2016 Rusell Athletic Bowl Preview
The West Virginia Mountaineers had a ten win season and earned the right to play the Miami Hurricanes in the 2016 Russell Athletic Bowl.
West Virginia Mountaineers
West Virginia only lost to the two schools from Oklahoma in the Big 12 on the season. Both of those schools are playing in great bowl games, so they aren’t bad losses. The Mountaineers have beaten numerous bowl eligible teams including: Kansas State, BYU, TCU and Baylor.
Quarterback Skyler Howard wasn’t recruited by a lot of schools, but has made the most of his time at West Virginia. This season he has thrown for 3,194 yards and 26 touchdowns. He has a completion percentage that is mundane at 60% and 10 interceptions thrown, but is for the most part a reliable quarterback.
Shelton Gibson is the big play receiver for the Mountaineers with an average of 23.3 yards per catch and eight receiving touchdowns. Daikel Shorts is the possession receiver with 833 receiving yards and 58 catches. With thirteen receivers with passes caught, the Mountaineers have plenty of play-makers to throw to.
Running back Justin Crawford has a staggering 7.4 yards per rush this season and has 1,168 rushing yards. They have three other rushers with over 400 yards rushing. Most would think a Dana Holgorsen offense would be more of a passing attack, but West Virginia is really balanced.
The rush defense of the Mountaineers is average, allowing 176 yards per game. The pass defense is the problem for the Mountaineers as they allow 256 yards per game. They need to hope their offense can outscore the other team.
Rasul Douglas has been a ball hawk as a corner with eight interceptions. He will need to help the Mountaineers win the turnover margin to win the game.
Mark Richt has had a decent first year as the head coach of Miami and finished at 8-4. They lost four in a row in the middle of the season, which included a bad loss to a four win Notre Dame team. The Hurricanes doe have good wins against Appalachian State, Georgia Tech and NC State.
Brad Kaaya has had a tremendous junior season with 3,250 passing yards, 23 passing touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has done a pretty good job of protecting the football. Kaaya does a lot of things well, but has yet to realize his full potential. Kaaya is a good college quarterback who is capable of getting the Hurricanes a win in this game.
Kaaya has three really good targets. Tight end David Njoku is a reliable target that could be drafted in the 2017 NFL Draft. Stacy Coley has the most catches (58) and touchdowns (nine) on the team. Ahmmon Richards has 866 receiving yards to help Miami move the chains.
Mark Walton has rushed for over 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns on the season. He wasn’t supposed to be the starting running back, but has made the most of his opportunity. Joseph Yearby has added 592 rushing yards on the season.
The rush defense of Miami has been solid, allowing 135 rushing yards per game. Miami is average at pass defense and gives up 220 passing yards per game.
Defensive lineman Joe Jackson has been a force with 7.5 sacks on the season. He will be tasked with getting pressure on Skylar Howard.
The balance of the West Virginia offense will keep the Hurricanes on their toes. Howard will have a good final game and be sent off with a victory.