2016 Russell Athletic Bowl
A match-up of former Big East rivals, the Miami Hurricanes notched their first bowl win since 2006 over the West Virginia Mountaineers. Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya was named Russell Athletic Bowl MVP after a 282 yard, 4 touchdown performance.
As well as one of the Hurricanes best offensive performances this season, the young defense held the #16 ranked Mountaineers to 14 points. After taking a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, West Virginia wouldn’t score again until the third quarter. Miami’s defense limited the 12th ranked offense to a season-low 229 total yards.
The last time these teams met was in 2003, a 22-20 Hurricane victory. However, the bad blood from their Big East days was still present.
As is common during bowl games, both teams made an appearance and a charity event earlier in the week. West Virginia players taunted Miami with calls of “bye Felicia” along with choice words towards stars Stacy Coley and Rashawn Jenkins. Fortunately, tensions did not escalate. But judging by the final score, it obviously gave the Hurricanes fodder for their 31-14 victory. Miami overcame a slow start, particularly Kaaya’s accuracy, to take control of the game in the second half.
The Hurricanes defense kept West Virginia’s offense out of rhythm for the majority of the game. Mountaineers quarterback Skyler Howard had difficulty finding open receivers and staying in the pocket.
After the game, Kaaya was non-committal on his future plans in Coral Gables. Hurricane tight end David Njoku announced that he would be entering the upcoming NFL draft immediately after the game.
Under first year coach Mark Richt, Miami was seen as a possible contender for the ACC Coastal championship. After a 4-0 start, Miami lost four straight with losses to Florida State, North Carolina and Virginia Tech. A disappointing season in some respect, the win gives the Hurricanes something to build on headed into the off season.