ORLANDO, Fla. – The No. 16 West Virginia Mountaineers (10-2, 7-2 Big 12) and the Miami Hurricanes (8-4, 5-3 ACC) will play in the 2016 Russell Athletic Bowl.
Florida Citrus Sports’ Chairman Harold Mills and CEO Steve Hogan announced the matchup Sunday on behalf of the organization’s Team Selection Committee. The game will kick off at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 28 at Camping World Stadium and will be televised nationally by ESPN.
This year’s Russell Athletic Bowl will see Miami and West Virginia meet for the first time since both were members of the Big East Conference in 2003 and the 20th time overall.
West Virginia finished the season with 10 wins, its highest regular season total since the Mountaineers tied a school-record with 11 regular season wins in 1993. A win in this game would match the Mountaineers record for single-season wins. West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard leads an attack that ranks 12th nationally in total offense, while the Mountaineers’ defense has held opponents to 21 points or less in nine of their 12 games.
Miami heads into bowl season on a four-game win streak. The Hurricanes’ eight wins in coach Mark Richt’s inaugural season in Coral Gables are the most under a first-year head coach since Larry Coker went 12-0 in 2001 in his first season at the helm. The Canes are led by junior quarterback Brad Kaaya, who broke Ken Dorsey’s program record for career passing yards in the regular season finale against Duke.
Miami will be making its fifth appearance in the bowl – tying NC State for most all-time – but only its third since the game moved to Orlando. The Hurricanes hold a 2-2 record in the bowl all-time. Their last appearance in the bowl came in 2013 when they were topped by a Teddy Bridgewater-led Louisville team, 36-9.
The Mountaineers only prior appearance in Orlando came by way of a 23-7 loss to Russell Wilson and NC State in 2010.
Tickets for the Russell Athletic Bowl are available via Ticketmaster: http://orl.do/16RABtix. Groups of 10 or more may call the Florida Citrus Sports offices at 407.423.2476.
West Virginia 24,
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Skyler Howard threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score, and No. 14 West Virginia held on for a 24-21 victory over Baylor on Saturday night in their Big 12 regular-season finale.
After the game, West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons announced in a statement that coach Dana Holgorsen was given a five-year contract extension to 2021.
Justin Crawford rushed for 209 yards to help the Mountaineers (10-2, 7-2) to their first 10-win regular-season since 2007. They came from 11 points down in the first half to hand Baylor (6-6, 3-6) its sixth straight loss after a 6-0 start.
“I guess it’s fitting that in a year where we battled and fight to get to 10 wins, we get to it in the hardest way possible,” Holgorsen said.
Baylor held the momentum for nearly three quarters in the final regular-season game for acting coach Jim Grobe, but that changed on two plays.
Howard, having one of his worst games of the season, threw to Gary Jennings over the middle and he turned it into a 58-yard scoring play.
After Baylor got the ball back, Marvin Gross stripped quarterback Zach Smith, and Darrien Howard recovered for West Virginia. An unsportsmanlike penalty on Baylor gave the Mountaineers the ball at the Bears 6, and Howard scored on a 1-yard sneak on fourth down for a 24-14 lead.
Smith threw a 43-yard TD toss to Ishmael Zamora with 2:40 left in the game and the Bears got the ball back following a punt. But Smith was stripped of the ball on a pass attempt and Howard recovered at the Baylor 30 with 27 seconds left.
“I think we gave damn good effort,” Smith said.
Baylor: The heavy-underdog Bears led 14-3 midway through the second quarter but couldn’t muster much on offense after that. A defense that had given up an average of 48 points and 576 yards during its losing streak held its own against West Virginia for much of the game.
“We actually played better today,” Grobe said.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers had already clinched third place in the Big 12. Despite the final home game for 21 seniors, West Virginia was sluggish on a cold night. Howard completed 10 of 26 passes for a season-low 111 yards.
Holgorsen’s new five-year package is worth $18.6 million plus incentives.
Holgorsen, 45, earned $2.9 million this season, including a base salary of $250,000. The school says he’ll earn $4 million plus incentives over the final year of the contract in 2021.
Holgorsen hadn’t received a contract extension since signing a six-year deal in August 2012 after winning the Orange Bowl in his first season in 2011. His contract was set to expire next year.
Crawford’s second 200-plus-yard game of the season put him at 1,168 rushing yards for the season. He also had 331 yards in a loss to Oklahoma on Nov. 19.
He now has the 11th-highest single-season rushing total in school history.
It marked the first time West Virginia player had multiple 200-yard rushing games since 2006.
West Virginia couldn’t cash in on several other chances to score that would have made the game a rout.
After getting an interception on the game’s opening drive, West Virginia turned the ball over on downs at the Baylor 22.
Mike Molina later missed two field goals. Shelton Gibson returned the second-half kickoff for a touchdown, but that was called back by a holding penalty on the Mountaineers.
An unimpressive win against a struggling team shouldn’t give West Virginia a reason to move up in the AP poll .