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Russell Athletic Bowl Preview: Miami Passing Offense

The Miami passing offense is led by junior quarterback Brad Kaaya. The passing offense ranks in the top 30 in most categories.

Miami v North Carolina State Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

In the early 2000s, the Miami Hurricanes were led by a quarterback who was deadly accurate but didn’t possess the strongest arm. Ken Dorsey was a smart, accurate passer who could audible in and out of plays based upon the college defenses he saw. He often could quickly get the ball to his plethora of playmakers and allow them to flourish. The same general writeup could be said about current quarterback Brad Kaaya.

Kaaya doesn’t possess the strongest arm but a quick release allows him to get the ball out before trouble arrives. Trouble seemed to arrive quite often this year. Dealing with an inconsistent and young offensive line, Kaaya was sacked 23 times, nearly once every 15 passes attempted. 13 of those sacks came in Miami’s four losses. Getting to Kaaya has proven to be one way to slow down the Miami passing offense.

When Kaaya isn’t being sacked, he has distributed the ball to freshman sensation Ahmmon Richards. Richard broke Michael Irvin’s 31-year old freshman receiving record. Senior Stacy Coley has been a steady presence on the other side with 9 touchdowns and almost 60 catches this season. The playmaker to watch may just be tight end David Njoku. Njoku caught 7 touchdown passes this season while averaging over 17 yards per catch.

West Virginia will counter this passing attack with one of the best corners in the country in Rasul Douglas. Douglas tied for the FBS lead in interceptions with 8 and finished fifth in passes defended (19). Opposite Douglas is senior Maurice Fleming. Douglas and the West Virginia 3-3-5 defense allowed opponents to complete only 56% of their passes while averaging less than 7 yards per completion. Both marks are 40th in the nation.

Tony Gibson’s version of the 3-3-5 has placed more importance on his corners playing man coverage while allowing his linebackers to blitz freely, creating havoc. When it comes to college offenses, daring them to be efficient and not make a mistake often leads to good things for a defense. Causing havoc is an even better way to cause a mistake. Gibson’s defense, in the high flying Big 12, allowed less than 260 passing yards per game and intercepted over 3% of the passes they faced. Even more impressive, despite playing in the Big 12, West Virginia only allowed 17 passing touchdowns on the season.