Many of the same points of emphasis from WVU’s loss against Oklahoma State were corrected leading up to the UCF game, and the Mountaineers capitalized with a 41-28 win over the Knights in Orlando.
Here are the biggest takeaways from head coach Neal Brown’s postgame comments.
Winning on the ground
WVU rushed for 286 yards Saturday afternoon with CJ Donaldson (season-high 121 yards) carrying the bulk load. Donaldson came off the bench Saturday after Justin Johnson Jr. (seven carries, 15 yards) received his first start of the season.
“I thought this was CJ’s best game since Pitt,” Brown said. “When he runs like that, man, he’s a load. The thing today was [that] he was so good after contact.”
The Mountaineers excelled at the line of scrimmage even after right tackle Doug Nester left with a leg injury.
Freshman running back Jahiem White delivered his best game of the year since his 110-yard performance against Duquesne, but this time around, it was in a conference game. White rushed for 85 yards on nine carries (9.4 yards per carry) and a touchdown. He also had a second score late in the fourth quarter that was called back for holding.
“He gave us a spark,” Brown said. “This is really what I thought after fall camp that he would be.”
Not only did WVU win the turnover battle against UCF, the Mountaineers turned three of their four takeaways into 21 total points Saturday afternoon.
“I sat here last Saturday after a disappointing loss and said [that] the one stat that really sticks out is points-off-turnover differential,” Brown said. “That’s something that we had worked a ton…We scored 21 points [off turnovers], and that was the story of the game.”
The Knights recorded one takeaway on Jaylen Anderson’s fumble in the second quarter, but WVU safety Marcis Floyd turned the ball back over to WVU on the very next play with his first interception of the year.
But it was one of Floyd’s peers who stole the show.
WVU cornerback Beanie Bishop Jr. recorded two interceptions Saturday, and he is now fourth in the FBS in interceptions on the season.
“Beanie’s played at a high level,” Brown said. “He’s been around the ball a lot, and that was huge, especially that first one we got because they were driving and we immediately turned that into a touchdown.”
The Minnesota transfer also entered the game with the most passes defended in the country, but Brown believes that number should be lower and his takeaway count should be higher as some of those pass breakups came on dropped interceptions.
“Outside of one game, he’s really played well for us…He’s really cleaned up some of his ball-skill habits,” Brown said.
Still, Bishop remains a constant in a thin and ever-shifting defensive back room.