Skyler Howard

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CFT Previews: Russell Athletic Bowl

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WHO: No. 16 West Virginia (10-2) vs. Miami (8-4)
WHAT: The 27th Russell Athletic Bowl
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL
THE SKINNY: It may be difficult to comprehend the idea of the Miami Hurricanes have gone a decade without celebrating a postseason bowl victory, but that is the monkey on the shoulders of the once-proud Hurricanes today. New head coach Mark Richt can start to turn the program around and bring his first campaign as the head coach to a happy ending that has long since been missing heading into the offseason.

Richt can have faith in his defense and quarterback Brad Kaaya to some degree, although Kaaya has far from perfect on the biggest of stages Miami has taken during his tenure. Could that change in the bowl game this year

Miami will be reunited with former Big East rival West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl. The two programs have not faced each other since 2003, before Miami left the Big East for the ACC. The Mountaineers are coming off their most successful season since moving into the Big 12 (also abandoning the Big East in the process) and is looking to put together the most wins in a single season under head coach Dana Holgorsen and the most wins since 2007.

West Virginia has been playing some of the best defense found in the Big 12, where defense often tends to be optional, but the Mountaineers are also ranked 80th in the nation in total defense. Regardless, the school gave a three-year contract extension to defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, who will be tasked with scheming against Brad Kaaya. On offense, West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard is coming off a season with 3,194 passing yards and 26 touchdowns, and Howard had a massive bowl game a year ago. If West Virginia can keep in sync on offense and cause Kaaya to make some mistakes, then West Virginia could gain an advantage unless Miami suddenly resurrects its running game.

THE PREDICTION: West Virginia 27, Miami 24

Surprise in Stillwater! Oklahoma State upsets No. 10 West Virginia

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Oklahoma State (6-2, 4-1 Big 12) was in danger of letting a 17-point lead evaporate in the second half against No. 10 West Virginia (6-1, 3-1 Big 12), but the Cowboys held on and pulled away to hand the Mountaineers their first loss of the season, 37-20. The result may effectively put another nail in the coffin for the Big 12’s playoff hopes and also adds another ingredient to the Big 12 championship picture.

West Virginia pulled to within seven points of Oklahoma State in the fourth quarter when Skyler Howard ran 12 yards to the end zone for a score and Mike Molina kicked a short 21-yard field goal after Oklahoma State went three-and-out in between. Oklahoma State then flipped a switch to put the game away with an answering touchdown drive (Mason Rudolph to Chris Lacy) and an interception of Howard that ultimately led to a field goal by Ben Grogan for a little more breathing room. West Virginia would run out of time from there.

West Virginia committed three turnovers in the game, which led to 17 points for Oklahoma State. The two Oklahoma State touchdowns off turnovers also only had to travel a combined 17 yards, and the field goal came on a 4th and goal from the six-yard line (following a delay of game penalty). Turnovers have a way of influencing a game, and they certainly had an impact in the decision of this Big 12 tilt.

It is the first time West Virginia has taken a loss, and it may be another tough blow to the Big 12’s playoff hopes. As it stands right now, the big 12 likely needs Baylor to run the table the rest of the way, because Oklahoma already has two losses, as does Oklahoma State. One loss is not quite an official eliminator for West Virginia, and they do get two of their toughest remaining games at home (Oklahoma and Baylor), but the path to the College Football Playoff for a second straight season is getting more treacherous for the Big 12 without getting help elsewhere.

Oklahoma State now is in the Big 12 hunt, which is not a huge shock. Oklahoma State does have a head-to-head loss against Baylor, but they will play Oklahoma in the final game of the regular season. The Big 12 could potentially be on the line in that game, which should create quite a raucous atmosphere in Norman on December 3. But Oklahoma State heads to Kansas State first next week and still has Texas Tech and TCU to get through first.

West Virgina will look to bounce back next week at home against Kansas.

Oklahoma State puts No. 10 West Virginia on upset alert with 20-10 halftime lead

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What looked like it could setup to be a bit of an offensive showcase has instead been a much more defensive battle than expected. Oklahoma State’s upset bid against No. 10 West Virginia is one half closer to completion, with the Cowboys taking a 20-10 lead on the visiting Mountaineers in Stillwater. A key turnover by West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard led to a go-ahead score for Oklahoma State.

West Virginia and Oklahoma State exchanged field goals on the first two possessions of the game, and the Cowboys took a 6-3 lead on their second offensive series with a second field goal from Ben Grogan. West Virginia scored the first touchdown of the afternoon when Shelton Gibson stretched to bring in a 19-yard pass in the end zone from Howard.

Howard has generally been reliable for West Virginia, but he lost the football while being sacked by Vincent Taylor deep in his own end, giving Oklahoma State the football at the West Virginia eight-yard line. Two plays later, Mason Rudolph completed a pass to Chris Lacy for a 13-10 lead. Oklahoma State added to the lead on their next offensive possession, after West Virginia missed a field goal. The 15-play drive ended with Rudolph connecting with Jalen McCleskey for a short touchdown play, putting the home team up 20-10.

No. 12 West Virginia remains undefeated with 34-10 victory over TCU

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Skyler Howard threw four touchdowns to help lead No. 12 West Virginia (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) to a 34-10 victory over TCU (4-3, 2-2 Big 12) in Morgantown on Saturday. The win keeps the Mountaineers perfect on the season and continues to keep them atop the Big 12 standings with some key games still to be played.

West Virginia had a balanced attack on offense against the Horned Frogs. In addition to Howard tossing four touchdowns and passing for 231 yards in the win, running back Rushel Shell rushed for 117 yards. The defense (and special teams) came to play as well, forcing three TCU turnovers, including on the opening kickoff of the game to setup a quick touchdown. It was a rough start for visiting TCU, but they battled back before the game got out of reach in the second half. West Virginia pitched a shutout in the second half, while tacking on 13 points to pull away. TCU was able to convert just one of nine third downs and Kenny Hill averaged just 4.9 yards per pass attempt.

Is there any slowing West Virginia down? Maybe, but when? West Virginia takes their undefeated record on the road next week with a visit to Stillwater to play Oklahoma State. Then comes a home game against Kansas and a road game at Texas. All three are winnable, with only Oklahoma State expected to be the toughest challenge out of that bunch. The key still looks to be the final three games of the season, with home games against Oklahoma and Baylor with a road trip to Iowa State in between.

The Big 12 should be within reach, but could a playoff spot be in sight for West Virginia? The Mountaineers continue to climb their way up the rankings and fly under the radar. If the wins keep coming, that will not be the case for much longer.

TCU will return home next week to try and bounce back when they host Texas Tech.

3 TDs from Skyler Howard give WVU 21-10 halftime lead on TCU

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Looking to prove they are every much worth respecting, West Virginia is off to a good start at home against TCU in Big 12 play this afternoon. The Mountaineers took advantage of a special teams mistake by TCU on the opening kickoff and now hold a 21-10 lead at halftime.

Deante Gray had the ball knocked out of his hands on TCU’s opening kickoff return. West Virginia recovered the loose ball and setup the offense from the TCU 17-yard line. Skyler Howard completed a 10-yard touchdown pass to Daikiel Shorts on a third and short for an early 7-0 lead. TCU’s first offensive possession did not last long, with an interception by Rasul Douglas giving West Virginia a second straight offensive opportunity on TCU’s side of the field, but West Virginia missed a field goal on the possession.

Howard completed a second touchdown pass later with a 22-yard play to Shelton Gibson to put West Virginia up 14-0. TCU got on the board on the ensuing possession with a field goal at the end of an 11-play drive. After a three-and-out by the Mountaineers offense, TCU pulled even closer with a 12-play drive capped by a Kenny Hill touchdown pass to Jaelen Austin. West Virginia wasted little time rebuilding the lead with Howard’s third touchdown pass of the half, this time to Gary Jennings.

West Virginia’s Elijah Battle was ejected from the game in the second quarter following the latest in a long string of controversial targeting penalties around college football.