Mark Richt returned to his alma mater this year to win national championships but his first task in the postseason was to end Miami’s decade-long drought of frustration when it came to bowl games.
After Wednesday’s 31-14 Russell Athletic Bowl triumph over West Virginia, you can cross that one off the list for the head coach in his first season in Coral Gables.
Quarterback Brad Kaaya bounced back from a slow start to light the Mountaineers vaunted secondary on fire (282 yards, four touchdowns) and the Hurricanes used a nice second quarter surge to leave any doubt about the final outcome in this one for their first win in the postseason since 2006.
Keying that run was terrific young wideout Ahmmon Richards, who turned a short pass into a 51 yard catch-and-run for the team’s first touchdown. That would be the first of five straight scoring drives for Miami that included big plays from David Njoku and Braxton Berrios to find the end zone among others. The rushing attack wasn’t much to write about for the team (82 total yards) but with so much success through the air it’s no surprise to see them trend away from it until needing to kill the clock late in the fourth quarter.
Things didn’t start out all that bad for West Virginia, which had a swarming defense early in the game that didn’t allow a first down in the entire first quarter. Things quickly went down hill after allowing the first score however and the team never could get on track offensively as quarterback Skyler Howard proved ineffective. Even the normally productive running game for the Mountaineers failed to get much going on the night as their signal-caller led them in most statistical categories on the ground.
As a result, Miami was able to move on and capture their ninth win to close out a very good debut year with the school for Richt and his new coaching staff. While the Hurricanes will suffer some key losses to graduation and the NFL Draft, the team likely returns their quarterback and a host of playmakers on both sides of the ball and should enter the top 20 of next year’s preseason polls with plenty of momentum.
WVU does pick up their third loss of the season in the process for what was otherwise a very impressive bounce-back campaign for the team — the bowl performance notwithstanding after getting beat up down in Orlando.
DeShone Kizer has thrown two touchdowns in the first half to help give Notre Dame a 20-7 advantage on visiting Miami. The defense of the Irish has played one of the best halves of the season against Brad Kaaya and the Hurricanes, holding Miami to just three rushing yards.
Notre Dame started off as well as they could have dreamed, with a touchdown drive to open the game for an early lead. Kizer connected with Torii Hunter Jr. from the five-yard line for the score. Miami’s offense then lost eight yards on a three-and-out on their first drive, setting Notre Dame up with a great chance to do some more early damage. Notre Dame was held to a field goal, but the defense then picked off Kaaya on Miami’s third down on the ensuing possession. This time, Notre Dame cashed in with a touchdown with Kaaya finding Equanimeous St. Brown from 14 yards out.
Miami did catch one break in the first half on special teams by recovering a fumble by Hunter Jr. that led to a Miami touchdown a few plays later (Kaaya completing a pass to David Njoku for the score). But that has been just about all Miami has managed to do against Notre Dame so far. Miami has been flagged six times for 55 yards too.
Miami and Virginia Tech got together for a big ACC Coastal clash and each squad’s defense stepped up with numerous big plays on Thursday night as the Hokies held onto a 16-9 halftime lead.
The biggest play of the first half came from a surprising source: senior fullback Sam Rogers, who was wide open on a pass over the middle of the field and rumbled 52 yards to set up the Hokies’ only touchdown. That score came one play later as quarterback Jerod Evans found Bucky Hodges in the end zone from seven yards out.
Evans eventually finished the half with 147 yards on 12-of-19 passing and chipped in another 36 rushing.
Virginia Tech’s defense was able to come up with some big plays of their own to limit the normally productive Miami offense. QB Brad Kaaya was pressured on nearly every snap but finished the half with 201 yards through the air. In addition to throwing an interception into triple coverage, he was also sacked three times. The UM ground game also couldn’t get going either, averaging less than a yard per carry.
The game’s momentum seemed to change completely for the Hurricanes when Kaaya hit David Njoku for a big gain on a coverage bust but the speedy tight end was tackled by the Lane Stadium turf monster despite a wide open path to a touchdown. Miami eventually kicked a field goal on the drive but couldn’t get going at all until entering their hurry up offense with just over a minute left in the second quarter, scoring a late touchdown but missing the extra point to keep it a seven point game.
It should make for a fun second half if the visitors from South Florida can back into things like they did just before halftime as each team needs a win badly if they want to win the division.
North Carolina scored on all but one drive in the first half as they jumped on a lifeless Miami to take a 20-3 halftime lead in a huge game in the ACC Coastal standings.
Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky looked much more like himself playing the Hurricanes rather than playing in one, going 14-of-19 for 162 yards and two scores. Those numbers are more than double what he threw for last week in a disappointing loss to Virginia Tech.
Bug Howard took care of big plays in the passing game by getting a big 40 yard reception to open things up deep while teammate Ryan Switzer was surprisingly held in check (four yards on four catches but one score).
Miami signal-caller Brad Kaaya had virtually no rhythm when dropping back to pass as the Canes could not get much going aside from a few catch and runs from receiver David Njoku (four catches, 82 yards). Mark Walton did chip in with 60 yards on the ground in the offense’s lone bright spot of the first half.
You probably could have seen a big let down coming for the Hurricanes after an emotional last minute loss to Florida State a week ago. North Carolina took advantage of the slow start by the home team in the first half but will need to keep their foot on the pedal if they want to leave South Florida with a win in the final two quarters.