," said defensive tackle Jordan Stepp, who racked up two sacks and saw UC rack up nine straight scoreless quarters in this stadium. "Here's why. Winning is hard to do, but we've had a lot of success the five years I've been here. Wins like that show the younger guys not to take it for granted. Those are the best wins. Wins you have to fight for are the ones  - I got goosebumps right now - those are the ones you feel. They are the ones that mean everything." 

They mean even more to a team seeking an identity entering conference play for the first time under Tuberville. Mark Dantonio's teams were defined by physicality. Brian Kelly's by electric offense. Butch Jones' by passion. What will be the calling card of Tuberville when UC walks into Raymond James Stadium in two weeks. 

On Saturday, the case was made for relentless defense. 

Defensive end Silverberry Mouhon consistently collapsed the edge along with Terrell Hartsfield and other rotating ends. It allowed UC's quick linebackers to blow up any of the few gaps opened by the Miami offense. 

To be sure, the RedHawks won't be mistaken for Green Bay Packers anytime soon. And references of a coach on the hot seat echoed through the stadium as beleaguered Miami fans slogged to their cars. But this was as much about the Bearcats defense as Miami offense. 

UC adapted to mistakes made on third downs and with quarterbacks sprinting out of the pocket at Illinois to become a strength against Miami. 

Brendon Kay didn't play well. The kicking game left six points on the board. They became the first NCAA game to go scoreless through three quarters since 2007. 

Yet, even amid frustration on the visitor sideline, the day never felt uncomfortable. 

That's the beauty of it. 

"We were on fire the second half," Stepp said. "Football is a game of momentum and that carried over to the offense. There's been a lot of times in my career here we've needed a spark lit under our butts from the offense. It's a beautiful thing in a win like that when you have to earn every inch, every yard, every down, every point. It's great." 

I want to hear from you! Shoot me any comments, questions or observations about UC football to pauldehnerjr@gmail.com or hit me up on Twitter @pauldehnerjr.

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