Russell Athletic Bowl Look Ahead: Meet #17 West Virginia

 The University of Miami played themselves into a nice bowl game receiving the Russell Athletic Bowl honors after winning four straight games to end the season but have a real challenge in their Big 12 opponent, the 17th ranked West Virginia Mountaineers.

The Russell Athletic Bowl could be the last game for QB Brad Kaaya in a Hurricanes uniform (Andrew Suarez/Miami Sports Native)

West Virginia under Head Coach Dana Holgerson have a stacked up, high powered offensive attack that led them to six straight wins to begin the season. The buzz saw slowed down when West Virginia were taken down 37-20 by Oklahoma State, two games and two victories later they were demolished by Oklahoma 56-28 and those stood as the lone blemishes on the Mountaineers. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State we’re the best two teams in the Big 12 this year so it’s not too condemning to West Virginia’s reputation.

Through West Virginia’s ten wins four were decided by four points or less including an impressive comeback to beat Baylor 24-21 and a head scratching 17-16 win against Bill Snyder’s Kansas State team shows there could be a “hot and cold” nature to this team.

Quarterback Skylar Howard’s dual threat ability has led WVU to 15th in the nation in yards per game. Howard has thrown for over 3,000 yards and rushed for 400 more as the teams second leading rusher while piling up 26 touchdowns to 10 interceptions and rushing for another 9 touchdowns. Running back Justin Crawford has also been successful in chugging out yardage with over the coveted 1,000 at 1,168 but doesn’t quite have the nose for the endzone with only four rushing touchdowns.

West Virginia lives and dies by their offense as the 12th ranked total offensive team in the nation and will present a challenge for the Hurricanes who boast a solid defense that just doesn’t exist throughout the Big 12. ACC teams tend to be more balanced on both sides of the ball while Big 12 teams favor high offense attacks.

The Mountaineers defense can be a cause for concern for the team. WVU ranks 101st in the nation in passing yards allowed per game, tied for 83rd in sacks, and 80th in total defense so the offensive firepower often has to make up for the holes in the defense. The bright spot on the West Virginia defense is cornerback Rasul Douglas who has had a monster season leading the nation with eight interceptions and was fourth on the team in tackles with 62. Douglas has the new NFL’s size at 6’2″ 203 pounds listed and the stats to match. The way WVU stops opponents is through turnovers as they are 14th in the nation in that department in large part due to Douglas.

Miami is certainly motivated to get their first bowl victory in the last six tries and their first since the 2006 victory against Nevada.

Hurricanes fans have traveled well this season and are expected to be in full force in Orlando. FL. (Andrew Suarez/Miami Sports Native)

“It means that we have to win, because we haven’t won here in a while.” Said senior offensive guard Danny Isidora. “That’s what we have to do. It would turn the program around for next year. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to finish with a five-game win streak.

Miami is motivated.

  • Darrell Wilkinson
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