Much has been made in recent days about the future of Miami Hurricanes QB Brad Kaaya. While there are reports he is leaning toward declaring for the NFL draft, Kaaya has said he’ll make that decision after the Russell Athletic Bowl. But, for your reading pleasure, here go a couple of those pieces:
ICYMI: Staying or going? For now, Brad Kaaya and David Njoku aren't saying. Their focus is on getting UM a bowl win: https://t.co/mGtFOJFoSO— Christy Chirinos (@ChristyChirinos) December 16, 2016
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s take a look at Brad Kaaya the Miami Hurricanes player, and how he can impact the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Previously vs Ranked Teams...
West Virginia enters the Russell Athletic Bowl ranked 14th by the Associated Press and 16th by the College Football Playoff rankings. That’s by virtue of WVU’s 10-2 record, and a fair ranking for this opponent, in my opinion.
In his Miami Hurricanes career, Brad Kaaya has faced 9 ranked teams. He has put up good numbers in those games, and at times showcased his impressive talents. In the 9 games vs ranked teams, Kaaya has accumulated the following stats:
184 comp/307 att (59.9% completions), with 2,410 yards, 16 TDs, and 9 interceptions. On per game averages, that’s 20.4/34.1, 267.6 yards, 1.78 TD and 1 INT. Solid numbers, to be sure.
Previously in Bowl Games...
Kaaya has led Miami to bowl games in each of his first 2 collegiate seasons. In those games, the Indepedence Bowl vs South Carolina in 2014, and the Sun Bowl vs Washington State in 2015, Kaaya has accumulated the following numbers:
36 comp/69 att (52.2% completions), with 495 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs.
On per game averages, that’s 18/34.5, 247.5 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Let’s go ahead and call that what it is: pedestrian at best.
Attacking West Virginia’s Defense
West Virginia has a solid record and challenging defense, the passing part of that defense has been mostly solid this year. There have been some struggles at times, and that’s probably because playing in the Big 12 conference, where passing is the foundation of many (all?) the top offenses.
To this point of the 2016 season, West Virginia’s pass defense has made opposing QBs look very, very good. The Mountaineers have allowed the following stats:
247 comp/447 att (55.6% completions), with 3,068 yards, 17 TDs and 14 INTs. Across 12 games, that’s 255.6 yards on 37 attempts per game, with nearly 1.4 TD and 1.1 INT.
West Virginia has an all-conference CB in Rasul Douglas, a 6’2” 203lb senior who is tied for the national lead with 8 interceptions. Having a player of Douglas’ ability means that Kaaya and the Canes will have to be at the top of their game in the RAB.
If the Russell Athletic Bowl is to be Brad Kaaya’s swan song as a Hurricane, a strong showing (the 4th 300yd game vs WVU this year) would probably be necessary. WVU has give up bunches of yards at times this year, and Kaaya could be able to replicate that with targets such as WRs Ahmmon Richards and Stacy Coley, along with TE David Njoku on the field together.
Kaaya, Miami’s all-time career leader in passing yards, has been steady through his 3 year career, but has been less than stellar in 2 previous bowl games. With the NFL within his reach, I’m looking for Kaaya to come out in the Russell Athletic Bowl and have one of his best games. He can leave with a bang, an exclamation point on his Miami Hurricanes career, and, most importantly, a win in a bowl game for Miami for the first time in seemingly forever.
WVU has talent, but so does Brad Kaaya. And the Mountaineers will see that talent on full display in the Russell Athletic Bowl.