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UCF Knights’ Grit Tested in Tough Homecoming Loss to West Virginia

Kevyn Bryant II

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© sportsclubflorida.com | Kevyn Bryant II

“In their first-ever Big 12 homecoming game, the UCF Knights squared off against the West Virginia Mountaineers in a formidable matchup. This pivotal encounter put their skills to the test, but it was marred by turnovers and on-field challenges, overshadowing what should have been a momentous occasion in their journey as Big 12 contenders. As the Knights review their performance, they confront the harsh realities of the hurdles faced during their inaugural Big 12 homecoming game, leaving them with critical areas for improvement as they progress through the season.”

Garrett Greene orchestrated a remarkable performance, scoring three touchdowns on the ground, while West Virginia’s defense exhibited its might with four crucial turnovers, including two interceptions by cornerback Beanie Bishop Jr. This collective effort successfully thwarted the high-octane UCF offense, resulting in a 41-28 victory for the Mountaineers on a Saturday filled with gridiron action.

UCF’s signal-caller, John Rhys Plumlee, struggled under pressure, throwing three interceptions during the game, bringing his season tally to seven interceptions in just five games. His woes deepened when he fumbled the ball after a sack by Lee Kpogba late in the third quarter, with the Knights trailing by a mere three points.

This mishap paved the way for Greene’s third rushing touchdown early in the fourth quarter, reinstating a comfortable 10-point cushion for the Mountaineers, who stand at 5-3 with a 3-2 record in the Big 12 Conference. Adding to the scoreboard, CJ Donaldson Jr. punched in another touchdown in the final quarter.

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For West Virginia, a team that had seen its offensive line shuffled due to injuries, Greene’s stellar performance injected a much-needed dose of confidence.

“I love Garrett. I love him as my quarterback,” remarked offensive lineman Wyatt Milum. “He’s tough. Just having him as a quarterback as a leader, he really just gets us going. You never see him down. He’s always pushing and encouraging us.”

On the other side, UCF (3-5, 0-5) had opportunities but couldn’t overcome their four turnovers. The Knights’ first giveaway occurred when they were trailing 10-7 and driving toward the West Virginia 30. The second turnover followed their recovery of a West Virginia fumble while facing a three-point deficit. The final two turnovers essentially sealed their fate.

West Virginia capitalized on these mistakes, scoring 21 points off UCF’s turnovers. Notably, Beanie Bishop became the first West Virginia player to record two interceptions in a single game since Kenny Robinson’s feat against Texas Tech in September 2018.

Heading into the game, the Mountaineers had only managed to secure seven turnovers all season. This marked their first time forcing four turnovers in a game since November 2018 when they clashed with Oklahoma State.

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“We knew we were going to need some takeaways,” emphasized West Virginia coach Neal Brown. “They are good on offense. I felt like the key was getting first downs on offense. This was a game we had to control the clock and get first downs. Those first downs eventually led to touchdowns.”

West Virginia controlled the clock impressively, notching 25 first downs and dominating time of possession with 36 minutes and 6 seconds. The fourth quarter saw them retain possession for 10 minutes and 4 seconds, firmly closing out the game.

UCF, in its inaugural season in the Big 12, continued to struggle in conference play, remaining winless. The Knights also suffered their first five-game losing streak since their winless season in 2015.

While the game remained closely contested for the first three quarters, UCF struggled to contain the Mountaineers in the final quarter. West Virginia outgained UCF 119-82 in the fourth quarter, largely due to their effective rushing game, which produced 99 yards in the final period.

 

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“Defensively, we couldn’t stop the run, and that was very disappointing,” lamented UCF coach Gus Malzahn. “They’re really good at running the football, and we knew that. Their quarterback played well; we couldn’t get him off the field.”

On the ground, West Virginia showcased its prowess with a robust rushing attack, accumulating 253 yards. Greene, displaying his versatility, contributed 55 yards and three rushing touchdowns on 11 carries alongside 156 passing yards. He received ample support from West Virginia’s stable of running backs, with Donaldson amassing 121 yards on 17 carries, and Jahiem White adding 85 yards and a touchdown on nine carries, sealing the Mountaineers’ victory.

UCF’s struggles in defense against the run were evident, as they entered the game ranked 11th in the conference, conceding an average of 196.0 rush yards per game.

Turnovers continued to plague the Knights, with Plumlee throwing three interceptions. Furthermore, 10 of UCF’s 14 turnovers this season have occurred on the opponent’s side of the field, often squandering opportunities to score.

Despite the turnovers, Plumlee managed to accumulate 274 passing yards, connecting on 25 of 36 attempts, and added three touchdowns to his tally. He also contributed 45 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground.

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Beanie Bishop emerged as a standout performer, registering his third and fourth interceptions of the season. Known for his prowess in defending passes, he had entered the game leading the NCAA with 11 pass breakups. Notably, he added another pass breakup to his impressive defensive resume in the game against UCF, further solidifying his reputation as a ball-hawking cornerback. Coach Neal Brown playfully suggested that Bishop’s effectiveness might be causing him to become a target, but his ability to turn those breakups into interceptions highlighted his growth as a defensive playmaker.

Next Up

UCF has now lost two consecutive home games, something that hasn’t happened since 2016. Their next foe will come in the form of Oklahoma St, in an away game. Let’s hope the Knights can build up some much-needed momentum with a win next week.

UCF Knights

UCF Knights Secure Centerpiece Big Man for 2024-25 Season

UCF’s men’s basketball team has just secured the service of a big-time talent after blue chip big man Moustapha Thiam decided to reclassify for 2024-25 season.

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Moustapha Thiam

UCF’s men’s basketball team has just secured the service of a big-time talent after blue chip big man Moustapha Thiam decided to reclassify, making him eligible to play for the Knights this coming college basketball season.

Thiam, the No.1 center in ESPN’s class of 2025, will anchor the Knights’ defense in their second season in the Big 12.

The 7-foot-2 Senegalese impressed scouts with his terrific play at the Adidas 3SSB circuit, serving as the focal point of Austin Rivers SE Elite in the tournament. In 28 minutes per game, he averaged 5.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.7 blocks and 1.0 steals.

 

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With Thiam joining a roster of seniors and promising young players, Johnny Dawkins’ UCF Knights is expected to outperform their surprising 7-11 record in their Big 12 debut last season.

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UCF has retained the service of Jaylin Sellers and Darius Johnson, the two top-scorers from last season, and secured commitments from a slew of transferees such as JJ Taylor and Mikey Williams from Memphis, Keyshawn Hall from George Mason, and Deebo Coleman from Georgia Tech.

The program has successfully recruited Cameron Simpson, a local standout from Oak Ridge in Orlando, Florida.

Scouting Report Provides Things to Expect from Moustapha Thiam

Moustapha Thiam is an enticing prospect because of his large 7-foot-2 size, impressive length, and quick-twitch movement.

As a true center, he can open his hips, glide laterally, and recover from switches.

While he has to gain muscle, especially considering his slight foundation and narrow shoulders, he is an excellent rim protector who can influence ball movement and play from the weak side.

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Thiam possesses a nice touch for pick-and-pop jumpers with his feet set and good hands for passes at chest level or higher.

As he continues to develop in each game, he will improve his decision-making skills. His size and physical tools set him apart from his contemporaries.

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Building Relationships with the Community: Gus Malzahn Winning Strategy

Tramayne Wright

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Coach Lo discusses how Gus Malzahn identifies the key figures within the local community in Central Florida.

 

Gus Malzahn had a vision. He saw the potential in the local sports scene and knew he had to seize the opportunity. Coach Lo Wood vividly remembers the strategic move that set Malzahn apart: reaching out to key figures in the community.

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“The first thing I recognized about Gus was how he instantly reached out to the guys in the community,” Coach Wood shared. “He called me up and said, ‘I want to be in a relationship with you.’ And it wasn’t just talk. Gus meant it. He wanted to build something real.”

Mazzone’s approach wasn’t just about forming superficial connections. He sought out genuine relationships with influential community members. Soon, other notable figures like AG Waseem and Ellis Danley were echoing the same sentiment. “Next thing you know, there’s AG Waseem saying the same thing, ‘I want to be in a relationship with you.’ Then he calls Ellis Danley with the same message. It was clear that Gus was building a network of trust and cooperation,” Coach Wood explained.

These were not random choices. The individuals Malzahn reached out to were deeply embedded in the community, and respected for their roles and commitment to the local youth. “Who are all these guys he’s been in a relationship with?” Coach Wood asked. “They’re the guys from the community, the ones who have the kids with them every day. They’re the mentors, the coaches, the father figures.”

Malzahn vision was to ensure that talented athletes didn’t feel the need to leave their hometown to find success. “I knew right then that a lot of athletes were going to stay home and be hometown heroes,” Coach Wood stated. “That’s the way to do it.”

He elaborated on the significance of this approach. “When you have someone like Gus, who invests in the community and builds these relationships, it creates a support system for the kids. They see that they can achieve their dreams right here, with the people who have always been there for them. It’s about pride, it’s about belonging, and it’s about giving back.”

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Coach Wood believes this method will have a lasting impact. “What Gus is doing isn’t just about winning games. It’s about building character, fostering community spirit, and creating a legacy. These kids are not just athletes; they’re future leaders, and Gus is showing them that they can lead from their own backyard.”

Malzahn efforts are not just about creating successful athletes; they are about nurturing future leaders who can lead from their own community. By building a strong foundation within the local sports scene, Gus Malzahn is making a lasting impact that will benefit the community for generations to come.

 

 

Coach Lo talks about The Importance of Building a Strong Community for the UCF Knights

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UCF Football Set for Black Friday Showdown with Utah Utes on Nov. 29

UCF Football announced the date of their Black Friday football game against the Utah Utes.

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UU vs. UCF

UCF Football announced the date of their Black Friday football game against the Utah Utes.

Fox Sports will broadcast the Knights’ final regular-season match on their 2024 college football schedule on November 29 from the FBC Mortgage Stadium in Orlando, Florida.

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The Knights had a solid run during their maiden season in their new league, finishing with 3-6 Big 12 record and 6-7 overall.

UCF won their first three games against Kent State, Boise State, and Villanova before pulling off a signature upset win over the No.15 ranked Oklahoma State, 45-3, last November 11.

Expectations are high for the Knights this coming season after securing the service of two-time Bowl Games MVP KJ Jefferson. The quarterback spent his first five years in Arkansas, setting most of the passing records for the Razorbacks.

UCF also bolstered other areas of their offense following the transfer of elite running back Peny Boone from Maryland and wide receiver Agiye Hall from Texas.

The Knights’ Black Friday game opponent, Utah, will debut in the Big 12 this season after capping their Pac 12 run with an 8-5 season (5-4 conference).

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UCF Football will kick off their second season in the Big 12 on August 29 against New Hampshire at home field.

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