Dec 27, 2023; Charlotte, NC, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Garrett Greene (6) in action during the first half at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia’s defense stuffs North Carolina in Mayo Bowl

Lee Kpogba’s 12 tackles led the West Virginia defense as the Mountaineers defeated North Carolina 30-10 in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl on Wednesday evening in Charlotte, N.C.

The Tar Heels came into the game averaging 36.6 points per contest, good for 16th in the FBS. West Virginia (9-4) sacked North Carolina quarterback Conner Harrell seven times.

WVU quarterback Garrett Greene was 11-of-22 passing for 204 yards and a touchdown. He also led the Mountaineers with 75 yards rushing.

North Carolina (8-5) lost for the fifth time in its past seven games. Harrell was 18-of-27 passing for 199 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

Neither team could generate much offense in the third quarter, but UNC’s best drive ended in an interception. Michael Hayes later gave West Virginia a 20-10 lead with a 34-yard field goal with 2:40 left in the quarter.

After forcing a North Carolina punt, the Mountaineers went 78 yards in two plays to open a three-score advantage. Jahiem White ran to the end zone from 11 yards out to give West Virginia a 27-10 lead with 12:48 left in the game. Greene opened the drive with a 48-yard run.

Hayes then connected on a 29-yard field goal to give WVU its final points.

West Virginia jumped out to a 7-0 lead on the first play from scrimmage. Greene found Traylon Ray behind the secondary and Ray ran untouched to the end zone for a 75-yard TD.

Both teams soon had drives ended by turnovers. Harrell threw an interception in the end zone to stop North Carolina’s second drive. On the Mountaineers’ ensuing possession, DJ Oliver rushed for a first down on third-and-1 and fumbled, with UNC securing the loose ball.

Harrell again moved North Carolina down the field. But a false start on fourth-and-1 at the West Virginia 6-yard line kept the Tar Heels from attempting to punch it in. UNC settled for a 28-yard field goal by Noah Burnette.

Another big play extended the lead for West Virginia. Beanie Bishop Jr. grabbed a line-drive punt on his own 22-yard line and raced up the left sideline before cutting across the field around midfield. He wound up going 78 yards for a score that put the Mountaineers up 14-3.

Harrell found J.J. Jones for a 16-yard touchdown with 27 seconds left in the first half to draw UNC within 14-10, but Hayes kicked a 30-yard field goal on the final play of the period to send WVU into the locker room with a 17-10 lead.

–Field Level Media

Nov 25, 2023; Waco, Texas, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers running back Jahiem White (22) makes the game winning 29-yard touchdown catch against the Baylor Bears during the second half at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia, UNC have taken different paths to bowl meeting

Teams often head into bowl season with different expectations and attitudes, and the Duke’s Mayo Bowl is no different. Neither West Virginia nor North Carolina was expected to be in this bowl game but for entirely different reasons.

West Virginia (8-4) was picked in the preseason Big 12 poll and head coach Neal Brown firmly was on the hot seat. The Mountaineers finished 6-3 in the Big 12, good for a tie for fourth place.

The Mountaineers are probably excited to be here.

North Carolina (8-4) had national championship aspirations and was ranked as high as No. 10 after winning its first six games. But UNC lost four of its final six games to finish 4-4 in the ACC, in a three-way tie for sixth place.

The Tar Heels probably are struggling for motivation.

“The goal is to make this an enjoyable experience for our players and to get a ninth win,” Brown said when the matchup was announced. “It’s a quality matchup, and I have a lot of respect for (North Carolina coach) Mack Brown, what he’s done during his coaching career and how he conducts his business.

“They’re one of the top 10 offenses in the country, and they’re really balanced. We know their personnel well because we recruited a lot of their guys and didn’t get them.”

West Virginia is one of the nation’s best rushing teams, averaging 234.3 yards per game, third among FBS teams. The Mountaineers spread it around, with three different backs rushing for at least 64 yards per game. Jahiem White leads with 72 yards per game. Garrett Greene (13) and CJ Donaldson Jr. (11) each have double figures in touchdowns.

The Duke’s Mayo Bowl is West Virginia’s 40th bowl appearance, including 19 in the past 22 years. This is the third meeting between the two schools, all in bowl games, with each winning once.

Maybe the mayonnaise bath that goes to the winning coach will help UNC smooth some bruised egos.

“We need to win,” Brown said. “I’d let someone hit me with a frying pan 365 days if we won. Mayonnaise is easy.”

Brown’s biggest concern will be replacing star quarterback Drake Maye, who likely will be selected early in the 2024 NFL Draft. Maye passed for 3,608 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2023, but he opted out of the bowl game to focus on his preparation for the draft.

He’ll be replaced by freshman Conner Harrell.

Harrell has appeared mostly in late-game situations. He played in four games, completing 4-of-6 passes with one touchdown. But he knows it’s his time to shine.

“This is an opportunity to prove what I can do, how I can play,” Harrell said of his preparation for his first start. “So definitely every practice, no matter if we’re in shorts or pads, every throw is an opportunity to show what I can do.”

The Tar Heels will be very thin at two other positions: tight end and wide receiver. Bryson Nesbit and John Copenhaver are injured and Kamari Morales is in the transfer portal. The Tar Heels will have no scholarship tight ends making the trip. The only tight end on the depth chart to have caught a pass is redshirt freshman Deems May.

At wide receiver, Devontez Walker’s departure for the NFL and Kobe Paysour’s foot injury means a lot of attention will be on UNC’s fourth-leading receiver in 2023, Nate McCollum.

–Field Level Media

Nov 18, 2023; Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Garrett Greene (6) runs the ball for a touchdown during the first quarter against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia rushes for 424 yards in rout of Cincinnati

Quarterback Garrett Greene rushed for three touchdowns and threw for another as West Virginia clubbed Cincinnati 42-21 on Saturday afternoon in Morgantown, W.Va.

Greene completed 12 of 19 passes for 210 yards, but he did a good chunk of his damage on the ground, racking up 154 yards on 11 carries. He was also picked off once.

Jahiem White also had a big day for the Mountaineers (7-4, 5-3 Big 12), rushing 21 times for a career-high 204 yards and a score. He was also on the receiving end of Greene’s lone passing TD, a 75-yard strike in the second quarter.

WVU totaled 424 yards on the ground as a team.

Greene and White each ran for a third-quarter touchdown to provide West Virginia with a 42-7 lead, putting the game out of reach. Greene scored on an 18-yard run, while White had a 4-yard TD.

The Bearcats (3-8, 1-7) didn’t just roll over, though, as Emory Jones capped a six-play, 96-yard drive with a 30-yard scoring strike to Chamon Metayer to make it 42-14 with 12:29 remaining in the game.

Jones later found Metayer for another touchdown, this time a 7-yarder, with 5:11 to go to cap the scoring.

Jones threw for 166 yards and the two TDs on 14-for-24 passing. He added 56 yards and a score on 10 rushes.

Corey Kiner was held to 56 yards on 13 carries.

Cincinnati was held scoreless until Jones plunged into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown that pulled the Bearcats within 14 with 1:32 left in the first half.

But the Mountaineers responded 52 seconds later, as Greene rushed for a 26-yard TD to send WVU into the break up 28-7.

Greene used his legs to get West Virginia on the board, rushing for gains of 22 and 8 yards before keeping the ball once again and finding the end zone on fourth-and-1 from the Bearcats 3 with 2:40 left in the first quarter.

Four plays after the Mountaineers’ defense forced a punt, Greene connected with White for the 75-yard touchdown to make it 14-0 early in the second.

–Field Level Media

Oct 21, 2023; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats wide receiver Evan Prater (3) scores on a two-point conversion from quarterback Emory Jones (not pictured) against the Baylor Bears in the fourth quarter at Nippert Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports

Cincinnati still fighting, takes aim at West Virginia

Although Cincinnati will not be bowl-eligible for the first time in six years, the Bearcats aren’t ready to give up.

Coming off the first Big 12 Conference win in program history, Cincinnati brings momentum into Saturday’s clash with West Virginia in Morgantown, W.Va.

The Bearcats (3-7, 1-6) snapped a seven-game losing streak and defeated Houston 24-14 last Saturday to earn the milestone victory.

Corey Kiner rushed for 129 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 23 carries and Emory Jones completed 13 of 16 passes for 131 yards and a score.

While it hasn’t been the season Bearcats coach Scott Satterfield wanted, he is pleased with the perseverance his team has shown.

“It’d be real easy for them to throw the towel in and say, ‘Hey, we’re gonna play for next year,’” Satterfield said. “But our guys have continued to fight, and I love that.”

Still, Cincinnati won’t play a bowl game for the first time since 2017, when it went 4-8 under then-first-year coach Luke Fickell.

Meanwhile, the Mountaineers (6-4, 4-3) already are bowl-eligible, but coach Neal Brown doesn’t want them to take their foot off the gas — and he certainly isn’t overlooking the Bearcats.

“If you just looked at the stats and didn’t look at the win-loss record, they’re a team that’s one of the top rushing teams in the whole conference,” Brown said. “Defensively, they stop the run at a high rate, and then you look at their win-loss record. They’ve won three games and one league game.

“Really kind of a weird makeup.”

West Virginia saw a two-game winning streak come to an end last weekend when it fell 59-20 to Oklahoma. Garrett Greene threw for a pair of TDs, but the Mountaineers were outgained 644-330.

Saturday marks the 21st all-time meeting between these teams but the first since 2011. West Virginia is 16-3-1 against Cincinnati.

–Field Level Media

Oklahoma's Dillon Gabriel (8) warms up before a Bedlam college football game between the Oklahoma State University Cowboys (OSU) and the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) at Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Nov. 4, 2023.

QB uncertain No. 17 Oklahoma will respond vs WVU

With three games to play, West Virginia and Oklahoma are on the edge of the race for a berth in the Big 12 Championship Game.

Even so, the teams are in much different places entering a matchup Saturday in Norman, Okla.

West Virginia (6-3, 4-2 Big 12) has built some momentum in recent weeks, winning back-to-back games.

“I think we’re starting to hit our stride,” Mountaineers coach Neal Brown said. “I think the story of this season is far from written.”

It’s a significant turnaround from West Virginia’s two-game losing streak in October.

No. 17 Oklahoma (7-2, 4-2) dropped back-to-back, one-possession games — a 38-33 loss to Kansas on Oct. 28 and a 27-24 loss to Oklahoma State last weekend in the expected finale of the Bedlam series.

Sooners quarterback Dillon Gabriel said he hopes the team will respond after falling out of the College Football Playoff race.

“I don’t know yet,” Gabriel said. “I think we’ll know come Saturday. That’ll be a big deciding factor in how we respond.”

For the Sooners, the biggest recent difference has been turnovers.

During its 7-0 start, Oklahoma had five turnovers.

In the consecutive losses leading into this matchup, the Sooners have six giveaways — four fumbles and two interceptions.

“When you turn the ball over, everything else just gets highlighted all the other mistakes that are there, even through 7-0 – nobody’s seeing that,” Oklahoma coach Brent Venables said.

West Virginia comes in with the No. 7 rushing offense in the country, averaging 218 yards per game.

In their previous two games, the Mountaineers have averaged 311 rushing yards. West Virginia leading rusher CJ Donaldson has rushed for 223 yards in that span while Jaheim White has rushed for 231.

“They have good chemistry out there on the field when you watch them,” Venables said, noting his belief that the Mountaineers’ line is the strength of its offense.. “They have a lot of pre-snap communication. They don’t turn people loose. They do a great job of protecting the passer.”

Last season, West Virginia beat the Sooners for the first time in the Big 12 era, 23-20, in Morgantown on a last-second field goal. Oklahoma is 7-1 all-time against the Mountaineers in Norman.

The Mountaineers have been without starting right tackle Doug Nester and wide receiver Hudson Clement in recent weeks.

Brown said Nester was closing in on returning while Clement, who has missed the last two games with an ankle injury, could’ve been used against BYU had it been absolutely necessary but that he still wasn’t fully healthy.

Oklahoma has it own injury concerns.

Weakside linebacker Danny Stutsman, the Sooners’ leading tackler, missed last week’s game with an ankle injury while running back Tawee Walker played sparingly against the Cowboys. He suffered a leg injury the week before against Kansas.

Venables was hopeful both would be ready Saturday, along with cornerback Gentry Williams, who suffered a shoulder injury against Oklahoma State.

–Field Level Media

Oct 28, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Garrett Greene (6) carries the ball during the second quarter against the UCF Knights at FBC Mortgage Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Garrett Greene runs, passes West Virginia past UCF

Garrett Greene rushed for three touchdowns to lead West Virginia to a 41-28 win at Central Florida in a Big 12 contest on Saturday in Orlando.

Greene finished 14-of-23 passing for 156 yards and rushed for 55 yards on 11 carries for West Virginia (5-3, 3-2 Big 12), which rushed for 286 yards.

John Rhys Plumlee went 25-of-36 passing for 274 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions for Central Florida (3-5, 0-5), which turned the ball over four times.

Leading 17-14 at halftime, West Virginia halted a Central Florida drive to start the second half with an interception after the Knights drove to the Mountaineers’ 32-yard line.

The Mountaineers then drove the field and took a 24-14 lead with 9:01 to go in the third on Greene’s 7-yard touchdown run.

Central Florida cut its deficit to 24-21 with 5:25 remaining in the third quarter on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Plumlee to Javon Baker.

However, after recovering a fumble and taking over on the UCF 27-yard line, West Virginia took advantage of the turnover and went up 31-21 with 14:12 remaining in the game on Greene’s 1-yard touchdown run.

The Mountaineers extended their lead to 38-21 with 9:25 left on a 6-yard touchdown run by C.J. Donaldson.

West Virginia took the opening kickoff, marched 75 yards in nine plays and took a 7-0 lead on Greene’s 6-yard touchdown run.

UCF answered, also driving 75 yards in nine plays and tying the game at 7-7 on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Plumlee to Kobe Hudson.

West Virginia took a 17-7 lead after a 24-yard field goal by Michael Hayes with 2:01 to go in the first quarter and a 4-yard touchdown run by Jahiem White with 10:02 left in the second quarter.

The Knights cut their deficit to 17-14 with 5:50 remaining in the second quarter on an 8-yard touchdown run by Rhys Plumlee.

–Field Level Media

Oct 12, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Garrett Greene (6) hands off the ball to running back CJ Donaldson Jr. (4) during the first quarter against the Houston Cougars  at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

WVU and UCF both looking to establish the run

West Virginia coach Neal Brown succinctly summed up Saturday’s Big 12 Conference road game against UCF in Orlando, Fla.

“Both teams need a win,” Brown said during his weekly press conference Monday.

That is an understatement, given that both the Mountaineers (4-3, 2-2) and Knights (3-4, 0-4) are riding losing streaks and are desperate to get back on track with the regular season approaching its final month.

West Virginia enters Saturday’s game as a loser of two straight — at Houston on Oct. 12 and at home last weekend to Oklahoma State.

The Mountaineers have been especially leaky on defense the past two weeks, giving up 41 to the Cougars and 48 to the Cowboys.

The task won’t get easier for West Virginia against a UCF offense that is fifth in the Big 12 at an average of 34.1 points per game.

Brown said UCF’s rushing attack, which is second in the conference at 232.4 yards per game, is among the best in the country.

“They’re creative with it, and you’ve got to defend the whole field,” he said. “They are going to use a lot of different motions and things like that to get the receivers involved in the run game. We’ve got to handle tempo.”

In its first season in the Big 12, UCF is still looking for its first conference win after four straight losses.

The Knights came close last week in what might have been their best performance of the season, falling 31-29 at unbeaten and sixth-ranked Oklahoma.

Knights coach Gus Malzahn hopes that performance can catapult his squad to bowl contention for the rest of the season.

While UCF has had success running the ball this year, Malzahn said West Virginia has a formidable rushing attack of its own.

The Mountaineers are fifth in the Big 12 at 191.4 yards per game on the ground.

“They are No. 7 in the country in time of possession,” Malzahn said. “They run the football, they get off the field, and they are good on third down. They’re No. 15 in the country in penalties, so they are a disciplined team.”

West Virginia swept the previous two meetings in 2003 and 2004.

–Field Level Media

Oct 12, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Garrett Greene (6) runs the ball in for a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Houston Cougars  at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

WVU, smarting from Hail Mary loss, aims to rebound vs. Oklahoma St.

Oklahoma State and West Virginia have found success in a different way this season.

The programs historically have relied on their offenses, but the Cowboys and Mountaineers are in the bottom half of the Big 12 in points per game in 2023.

Despite their offensive inconsistency, both teams are 4-2 overall and 2-1 in conference play thanks to improved defenses. Points might be at more of a premium than usual when the programs meet Saturday in Morgantown, W.Va.

Oklahoma State, which is coming off back-to-back wins at home against Kansas State and then-No. 23 Kansas, is 12th in the league in points per game at 26.0.

However, the Cowboys are seventh in the league in fewest points allowed at 24.7.

Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said the key against West Virginia’s offense will be not letting Mountaineers quarterback Garrett Greene make plays with his legs.

“The quarterback runs way better than what people think he does,” Gundy said. “He’s not a burner. Like, you worried about the guy we played last week just taking off and blowing everybody’s doors off. This guy’s not that, but he’s more effective than you think.”

The Mountaineers are sixth in the league at 22.7 points allowed per game, but they are ninth in points per game at 28.5.

West Virginia is coming off a heartbreaking 41-39 loss at Houston during which it gave up a Hail Mary pass on the last play of the game. The dramatic ending diminished a strong effort by Greene, who threw for 391 yards and two touchdowns, including a 50-yard TD toss to Hudson Clement with 12 seconds left that was nearly the game-winner.

Mountaineers coach Neal Brown said his side had plenty of opportunities to secure the victory before the last second and didn’t do so, and that the team would learn from the loss.

“You can’t control what happens all the time, but you can control your response,” Brown said. “So our response is we better fight and we better put better stuff on tape or it’s going to be a long year.”

Brown is impressed with how Oklahoma State has responded after a 33-7 home loss to South Alabama earlier in the year.

“You can tell they are playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Brown said. “I think offensively when you look at them, they’ve focused on running the football, and that’s something they didn’t do earlier. And they’ve settled on a quarterback (Alan Bowman).”

Bowman threw for 336 yards and two touchdowns in the Cowboys’ 39-32 win over the Jayhawks last week.

“We need him to sit in (the pocket),” Gundy said of Bowman. “Protection’s been really good the last three games. We need him to sit and keep his weight distributed properly. That’ll help him become a more effective quarterback for our team.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 30, 2023; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Garrett Greene (6) throws a pass before the game against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia, Houston square off for first time ever

Surprising West Virginia will put its four-game winning streak on the line and will look to remain unbeaten in Big 12 play when it visits struggling Houston on Thursday night.

It will be the initial meeting between the schools, as well as the first between Mountaineers coach Neal Brown and the Cougars (2-3, 0-2) and the first for Houston coach Dana Holgorsen against West Virginia (4-1, 2-0).

Holgorsen left West Virginia in 2018 after eight years at the helm and was replaced by Brown.

Both teams are coming off a bye week, but they enter this game heading in opposite directions.

The Mountaineers will return to Texas after a rousing 24-21 win at TCU in on Sept. 30 in their most recent game. West Virginia got 222 combined yards from quarterback Garrett Greene (142 passing and 80 more and two touchdowns on the ground) in the victory, the Mountaineers’ fourth straight after opening the season with a 38-15 loss at then-No. 7 Penn State.

West Virginia blocked two field-goal attempts in the final five minutes of the TCU game to stun the Horned Frog, and allowed TCU just a single yard of offense in 11 snaps in the pivotal third quarter.

“For us, it’s about continuing to get better,” Brown said. “We’re on this winning streak, but we really haven’t played a three-phase game yet. We’re the healthiest we’ve been from a skill perspective, and I think we’re on the verge of playing some good offensive football.”

Houston dropped its first two Big 12 games against TCU and Texas Tech by a combined 44 points. The Cougars’ wins this year are over UTSA and Sam Houston, both at home.

Donovan Smith passed for 336 yards and four TDS in the Cougars’ 49-28 loss at Texas Tech on Sept. 30. He connected with four different receivers on his scores, including Samuel Brown, who led Houston with 10 catches for 113 yards.

Holgorsen said the Cougars went back to the basics to prepare for West Virginia.

“We started with good old-fashioned blocking and tackling,” he said. “I mean, our tackling was horrendous (against Texas Tech) — I think it was over 20-some missed tackles. It’s as bad as it’s been since I’ve been here. Improving that was a focus.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 16, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; TCU Horned Frogs quarterback Chandler Morris (4) hands the ball off to running back Emani Bailey (9) against the Houston Cougars in the first half at TDECU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia seeking end to TCU’s Big 12 win streak

TCU puts its 10-game winning streak in Big 12 regular-season play on the line Saturday when it hosts West Virginia in Fort Worth, Texas.

Speaking of winning streaks, both the Horned Frogs (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) and Mountaineers (3-1, 1-0) have responded to their respective season-opening setbacks with three straight victories.

Chandler Morris completed 24 of 33 passes for 265 yards and a career-best three touchdowns to lift TCU to a 34-17 victory over SMU last Saturday.

Tight end Jared Wiley recorded his first multi-touchdown performance of his career with a pair of scores in the first half.

Big 12 leading rusher Emani Bailey rolled up 126 yards and found the end zone.

“He’s physical, he’s tough, he catches the ball, he’s a good protector, he’s shifty,” Horned Frogs coach Sonny Dykes said of Bailey, who has totaled 483 rushing yards in four games.

“I love the way he finishes runs. I want to put the ball in his hands. When you have a guy like that, that’s a good thing.”

Bailey also found the end zone in his lone carry against the Mountaineers last season. He scored from 30 yards out in TCU’s 41-31 triumph in Morgantown, W. Va.

CJ Donaldson Jr. scored twice in that game and also found the end zone to pace the Mountaineers (3-1, 1-0) to a 20-13 win over Texas Tech last Saturday.

West Virginia coach Neal Brown, however, said Donaldson “has to play better” after the latter finished with just 48 yards rushing versus the Red Raiders.

Nicco Marchiol threw a touchdown pass in his first career start in place of the injured Garrett Greene, who is sidelined with a leg injury.

“This is a game we needed to win. This was the first opportunity to prove them wrong. We’re not 14th now,” said Brown, who was referencing the Big 12 preseason media poll that had his Mountaineers in last place.

Brown noted Greene was available to play last week but “did not warm up well.” He is questionable for Saturday.

–Field Level Media