In all his years as a college coach, Gus Malzahn admits he’s never experienced a losing streak like the one UCF is going through right now. The Knights have lost four straight games for the first time in eight years and haven’t won a game in more than a month.
“This is the first time in college that I’ve lost four games in a row so it’s a little new territory,” said Malzahn.
However, a loss would put the Knights dangerously close to missing out on a bowl game for the first time since the 2015 season.
Is this then a must-win situation?
“Our guys, if you ask them, every week feels that way,” said Malzahn. “That’s what we’ve got to do. Every week you’ve got to win. That’s where we’re at right now. That’s our approach and that’s what our guys are committed to.”
Added senior tight end Alec Holler: “It’s a must-win, but every single game in the season is a must-win if you want to reach your goals and aspirations for a season.”
Malzahn believes his team will respond.
“Our locker room is strong and our guys have not flinched and are ready for the next game,” he said. “We’ve got a bunch of high-character type guys and you’ll see how we play.”
Coaches: Malzahn, 3rd season at UCF, 21-13 (98-41 overall); Neal Brown, 5th season at West Virginia, 26-28 (61-44 overall).
Quick slant: This is the third meeting between these two programs with West Virginia holding a 2-0 advantage in the series. … These programs last faced each other on Sept. 11, 2004, at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando as No. 10 West Virginia cruised to a 45-20 win over UCF in George O’Leary’s coaching debut with the Knights.
About UCF (3-4, 0-4 Big 12): Javon Baker and Kobe Hudson statistically rank among the best receivers in the Big 12. Baker is second in receiving yards per game (78.71) and third in yards per catch (21.19) while Hudson is second in yards per catch (21.57) and sixth in receiving yards per game (70.86). … Defensive end Tre’mon Morris-Brash continues to lead the league in sacks (6) and tackles for loss (14).
About West Virginia (4-3, 2-2 Big 12): Cornerback Beanie Bishop Jr. recorded a team-high 4 pass breakups in last week’s 48-34 loss to Oklahoma State. The senior leads the country in pass breakups (11), passes defended per game (1.9) and leads the team with 2 interceptions. … Receiver Devin Carter leads the Mountaineers with 311 receiving yards, including a season-high 116 yards in WVU’s loss to Houston on Oct. 12.
3 things to watch
Get to the quarterback. WVU quarterback Garrett Greene has managed to stay upright thanks to a Mountaineers offensive line that’s only allowed 8 sacks with most of those (3) occurring in the season opener against Penn State. Greene’s mobility has been a huge reason for his success with the junior leading the team in missed tackles forced (17).
Contain the run. It sounds like a broken record but UCF continues struggling to stop the run. The Knights rank next to last in the Big 12 in rushing defense (196 yards per game) but showed improvement in limiting Oklahoma to 189 yards and one rushing touchdown. Running back CJ Donaldson is third in the Big 12 in rushing touchdowns (6) and fourth in rushing attempts (116).
Finish strong. UCF held the lead late in three of its four conference games before eventually losing. The Knights have talked about the importance of finishing games, particularly on the defensive side where they’ve allowed Big 12 teams to convert 29 of 48 on third downs (60%) in the fourth quarter.
Where: FBC Mortgage Stadium
TV: FS1; Radio: AM 740/FM 96.9 The Game, Sirius/XM 202
Weather: 84 degrees, 0% rain chance
Favorite: UCF 6.5 points