ORLANDO, FL (AP) — Garrett Greene ran for three touchdowns, West Virginia’s defense forced four turnovers, including two interceptions from cornerback Beanie Bishop Jr., to slow down the high-powered UCF offense and the Mountaineers beat the Knights 41-28 on Saturday.
UCF quarterback John Rhys Plumlee threw three picks, bringing his season total to seven in five games, and then fumbled the ball on a sack by Lee Kpogba late in the third quarter with the Knights trailing by three points.
That set up quarterback Greene’s third rushing touchdown early in the fourth quarter to restore a 10-point lead for the Mountaineers (5-3, 3-2 Big 12 Conference). CJ Donaldson Jr. added another touchdown in the fourth quarter.
For a West Virginia team that has seen some shuffling along the offensive line because of injuries, Greene’s performance helped build confidence in the team.
“I love Garrett. I love him as my quarterback,” offensive lineman Wyatt Milum said. “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.”
UCF (3-5, 0-5) had its chances but four turnovers were too much to overcome.
UCF’s first turnover came with the Knights trailing 10-7 and driving near the West Virginia 30, the second came after recovering a West Virginia fumble facing a three-point deficit and the final two turnovers helped West Virginia blow the game open.
The Mountaineers scored 21 points off UCF’s turnovers and Bishop became the first player for West Virginia to record two interceptions in the same game since Kenny Robinson against Texas Tech in September 2018.
The Mountaineers had gained only seven turnovers entering the game. It was the first time West Virginia had forced four turnovers in a game since Nov. 2018 against Oklahoma State.
“I felt like we were going to need some takeaways,” West Virginia coach Neal Brown said. “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 picked up 25 first downs in the game to help control the clock. The Mountaineers dominated time of possession at 36:06 for the game, including holding the ball for 10:04 in the fourth quarter.
UCF is still winless in Big 12 play in the team’s inaugural season in the conference. The Knights have also lost five straight games for the first time since their winless 2015 season.
Even though the game was tight through three quarters, UCF again struggled to finish and disrupt a Big 12 offense to get a win. West Virginia outgained UCF 119-82 in the final quarter, putting he hammer down with 99 rush yards in the final quarter.
“Defensively, we couldn’t stop the run and that was very disappointing,” UCF coach Gus Malzahn said. “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 continued to impress with a strong rushing attack that tallied 253 yards.
Greene proved his versatility with 55 yards and three rushing touchdowns on 11 carries to go with 156 pass yards. He was joined by West Virginia’s cadre of backs to keep the Knights off the field. Donaldson rushed for 121 yards on 17 carries and Jahiem White added 85 yards and a touchdown on nine carries to lead the Mountaineers to the win.
UCF entered the game 11th in the conference giving up 196.0 rush yards per game this season.
The Knights continued to struggle with turnovers. Plumlee’s first interception came when Javon Baker could not reel in a deep throw and then kicked the ball up as he fell for Bishop snag.
Ten of the Knights’ 14 turnovers this season have occurred on the opponent’s side of the field as they were knocking on the door to score. That includes three turnovers inside their opponents’ 30.
Plumlee still tallied 274 yards on 25-for-36 passing and three touchdowns to go with 45 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground for the Knights in the game.
Bishop recorded his third and fourth interceptions of the season. But he has been around the ball a lot this season. Entering the game, Bishop recorded an NCAA-leading 11 pass breakups. He had another pass breakup in the game against UCF in addition to his two interceptions.
Brown joked after the game that this might mean Bishop is targeted some, but he has improved his skills defending passes and turning those breakups into picks.
BREAKING THE FORTRESS
UCF has had a sterling record at home since the 2016 season, going 41-8 at FBC Mortgage Stadium. However, the Knights’ loss to the Mountaineers marked the first time UCF lost consecutive games at home since losing to Maryland and Temple in 2016.
West Virginia hosts BYU in their first in-conference matchup with the Cougars on Saturday.
UCF goes to fellow Big 12 newcomer Cincinnati as the Knights still seek their first Big 12 win.
Get alerts on the latest AP Top 25 poll throughout the season. Sign up here
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football