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Mountaineers Still Produce Strong Rushing Performance in Loss Minus Three Starters



MORGANTOWN, WVa. – West Virginia head coach Neal Brown has said since the beginning of the 2022 season that one of the Mountaineers’ keys to potential success is the ability to run the ball against good teams.

Despite falling to No. 7 ranked TCU in an offensive battle on Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium, the Mountaineers were able to do just that, combining to rush for 155 yards despite being down three starters on offense.

Veteran linemen James Gmiter and Doug Nester, as well as running back Tony Mathis, were all sidelined. This gave a trio of freshmen, including guards Tomas Rimac and Jordan White and the normal backup ball carrier for the Mountaineers CJ Donaldson, a chance to gain more experience.

“We were productive,” Brown said during the postgame news conference. “We ran for 155 yards, which is quite a bit more than they’ve usually given up. Schematically, we did some things different than we’ve showed on film, and that opened up some things for us.”

West Virginia ran the ball 12 times out of 18 total plays on its first two drives, which both resulted in touchdowns.

Donaldson found the endzone for the Mountaineers on both possessions, scoring twice from one yard out. The Miami, Florida, native compiled 84 yards on 12 carries in the first half, en route to finishing with 104 total yards, his fourth 100-yard game of the season.

The Mountaineers combined to rush for 142 yards in the opening two quarters.

“We ran the ball against them in the first half better than any other team has against them this year,” Brown said. “They played a three-man front, and we tried to get numbers on them. We got good angles from the new guards. They were effective.”

Unfortunately, the injury bug also got to Donaldson in the game — twice.

With 2:58 left in the first half, Donaldson was tackled near the West Virginia sideline following a 4-yard rush. He then had trouble getting to his feet, and was helped to the medical tent by the Mountaineers’ staff. Donaldson sat out the remainder of the second quarter, but returned for the start of the third.

In the fourth, Donaldson was piled on by multiple TCU defenders following a run up the middle. After showing severe pain on this occasion, he did not return. This means if Donaldson or Mathis does not return for next week’s game at Iowa State, third-string running back Justin Johnson will take over the starting role.

WVU RB CJ Donaldson Leaves TCU Game with Injury for Second Time

Johnson, however, played effectively in his time on the field, tallying 10 carries for 36 yards against the Horned Frogs, while also catching a five-yard touchdown pass.

“The run game is hard because when they (Donaldson and Mathis) go out, other guys don’t have a lot of practice time,” Brown said. “Our running back room is so beat up. That’s not being critical of (offensive coordinator) Graham (Harrell). Justin and CJ practiced a little this week, but CJ got hurt bad in the second half and Justin was beat up coming in. He wasn’t playing full speed.”

Brown said Donaldson is “not good” after suffering a lower leg injury in the game. He added he is not sure about Gmiter’s return status, but noted Nester will play next week against Iowa State.

Despite all of the obstacles on top of the loss, Brown said he was proud of the effort the Mountaineers gave on Saturday, falling by just 10 points and putting up the fourth-highest rushing total TCU has seen this season.

“I thought our guys really competed,” Brown said. “They played their tails off. They played the game the right way, there’s no questioning that.”

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