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WVU will face a Miami offense which looks similar to Georgia

MORGANTOWN — Fans attending Wednesday’s Russell Athletic Bowl between No. 14 West Virginia (10-2, 7-2 Big East) and the University of Miami (8-4, 5-3 ACC) might experience a little ‘Back to the Future’ when the Hurricanes’ offense takes to the playing surface of Camping World Stadium for the 5:30 p.m. kickoff.

That’s because first-year Miami head coach Mark Richt was the head football coach at the University of Georgia when WVU pulled out an exciting 38-25 victory in the 2006 Sugar Bowl. Richt returned to his alma mater after leading the University of Georgia football program for 15 years, compiling a 145-51 overall mark and an 85-40 record in SEC play.

“I have studied that film (of the Sugar Bowl) a little bit,” defensive coordinator Tony Gibson explained. “It is very similar to what they are doing now in Miami is similar to what they were doing back in 2006. We have it, we have watched it, I haven’t shared it much with the kids at this point, it’s more for coaches to look at.

“Again, they are a run team first, they run with power, they are more of a conventional offense, an old-school get in the “I“, it is going to look different for our guys, it is going to look foreign.”

Gibson, who recently received a contract extension after his 2016 unit finished No. 12 nationally in turnovers gained (25), including No. 1 in the Big 12, was an assistant coach on the staff that traveled to the Georgia Dome.

“I remember a lot about that game,” continued Gibson. “I remembered that we jumped out to a big lead and then had to hold on at the end. And, of course, I remember the fake punt that sealed the win for us.”

Gibson’s unit will have its hands full with a Miami attack that features junior quarterback Brad Kaaya.

“He (Kaaya) is a prototypical quarterback,” said WVU’s defensive boss. “They run a pro-style offense, and he sits in the pocket and reads it and delivers the ball on time where he needs to and attacks coverages.

“He is a good player, a big kid, he can make any throw that you want him to make.

“He has a very strong arm, handles it well. Don’t let him get comfortable and get his feet set.”

The Miami signal-caller will face a Mountaineer prevent unit that ranked No. 19 nationally in fumbles recovered (11) and No. 35 in scoring defense (23.4 ppg) – which was good enough for No. 2 in the Big 12. In conference games, Gibson’s unit was No. 1 in total defense, scoring defense, fewest opponent first downs and came in at No. 2 I rushing defense.

“There is only a certain amount of coverages that you can play so we are going to do what we do,” added Gibson. “We are going to drop eight, we are going to drop seven, we are gon to blitz seven, blitz eight, and just do what we do. Again, just making sure our kids are prepared and excited for the opportunity to play another game.”

Kaaya has had moments when he has experienced a lot of pressure. Virginia Tech got to the Miami quarterback eight times for 57 yards in losses while Notre Dame dropped the Hurricanes’ signal caller five times for 41 yards in losses. Miami lost both of those games as well as games to Florida State and North Carolina where the opposing defenses got to Kaaya three and two times, respectively.

However, the junior has also had quite a bit of success in 2016, completing 257-of-387 attempts for 3,250 yards (61.2 percent) and 23 touchdowns with only seven interceptions.

“I’m sure we’ll get some pressure on him (Kaaya), like we always do,” senior safety Jarrod Harper said. “We’re not going to change what we do just because of who we are playing. We need to get pressure on them, make them move around in the pocket so we can force them into some bad decisions.”

Other notes of interest:

≤ West Virginia holds a 15-19 all-time record in bowl games, dating back to the 1922 East-West game. The 2016 Russell Athletic Bowl will be WVU’s 35th bowl appearance.

≤ West Virginia is 4-11 in bowl games against the current team configuration of the ACC. The Russell Athletic Bowl marks the first time that WVU will play Miami in a bowl game.

≤ This will be West Virginia’s 12th bowl game in the state of Florida, and the Mountaineers are 2-9 in the Sunshine State. WVU defeated Clemson, 70-33, in the Orange Bowl in 2012 in their last bowl game played in Florida.

*In the 15 bowl games in which Dana Holgorsen coached, his teams have posted a 9-6 record.

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