We do not pretend that West Virginia’s football season has gone how it maybe should have. There are still problems in Morgantown that have led to all manner of speculation including demands for the university to pursue recently-fired Jimbo Fisher. Despite West Virginia’s 7-4 record, those seven wins represent a modest result against a relatively weak schedule. The lop-sided loss to Oklahoma last week gave fans a sense of where this team really was in the pecking order. That said, this weekend, West Virginia hosted Cincinnati, and we watched the Mountaineers throttle the Bearcats in all phases, winning the game 42-21.
Mountaineers Throttle the Bearcats
West Virginia started this game fast, moving the ball seemingly at will against Cincinnati’s defense. Unfortunately, West Virginia would not open the scoring until nearly 12 minutes into the first quarter. Garrett Greene scampered into the end zone for the first of his two rushing touchdowns in the first half to build a seven-point advantage over the Bearcats.
Head Coach Neal Brown told the media before the game that he believed Greene would play much better this week than last. Turns out, he was right. Greene made big plays on the next two offensive drives for the Mountaineers leading to two more scores. On the first of those two drives, Greene hit true freshman Jahiem White in stride for an impressive 75-yard score, for the Mountaineers’ longest offensive play of the season. On the next drive, CJ Donaldson capped things off with an impressive 13-yard touchdown run.
Defensively, the Mountaineers thwarted every attempt by the Bearcats to get rolling until late in the second quarter. Cincinnati answered the 21-0 deficit by marching 75 yards over four-and-a-half minutes to try and keep the game within reach. The Mountaineers, however, answered quickly, with a four-play 75-yard drive of their own to build a 28-7 lead heading into the locker room. Greene ran the ball twice on the drive for 56 yards and a touchdown.
At the half, West Virginia had amassed 338 yards, averaging 10.2 yards per play. The Mountaineer defense, meanwhile, held Cincinnati to just 139 yards over the half. In short, West Virginia controlled the game on all three sides of the ball through the first half.
More of the Same in the Second Half
Cincinnati received the ball in the second half hoping to build on the momentum of their scoring drive late in the second quarter. West Virginia’s defense, however, held strong and forced a punt after just eight plays and 25 yards. Brown’s offense kept its foot on the gas here. After a few quick passes to start the drive, White snapped off several straight runs of eight yards, 17 yards, six yards, and eight yards. White has certainly played his way into the collective minds of West Virginia fans, but he improves with every game. With 150 total yards of offense by the end of this drive on just 13 touches, his production certainly proves the point. In a game where Greene truly dominated, though, he capped the 88-yard, seven-minute drive with an 18-yard touchdown run, his third of the game.
After forcing another Bearcat punt on a three-and-out, the Mountaineers defense continued to do its part. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Greene evaded a sure sack and managed to roll out to find Kole Taylor for 20 yards. He followed it with his first completion to Devin Carter. Then, White took over, running the ball three times for 14, 16, and four yards. On the final run, White punched the ball into the end zone despite being stood up three yards out. Again, White continues to expand his game each week. With that score, West Virginia took a 42-7 lead.
Cincinnati showed signs of life through the fourth quarter. After being stifled on the first several plays of their opening drive of the quarter, the Bearcats relied on a couple of big plays through the air to find the end zone for just the second time in the game, closing the lead to 42-14 with thirteen minutes left. A rare mistake by White (a tripping penalty) took a would-be touchdown throw to Taylor off the board, which Greene followed with his lone blemish (an interception). The Bearcats took advantage of the turnover and closed the gap to 42-21. That is how the game would finish.
What Can We Draw From the Result?
The Bearcats traveled to Morgantown sporting a 3-7 record. Simply put, they have had the same trouble as the other Big 12 newcomers adjusting to the Power Five grind. Their biggest loss prior to this weekend was a 32-point loss to Oklahoma State, however. West Virginia may not have played a very good Bearcat team, but they took advantage of the mismatch in a way no other team had done to date.
What can we draw from a result where we saw the Mountaineers throttle the Bearcats, though? Perhaps, the answer is very little. As we begin our recap, we will end it, too. Mountaineer fans, on the whole, are still dissatisfied with the team’s results under Coach Brown.
There are still some reasons for optimism looking forward to 2024, however. Outside of the two fourth-quarter drives, the first of which was prompted by a trick play, the defense acquitted itself well, bottling up a relatively stout run game from the Bearcats. Greene commanded the offense, completing 63% of his passes for 210 yards and a touchdown. He added 154 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, making him the first WVU quarterback with two 150-yard rushing games since Pat White. Jahiem White carried the ball extremely well, both in the open field and through the middle with contact. He amassed 204 rushing yards on 21 carries and a touchdown. He added 75 receiving yards for a touchdown as well.