Miami Hurricanes finish season strong under Mark Richt’s first season

Miami Hurricanes finish season strong under Mark Richt’s first season

It is only one bowl win. As the late Prince would say, lets party like it’s 1999.

The Miami Hurricanes ended the school’s 10-year bowl-victory drought with a 31-14 win over the 14th-ranked West Virginia Mountaineers in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

The Hurricane program’s most prolific passer Brad Kaaya completed 24 of 34 passes for 282 yards and went 18 for 19 in one dazzling stretch, the lone incompletion in that span being a drop. The four TDs tied both a Miami bowl record and Kaaya’s collegiate best.

Kaaya made it official that he will be taking his talents to the National Football League after what he called some soul searching before making the decision to go professional.

“Thank you to everyone who was a part of my journey, Kaaya stated on his Twitter page. I will be a Miami Hurricane for life!”

The Hurricanes are partying like it is 1999 because everyone else has had something else to celebrate. Among the 109 teams that won bowl games since Miami’s last postseason victory in 2006: The other Miami (Ohio), Old Dominion (which didn’t even have football in 2006), and all six of the other FBS teams from the state of Florida — Florida, Florida State, Central Florida, South Florida, Florida Atlantic and Florida International.

The beat does not stop there. David Njoku announced after the game that he’s skipping his final two seasons of eligibility at ‘The U’ and entering the NFL Draft. “It’s kind of bittersweet, leaving my team a couple years early,” Njoku said.

The redshirt sophomore caught eight touchdown passes this season.

The game could’ve belonged to either sideline midway through the second quarter, but the Mountaineers could not withstand Hurricane force winds per se before the half ended.

“They were ready to play,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “This meant a lot to them. … Outcoached us, outplayed us on all three sides.”

Kaaya connected with Ahmmon Richards, Malcolm Lewis and Braxton Berrios for touchdowns in the final 6:30 of the first half to get Miami rolling, and found Njoku for another touchdown on the first possession of the second half.

That ends the first year for head coach Mark Richt. Expectations were higher in Coral Gables considering the Hurricanes did not play Clemson who will be playing for a national title for the second straight year and Louisville who was led by Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. Richt and the Hurricanes finish 9-4 with a bowl win.

The Hurricanes’ Week 1 opponent for next season hasn’t been announced. The Mountaineers ended this season against an ACC opponent, and start next season with one. West Virginia plays Virginia Tech at FedExField on Sept. 2.