West Virginia’s football season ended not with a bang, but a whimper as the Mountaineers fell to the ACC’s Miami Hurricanes in the 2016 Russell Athletic Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida.
Things started out fairly decent for the Mountaineers with freshman running back Kennedy McKoy taking the ball in from six yards out on West Virginia’s third drive of the game to put the Mountaineers up 7-0, and Tony Gibson’s defense held the Hurricanes to 19 total yards of offense in the first quarter. Miami quickly figured out West Virginia’s gameplan and turned everything on its head in the second quarter, never looking back.
Miami quarterback Brad Kayaa torched the West Virginia defense in the second quarter, throwing for 172-yards and three touchdowns. Miami’s Braxton Berrios, a former Mountaineer recruiting target, came away with a couple crucial receptions for the Hurricanes as they continued to punish the Mountaineer defense.
On the West Virginia side of things, Skyler Howard ended his career as a Mountaineer with a not-so-great performance. Howard finished 17-of-26 passing for 134 yards, no touchdowns and 21 rushing attempts for 63 yards and one touchdown. Howard was sacked four times throughout the game for a loss of 42 yards, with every one of those sacks effectively killing any momentum West Virginia had built on that respective drive.
The Mountaineer offense was wholly ineffective. The West Virginia running back corps accounted for 15 carries for 29 yards between four running backs, not counting Howard’s contribution on the ground. Daikiel Shorts led all Mountaineer receivers with five catches for 63 yards.
Tony Gibson’s defense, despite starting off hot, fell apart during the second quarter and never really recovered, partially due to being left out on the field by the Mountaineer offense. One thing of note on the defensive side is that Toyous Avery picked off Miami quarterback Brad Kayaa twice, only to have both interceptions waived off due to pass interference calls.
The Mountaineers finish the season 10-3, which is still beyond all realistic expectations. West Virginia will kick the 2017 season off against the Virginia Tech Hokies at FedEx Field in Washington, DC on September 2nd, and hope to have Florida Gator transfer Will Grier under center against their old rival.