In Mark Richt's first season in charge of the Miami Hurricanes college Football program, there have been ups and downs throughout. The result was an 8-4 record that landed the team in the Russell Athletic Bowl against the West Virginia Mountaineers. From the onset of Wednesday's game, though, Joe Jackson and Ahmmon Richards have taken on starring roles in route to a two-touchdown halftime lead.

Sack master Joe Jackson

One of the highlights of the first half came when Miami defensive end Joe Jackson came off the edge, outworked the offensive lineman assigned to stop him, and gave chase to the West Virginia quarterback before taking him down.

Skyler Howard didn't stand a chance of staying on his feet and getting the pass off. The ability Jackson has to rush the passer should come as little surprise at this point in the season, though.

Jackson had 7.5 sacks during the regular season, in addition to two forced fumbles. On two occasions, including his last regular season game against Duke, he recorded multiple sacks. All of this is coming from a true freshman from Homestead, Florida. The 20-year-old Jackson has the ability to become a force in Miami for years to come, especially if the Russell Athletic Bowl proves to be his coming out party.

Touchdown grabber Ahmmon Richards

Richards is lightning fast, and if you dispute that notion, you didn't see his first half touchdown on Wednesday. He took a short pass from quarterback Brad Kaaya, no more than six yards in the air, and started running past defender after defender, moving from left to right until he scored Miami's first touchdown of the game, knotting the score up at 7-7 after an extra point; Richards' 51-yard touchdown contained more yards than the first six Miami drives combined.

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The Freshman All-American has been making that kind of impact all season. Richards only had two touchdowns during the season, but his blazing speed helped him lead the team in receiving yards with 866. With Richards and Jackson poised to be stars for Miami in the years to come, the Russell Athletic Bowl looks like a positive glimpse into the team's future.