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Russell Athletic Bowl Preview: Miami Rush Defense

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Previewing an opponent we’ve played 19 times but not since 2003.

Pittsburgh v Miami Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images

The West Virginia offense has trended from a pass-heavy scheme in 2011 and 2012 to a more balanced scheme in 2014 and 2015 to an actual run-heavy scheme in 2016. In 2016, WVU ran the ball on 56% of their offensive plays versus passing on 44%. The Mountaineers featured four running backs who rushed for at least 100 yards in a game: Justin Crawford (5 games), Rushel Shell (2), Kennedy McKoy (1), Martell Pettaway (1). Skyler Howard almost made a 5th rusher when he played Texas Tech with 89 yards rushing.

The Mountaineers opponent in the Russell Athletic Bowl is the Miami Hurricanes of the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Led by former Georgia head coach Mark Richt, a former Hurricane himself, Miami features the 33rd ranked rush defense. Miami, on average, gives up 143 yards per game, nearly 100 less than the Mountaineers average.

Miami is third best rush defense the Mountaineers will face this season. BYU and Kansas State featured stronger rush defenses than the Hurricanes. Against BYU, West Virginia rushed for 149 yards on 35 attempts (4.3 YPC). Against Kansas State, the Mountaineers rushed for 124 yards on 35 attempts (3.5 YPC).

The Hurricanes defense is coordinated by former Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. You might remember Diaz as the guy who allowed Texas to give up 550 yards to BYU in 2013. He was later dismissed because of that performance.

West Virginia rushed for at least 200 yards on five separate occasions this season. Miami only allowed one team, Georgia Tech, to rush for at least 200 yards. Georgia Tech also runs the ball on 76% of their offensive plays.

The Miami Hurricanes feature three talented but very young linebackers. All three starters are freshman. Middle linebacker Shaq Quarterman has started every game this season for the ‘Canes, amassing 79 tackles, 9.0 TFL, 2.5 sacks and 1 fumble recovery. The two outside linebackers, Michael Pinckney and Zach McCloud will be tasked with containing the boundaries in the run game.