Miami Bullies WVU Offense, Blows By Mountaineers Defense In Three Score Victory

ORLANDO, Fla. - Miami rolled past West Virginia and outclassed the Mountaineers in nearly every phase of Wednesday evening's 31-14 win.

West Virginia's first offensive drive was a sign of things to come - the Mountaineers ran twice for five yards and then Skyler Howard fumbled on a third down scramble, handing the ball to Miami. That sequence was indicative of a night in which the Mountaineers' offense was regularly beaten up front and committed several costly errors at critical times. The defense, on the other hand, displayed dominating play in the first 15 minutes that wouldn't be seen for the remaining 45.

Tony Gibson's unit started the game by forcing five straight three-and-outs, routinely pressuring Hurricane quarterback Brad Kaaya and forcing the signal caller into a series of inaccurate throws. But during that defensive showcase the Mountaineers were able to score just seven points on a six yard sweep to Kennedy McKoy that was set up by a 24 yard Skyler Howard run a play earlier. That touchdown occurred with 5:40 remaining in the first quarter and gave the Mountaineers a 7-.0 lead, and that was as good as it would get.

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In the second quarter Miami turned on the jets and it started with a 51 yard strike to freshman all-American Ahmmon Richardson with 6:30 remaining in the half. The Hurricanes weren't done though, as they answered a West Virginia three-and-out by driving down the field and hitting Malcolm Lewis on a two yard touchdown pass with roughly two minutes left in the first half. The Mountaineers opted to try to answer the score rather than running out the remaining time in the half and it proved costly. The Hurricanes were able to turn yet another West Virginia three-and-out into points as Brad Kaaya hit Braxton Berrios on a 26 yard touchdown. Miami then took a 21-7 lead into the half after the Mountaineers posted just 17 total yards and no first downs in the second quarter of play.

WVU's fortunes didn't change much in the second half either as Miami opened up the third quarter by driving the ball down the field and scoring another touchdown when tight end David Njoku caught a short pass but broke a tackle and turned it up the field for another score, extending the Hurricanes' lead to 28-7.

But despite allowing four unanswered scores, West Virginia answered with a scoring drive of its own after going stone cold in the second quarter. A targeting call gave the Mountaineers solid field position a few plays before Howard found Daikiel Shorts for a 26 yard completion in the face of a blitz, moving the ball inside the Miami five yard line. Just three plays later Howard ran up the middle for a four yard score, cutting the lead to 28-14 and earning the last West Virginia points of the night. Miami would tack on three more on the ensuing drive and extend its lead to 31-14, a score that would hold for the remainder of the game and earn the Hurricanes a Russell Athletic Bowl trophy.

There are plenty of reasons why West Virginia lost this one, but none loom larger than the offensive line's inability to block an athletic Hurricane front. Miami registered four sacks on the night and routinely penetrated the WVU line and hit its running backs in the backfield, holding the Mountaineers to 95 yards on 39 attempts (or 2.4 yards per carry). The inability to block the Hurricanes up front resulted in just 229 yards of total offense for West Virginia, its lowest total of the season by more than 150 yards.

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