By Dave Ackermann (The Orchestrator)
This obviously then becomes a very interesting question: Can the Mountaineers beat the Canes for their 11th victory of the season? That can only truly be answered on the field at the 2016 Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, Florida.
However, if you revert to history, the Canes have a definite advantage with a 16-3 all time record against the Mountaineers. In the history of WVU contests against Miami of Florida, (a history dating back to 1942), only two coaches have a victory over the Canes: Then WVU head coach Bobby Bowden got one in 1973; a 21-14 road victory in Miami. Don Nehlen, (the only WVU 20 plus year tenured Mountaineer head coach) is the other with a victory over the Canes. In fact, he has two: a 17-14 thriller in Morgantown during the 1993 perfect regular season, and, a 28-17 road victory during the 1997 season. It should also be noted that “Dandy Don” needed 12 attempts to get those two victories and Bobby Bowden lost a 20-21 heart-breaker at Mountaineer Field in 1974 that kept him from getting two wins versus the Canes (and could have been back-to-back at that).
When a Mountaineer fan looks at that Miami 16-3 record versus the Canes, it seems so dominant. For instance in 8 of the 16 losses (half), the average beat-down by Miami was almost 29 points per game. But Mountaineer fans should also look at the competitive side, in that for the other 8 losses to the Canes, the average score differential was 4.8 points per game (less than 5 points).So when you add the three wins, te Mountaineers were competitive in 11 of the 19 contests.
The first head coach to face the Hurricanes was William “Bill” Kern in 1942, losing 13-21 in Miami. It should be noted that old Bill went 5-4 that season, losing to Boston College (0-33); to Fordham (14-23) and Michigan State (0-7) on the road as well. His wins included Washington & Lee, South Carolina, Waynesburg, Penn State and Kentucky (not too shabby by Mountaineer standards).
Pappy Lewis also played the Hurricanes in 1956 and was shutout 0-18, but won the Southern Conference that year with a 6-4 record. That brings us to Rich Rodriguez who faced the Canes early in his WVU career, losing all three contests: lost in 2001 (3-45) on the road, in 2002 (23-40) at home and in a memorable game in Miami in 2003 (20-22) on the thrilling run by Quincy Wilson to take the lead late, only to see Miami move into field goal in the waning seconds, (on 4th down no less). The Field Goal was good and the Canes escaped again.
Dana Holgorsen has quietly moved into 4th position on the All-time Coaches win list with 46 victories, passing Ira Rodgers and Bobby Bowden this year. With a fresh 5 year contract extension, he will have ample opportunity for move up that list into second.
1) Don Nehlen 149 wins
2) Rich Rodriguez 60 wins
3) Pappy Lewis 58 wins
4) Dana Holgorsen 46 wins
5) Ira Rodgers 44 wins
6) Bobby Bowden 42 wins
With a victory over Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl, he can also join a couple more short WVU Coaching wins lists: Coaches with wins over the Miami Hurricanes and coaches with an 11 win season at WVU.
This will also be an interesting match-up for first year Miami head coach Mark Richt. Finishing the regular season 8-4 (5-3 in the ACC) is a bit deceiving in a couple of ways. First, the OOC schedule is pretty weak, with wins over Florida A&M, FAU and Appalachian State. Miami allowed an average of only 8 points in these 3 games while scoring an average of 51 points.
Starting ACC conference play with a 35-21 victory n the road in Atlanta, GA, the Canes were sitting at 4-0. They would lose the next 4 games in a row: a 19-20 home loss to Florida State when the extra point was blocked following their last TD; they trailed 0-20 hosting North Carolina and fell short on a come back (losing 13-20) after holding the Tarheels scoreless in the second half. The Canes hit the road to Virginia Tech and were dominated losing 16-37. They visited Notre Dame in South Bend and left 27-30 losers after they allowed Notre Dame to tie the game late and then win it on a Field Goal with 30 seconds.
The Canes would then host Pittsburgh in ACC play and dominate the Panthers 51-28 to turn things around. This might be Miami’s most impressive victory this season as Pitt upset two top 10 teams in Penn State and Clemson during the year. Miami would go on to sweep victories over UVA (34-14) and NC State 27-13 (both on the road) and finish with a 40-21 victory over Duke at home.
It will take an outstanding WVU team effort to defeat Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando, FL. No turnovers, no penalties and strong physical play will be needed to gain the 11th victory of the season for these Mountaineer seniors and put Holgorsen on a couple of more lists.
The Russell Athletic Bowl game is scheduled for Wednesday, December 28th at 5:30 PM EST (4:30 CST) and will be televised on the ESPN family of sports networks.
Featured photo credit Getty Images