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Miami finally wins a bowl game, beating West Virginia in Russell

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If Brad Kaaya is leaving the University of Miami for the NFL, he went out with style Wednesday night.

Kaaya threw for 282 yards and four touchdowns, leading the Hurricanes to a 31-14 victory over 13th-ranked West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl. It was Miami’s first win in 10 years, and seven bowls.

Kaaya, the game MVP, hit 24 of 34 pass attempts. Kaaya already held Miami’s career record in yards and took over the school’s No. 1 spots in completions and attempts.

“It’s awesome,” said Miami coach Mark Richt. You know, I’m really hoping we can end up in the top 25. I know it’s up the voters. We played a great football team and played them well. I’m hoping we can finish there, too,” Richt told ESPN immediately after the game ended. “Bottom line is these guys played their tails off for us and for each other and we’re real proud of them.”

West Virginia took a 7-0 lead in the first period on a run by Kennedy McCoy. After that, Kaaya took over. He hit Ammon Richards, Malcolm Lewis and Braxton Berrios  for touchdowns in the final 6:30 of the first half to get Miami rolling, and then found David Njoku for another touchdown on the first possession of the second half.

The Hurricanes, who conquered their highest-ranked opponent since beating No. 12 Florida in September 2013, had not won five straight games to close out a season since their 2011 national championship campaign.

The Mountaineers’ only previous losses this season were to Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. They dropped to 10-3.

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Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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