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MIAMI WINS 2016 RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL, 31-14

The Miami Hurricanes’ 10-year bowl losing streak is over. The ‘Canes broke the streak with a resounding 31-14 win over West Virginia in the 17th annual Russell Athletic Bowl in front of 48,625 fans at Camping World Stadium.

The win snapped a six-game bowl skid and was the Hurricanes first victory since a 21-20 win over Nevada in the 2006 MPC Computers Bowl.

If it was Brad Kaaya’s last game in a Miami Hurricane uniform, at least he went out in style. The junior, who is weighing his options for the 2017 NFL draft, turned in an MVP-winning performance by  throwing  for 282 yards and four touchdown passes in leading the Hurricanes.

“It was a great way to end the season,” Kaaya said.  “Regardless of whether I am here next season or not, I think this team is headed for greatness.  We’ve taken a lot of positive steps this year and I know this program is headed in the right direction.”

How big was it for the Canes? The vast majority of Hurricane fans in the crowd cheered wildly as Head Coach Mark Richt was doused with Gatorade and then stayed in the stands to salute the players and coaches as they accepted the Charles Rohe Trophy that came with winning the game.

“It’s an awesome feeling,” Richt said following the game.  “We started off slow offensively but our defense was playing great.   They could have started pointing fingers at the offense and getting angry but that’s not what our team is about.  We got that one big play from Ahmonn Richards and it just sparked us offensively.”

With neither team doing much offensively, West Virginia put the only points on the board in the first quarter taking a 7-0 lead on Kennedy McCoy’s 6-yard run.

After going five three-and-outs to begin the game, Kaaya and the Hurricanes passing game would heat up in a hurry.  Starting with a 51-yard touchdown pass to Richards,  Miami would go on a 28-0 run to take a 28-7 lead midway through the third quarter.

Kaaya did most of the damage  — hitting Malcom Lewis, Braxton Berrios and David Njoku on touchdown passes of 3, 26 and 23 yards.

Quarterback Skyler Howard finally broke the WVU scoring drought with a 4-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter, but  the Mountaineers could get no closer and Miami’s Michael Badgley would boot a 30-yard field goal with time winding down to provide the final margin of victory.

For the game, Kaaya completed 24 of 34 passes.  Stacy Coley and Njoku were his favorite targets, grabbing five receptions each for 51 and 44 yards; while Berrios (4-64)  and Richards (3-68) also had productive nights.

But the Hurricanes defense was also effective.  It limited West Virginia to just 11 total first downs and just 229 yards of total offense – well below its season average of 493 yards and 31 points per game.   The Canes defense limited Howard to just 134 yards passing and sacked the WVU signal caller four times.