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Knight Class Week 8: UCF vs West Virginia

What did we learn about UCF in homecoming week according to The Student of the Game?

Brenna Johnson

Between the Baylor heartbreak at the previous home game and letting Oklahoma slip through their fingers in Norman last week, UCF Knights fans at the “Bounce House” for Homecoming were desperate for a win hosting the West Virginia Mountaineers. Unfortunately for the fanbase, the wait for a first Big 12 victory continues after Saturday’s 41-28 loss.

Something Old . . .

The Mountaineers were dominant on the ground accruing 137 yards in the first half alone where they had a 17-14 lead heading into the locker room. Running to the outside was pure murder for the Knights’ defense.

Granted, they were on the field for nearly 36 minutes — the most in 2023. That being said, the defense was still enough of a presence in the backfield to knock West Virginia quarterback Garrett Greene out of the game in the second quarter. They also recorded a takeaway that was immediately given back on what could have been the worst pass attempt on the season by starting quarterback John Rhys Plumlee against a Big 12 opponent.

However, once Greene returned early in the second half, he would turn in a seven-yard touchdown run. From that point on, WVU never looked back as Greene finished the game completing 14 of his 23 passes for 156 with 11 carries for 55 yards and three touchdowns.

Something New. . .

The aforementioned interception was one of three on the day for John Rhys Plumlee who also lost a fumble. What adds insult to injury for the offense is that the Knights were significantly better at converting 3rd downs in this game going 9-of-12. Plumlee also made a number of solid throws on the day but unfortunately had some wide receiver hijinx that rivaled some of the craziness in the Boise State Game.

Throwing three picks, losing a fumble, as well as recording a turnover on downs completely torched any positives the UCF offense built. Despite that, Kobe Hudson had his best game in some weeks with three catches for 66 yards and two scores.

Making The Grade

Special Teams: C-

Featuring a kick out of bounds on a kick by Colton Boomer and a 36-yard punt by Mitch McCarthy in his only attempt with no real opportunity to provide anything good for the squad overall, it’s hard to give this unit anything above an average grade.

They generally did do everything else they were supposed to do in the game.

Defense: C -

The Knights had quite the climb to face as the Mountaineers came out running to the outside early and often. That being said, it’s hard to fault a defense that is put in a bad spot as often as they were with four turnovers on offense.

That said, CJ Donladson’s huge day carrying the ball 17 times for 121 yards with a touchdown as the leading contributor to a Mountaineer team that ran for 286 yards is glaring evidence of the issues stopping the run.

Offense: D-

UCF’s opening drive was one of the most crisp of 2023 from a play-calling perspective. The game plan overall put players in position to make plays and put points on the board. Case in point, RJ Harvey recorded a third straight 100-yard game as a credit to both the running backs and offensive line who continue to gain yards against Power 5 fronts.

Nonetheless, if Plumlee is going to be asked to throw the ball 36 times, completing 25 of them for 274 yards and three scores isn’t necessarily a bad day. It’s the four turnovers that are absolutely untenable.

Next week represents a collision course for two teams looking for their first Big 12 win — UCF and Cincinnati at Nippert Stadium in Ohio. Kickoff is a 3:30 pm EST on FS1.