Russell Athletic Bowl: West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Miami Hurricanes

Russell Athletic Bowl: West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Miami Hurricanes

Date: Dec. 28, 5:30 p.m ET on ESPN

Location: Camping World Stadium | Orlando, Florida

West Virginia

Best moment: The Mountaineers did not earn a marquee win, but the Week 11 triumph at Texas felt like it. In extending the Longhorns’ misery and winning for the second time in three trips as a Big 12 member to this flagship campus in the league, WVU stopped four Texas drives in the fourth quarter to secure a 24-20 victory.

Lowest moment: Emotions stirred early on Nov. 19 as snow fell in a rare top-10 matchup in Morgantown. And then, West Virginia failed to show up in the first half. Oklahoma built a 34-0 lead against the mistake-prone hosts en route to a 56-28 win that eliminated WVU from Big 12 title contention and squashed talk of an unlikely playoff run for the Mountaineers.

Key player: Cornerback Rasul Douglas epitomized the spirit of West Virginia’s aggressive defense, snagging eight interceptions. His play in the secondary, often matched against elite receivers in the nation’s top passing conference, pushed the Mountaineers’ defensive production to the top of the league. Its energy sparked QB Skyler Howard and the offense.

Motivation level: West Virginia won 10 games for the first time in five years of Big 12 play. It can reach 11 for the first time since 2007 and sixth time overall with a bowl victory. Already, the Mountaineers broke through barriers this season with a third-place league finish. But a bowl win would punctuate the season nicely. -- Mitch Sherman


Best moment: Beating Pitt 51-28. Going into the game, Miami was on a four-game losing streak and in an offensive rut. But the Hurricanes had their best offensive performance of the season, scoring 51 points and racking up 534 yards of offense -- all while holding the best offense in Pitt history to a season-low 28 points. The victory set Miami on a four-game winning streak to end the season.

Lowest moment: Losing to Florida State (again). Miami went into the game ranked No. 10 after a 4-0 start and built a 13-3 halftime lead. After Florida State pulled ahead 20-13 in the fourth quarter, Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Stacy Coley with 1:38 to play. But DeMarcus Walker blocked the ensuing extra-point attempt, preserving a 20-19 win and Florida State’s seventh straight in the series.

Key player: Kaaya. The junior became the school’s career passing leader and the first player in school history to pass for over 3,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. Though there were some rough patches during the season, Kaaya hit his stride late thanks to the emergence of freshman receiver Ahmmon Richards (866 yards, 2 TDs) and tight end David Njoku (654 yards, 7 TDs).

Motivation level: High. It has been a decade since Miami won a bowl game, and finally breaking through is high on the list of priorities -- as is earning coach Mark Richt a win to complete his first season. Plus, this could be Kaaya’s final game, as he decides whether to return to school or leave for the NFL draft. -- Andrea Adelson