Homecoming should be fun for everyone. For alums, it’s about coming back and enjoying the college atmosphere. For students, as bowl season looms, every game carries more weight for a potential bowl birth. On Saturday, UCF had a tough homecoming afternoon with a 41-28 loss to West Virginia.
Here are three thoughts on the game.
Greene’s Second Gear
Before the game, the broadcast waxed poetically about WVU’s Garrett Greene and UCF’s John Rhys Plumlee, saying that it was “a battle between two of the best quarterbacks in the Big 12”. While Plumlee had his struggles (we’ll get to that), Greene actually had one of his best games of the season.
Greene has played well all season, even in the two previous WVU losses, but against UCF he was errorless. The secret? He didn’t have to throw the ball. In the Mountaineers’ win against TCU earlier this season, Greene threw 21 passes while rushing for two scores in that 24-21 win. Against the Knights, it was another game with fewer than 25 pass attempts (14-23, 156 yards) and another multi-rushing touchdown game (three). The Mountaineers team rushed for 286 yards, and CJ Donaldson Jr. had his second 100+ rushing game of the year (121 yards and one TD). Garrett Greene has only thrown two picks all year, but with WVU a game away from bowl eligibility, the key to winning might be for Greene to not win a game with his arm.
Plum(lee) Out of Luck
Knights fans could point at the defense for their loss. Forcing two punts is never the recipe for winning games. However, the play of John Rhys Plumlee is going to stand out much longer than any defensive performance. Plumlee threw three interceptions, but if the WVU defense had been on their toes, it could’ve been more. That’s not hyperbole. While Plumlee accounted for all four of the Knights touchdowns (three passing and one rushing), it can’t go unrecognized how poorly his performance was. UCF had more first downs and more total yards than West Virginia, and yet they lost the turnover battle 4-1 and the time of possession by almost 10 minutes.
UCF head coach Gus Malzahn might have some tough decisions to make in the next few weeks between starting his senior Plumlee or going with redshirt sophomore Timmy McClain.
Bowling in Morgantown
West Virginia has been a lot more frisky than many gave them credit this season with wins against TCU and Texas Tech, two pre-season darlings. This UCF win puts them 3-2 in conference and 5-2 overall, with a game against an upstart BYU team next week at home before a tough one against OU, a game against bottom-feeding Cincinnati, and a trip to Waco. WVU has a real chance to go 3-1 in their final four, which would give them a chance to play in a pretty nice bowl game.
For UCF, unless Cincinnati shocks the world in Stillwater against Oklahoma State, next week will be a matchup between two schools looking for their first conference win. The game is on the road, and with the way winter weather forecast is looking, it could be a nice cold one for the boys from Central Florida.