University of Miami

Miami Hurricanes to meet West Virginia in Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando on Dec. 28

Miami head coach Mark Richt, left, shakes hands with quarterback Brad Kaaya (15) on the field after an NCAA college football game against Duke in Miami Gardens, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016.
Miami head coach Mark Richt, left, shakes hands with quarterback Brad Kaaya (15) on the field after an NCAA college football game against Duke in Miami Gardens, Fla., Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016. adiaz@miamiherald.com

Last year it was a cold, snowy Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, for the Miami Hurricanes.

This year it will be a warm Russell Athletic Bowl just as the sun is setting in Orlando.

The Hurricanes (8-4, 5-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) are headed to Orlando to meet West Virginia (10-2, 7-2 Big 12) in the Russell Athletic Bowl at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 28 at Camping World Stadium.

“Great opportunity against a great team,” UM quarterback Brad Kaaya posted on Twitter on Sunday night. “Let’s go to work!”

This will be the first game between the once bitter Big East rivals since 2003, when then-No. 2 Miami won 22-20 in the Orange Bowl Stadium.

“The good news is we’ve got about a month to rekindle some of that flame,” said WVU coach Dana Hologorsen on a teleconference Sunday night. “We’ll be down there in droves, I can assure you of that.”

Added UM coach Mark Richt: “I know everybody is really loving this opportunity. We’re playing a great team in West Virginia.”

The unranked Hurricanes, seeking their first bowl victory since 2006 against Nevada, lead the series 16-3, including victories in the past six meetings.

The Mountainers — No. 16 in the College Football Playoff rankings and No. 14 in the final, regular-season Associated Press poll — had a strong season, finishing behind Oklahoma (10-2, 9-0) and tied for second with Oklahoma State in the conference.

West Virginia won its first six games of the season against Missouri, Youngstown State, BYU, Kansas State, Texas Tech and TCU.

The Mountaineers’ first loss came on Oct. 29 at Oklahoma State — 37-20 — before WVU rebounded with wins against Kansas and Texas.

Their only other loss was at home on Nov. 19 to Oklahoma — 56-28 — before ending the regular season with a 49-19 win at Iowa State and a 24-21 win against Baylor on Saturday.

Holgorsen heavily recruits the South Florida area. Seven players on the roster are listed from South Florida — and one, cornerback Antonio Crawford — is from Tampa and transferred from Miami before the 2015 season. He is listed as having played in eight games, with four starts, including Saturday.

The Mountaineers are 45th nationally in scoring offense and 36th in scoring defense. They’re 78th in total defense and 12th in total offense.

The Hurricanes are 35th in scoring offense and 13th in scoring defense. Miami is 27th in total defense and 54th in total offense.

WVU cornerback Rasul Douglas is tied for the nation’s lead in interceptions, with eight.

Offensively, WVU quarterback Skyler Howard is 18th nationally with 26 touchdowns and 24th in passing efficiency. His numbers: 230 completions in 378 attempts for 3,194 yards and 26 touchdowns, with 10 interceptions.

Kaaya, 28th nationally in passing efficiency, has completed 237 of 387 passes for 3,250 yards and 23 touchdowns, with seven interceptions.

WVU running back Justin Crawford has 1,168 rushing yards and four touchdowns, and is seventh nationally with 7.4 yards a carry.

You probably know Camping World Stadium as the Citrus Bowl, where Miami last represented the ACC in the Russell on Dec. 28, 2013, in a 36-9 loss to Louisville.

The Canes also played there on Dec. 29, 2009, in the Champs Sports Bowl during a 20-14 loss to Wisconsin. It rained that day and the field conditions were beyond dismal, as former running back Graig Cooper tore his ACL on the turf.

But the stadium, which served Saturday as the site of the ACC Championship between Clemson and Virginia Tech, underwent a $207.7 million reconstruction in 2014 that, according to the stadium’s website, “yielded a 90-percent all-new stadium.’’

“I could not be more excited,” UM athletic director Blake James said in a released statement. “The staff at the Russell Athletic Bowl is truly committed to putting on a first-class event. The city of Orlando is a familiar bowl destination for our program and I know it is a location that our student-athletes, coaches, fans, alumni and donors will thoroughly enjoy.”

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