Russell Athletic Bowl: Miami 31, West Virginia 14, 5 Things That Matter, What’s Next For 2017?
Miami came up with a terrific performance to get by West Virginia 31-14 in the Russell Athletic Bowl. What are the five things that matter, and what’s next for 2017?
Is this the start of something really, really big?
Don’t dismiss this as just a victory over West Virginia. That’s a good Mountaineer team that won ten games, has good talent across the board, a nice defense, and the explosiveness to keep up with just about anyone in college football.
And Miami roared by on the way to what might be the official coming out party for the Mark Richt era.
This is a young team that’s about to get another infusion of talent from a full recruiting cycle under Richt, and it’s loaded with enough star power to be in the ACC title chase next season shown off by a dominant defensive performance for the first bowl win for the program since 2006.
It’s crazy to look too much into a bowl game, but this just felt like something special. This felt like the program gets it and is about to do really, really big things again.
Next year, the Canes will be great with or without …
West Virginia was up 7-0 and looking like it was about get on a roll going into the second quarter. And why not? Miami QB Brad Kaaya was struggling, completing just 5-of-13 passes for 29 yards for an offense that wasn’t going anywhere. And then he looked like the Brad Kaaya the pro scouts all like by hitting 19-of-21 throws for 253 yards and four scores in the last three quarters.
He was given time by his line after the first quarter, his defense came up with stop after stop, and he settled down to rip through the West Virginia defense. Nah, he’s not going to be part of the fun – he’s crazy not to go to the NFL – but he showed off a glimpse of his great potential at the next level.
Yeah, if it’s possible for a pro prospect to help himself in a “meaningless” bowl, Kaaya just did it.
This doesn’t ruin West Virginia’s season, but …
This was a bad time to come up with the worst performance of the season. Just when it seemed like West Virginia was going to close with a possible 11-win season and a solid third-place finish in the Big 12, it came up with a rough final three quarters and never got a handle back on the game. The O couldn’t handle the Miami defensive front, the running game didn’t work, and Skyler Howard couldn’t bomb the team back into contention. There were 11 penalties, 229 yards of offense, and no plays of major consequence after the first score. Miami played like a team and a program looking to make a point, and the Mountaineers couldn’t adjust.
What’s next for Miami in 2017?
Can Malik Rosier be the triggerman for the attack with Brad Kaaya all but certain to leave for the NFL? He won’t have Stacy Coley to throw to, but the rest of the receiving corps returns intact, and the running back combination of Mark Walton and Joseph Yearby should be terrific behind a line that loses top guard Danny Isidora, but gets back three starters.
The defensive front should be devastating with the entire two-deep back. This group will live behind the line, while the all-freshman linebacking corps of 2016 should be an experienced killer next season. The secondary loses corners Corn Elder and Adrian Colbert, along with safeties Rayshawn Jenkins and Jamal Carter, but the front seven should pick up the slack for a while.
What’s next for West Virginia in 2017?
This was supposed to be the year it all came together, and it did with a solid double-digit win season. But now there’s a ton of work to do with way too many key losses on both sides of the ball. The hope is for Florida transfer Will Grier to be ready to fly – at least when eligible – with QB Skyler Howard done, while the running back situation should be an early positive despite the loss of Rushel Shell. Shelton Gibson is a No. 1 target, but Daikiel Shorts is gone. The line is the biggest concern with C Tyler Orlosky and LT Adam Pankey to tough stars to replace.
Top pass rusher Noble Nwachkwu and the entire defensive front three are gone along with LB Justin Arndt, while the secondary has to replace three starters including CB Rasul Douglas. In all, seven starters have to be replaced on a D that became one of the best in the Big 12 over the course of the season.