ORLANDO – Despite compiling at least 400 yards of total offense for the sixth time this season, UCF was not able to overcome four turnovers and the Knights fell to the West Virginia Mountaineers, 41-28, Saturday afternoon at FBC Mortgage Stadium.
UCF (3-5, 0-5 Big 12) completed 25-of-36 passes for 274 yards, the most by the Black and Gold in a Big 12 Conference game this season, and rushed 33 times for 189 yards, while West Virginia (5-3, 3-2) passed for 164 yards on 15 completions and tallied 286 yards on 50 rushing attempts.
“Congratulations to West Virginia, obviously we’re disappointed to lose at home the way we did,” said Malzahn. “You look at the first half, they had drives of 76, 71 and 64 [yards] and it was 17-14. We were coming out of the half, had the football, feeling pretty good about what they were trying to do defensively and how we could take advantage.
"Defensively, we couldn't stop the run and that was very disappointing. They’re really good at running the football and we knew that. The bottom line is you're not going to beat any team, for the most part, if you turn the ball over four times.”
After committing zero turnovers at No. 6 Oklahoma last weekend, the first team to not have a turnover against the Sooners this season, UCF threw an interception on its second drive of the game. West Virginia put together a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive on its first possession and the Knights matched the Mountaineers on their first drive to even the score at 7-7.
Quarterback John Rhys Plumlee found Kobe Hudson along the sideline and the senior wide receiver made a great leaping catch falling into the endzone for the Knights’ first score of the day. An unlucky bounce on UCF’s next possession led to the first turnover, as Javon Baker nearly made an incredible catch but in the process of falling to the ground the ball popped in the air and was intercepted.
West Virginia kicked a field goal a few minutes later to regain the lead and pulled ahead 17-7 after a four-yard TD run from Jaheim White. A 10-play, 75-yard drive helped UCF answer with a touchdown to cut the deficit to 17-14 at halftime. Plumlee scored on an eight-yard rush following a few big running plays from RJ Harvey earlier in the drive.
Harvey finished the day with 100 rushing yards on 14 attempts to compile his third consecutive 100-yard rushing game, the first Knights running back to accomplish the feat since Latavius Murray in 2012.
Looking to score on its first possession of the second half with the football on West Virginia’s 32-yard line, UCF’s receiver slipped on a Plumlee pass attempt as the Mountaineers came up with their second interception of the day. WVU converted the turnover into points to extend its advantage with quarterback Garrett Greene rushing for his second TD to push the lead to 24-14.
Baker helped the Knights trim the margin to three at 24-21 with a seven-yard touchdown reception from Plumlee, as the Atlanta native was able to get a foot down in the back of the endzone after a great catch.
After cutting the lead to single digits, UCF’s defense came up big with a stop as Shaun Peterson Jr. sacked Greene on 3rd and 8, forcing a fumble that was recovered by WVU to force a punt.