The 37-7 win over BYU was called West Virginia’s best performance of the season after the game. And honestly, it’s probably not close. WVU dominated the game from start to finish with aggressiveness and by controlling the tempo throughout the night.
Even when there was the slightest sign that momentum may flip to the Cougars, the Mountaineers would respond and grab it back. And while it was a performance fans have been waiting to see all year, it does need to be viewed in its proper context.
BYU entered the game very banged up and with a starting quarterback who hadn’t played all season prior to Saturday night. But regardless of the circumstances, Neal Brown and his team deserve credit for not only winning, but doing it in impressive fashion.
With WVU now at 6-3 (4-2), bowl eligible and in the thick of the conference race, what did a blowout of BYU teach us about the Mountaineers?
CJ Donaldson is Back to Form
When CJ Donaldson had a monster game at UCF last week, it showed the type of running back he can truly be. But now after averaging over seven yards per carry for the second consecutive game, it’s fair to say his struggles are behind him and the WVU offense is once again being blessed with an athletic freak to lead the ground game.
Donaldson ran for 102 yards on 14 carries against the Cougars and put the final exclamation point on two drives with touchdowns.
Donaldson reestablishing himself as West Virginia’s top running back, a position he did briefly lose on the depth chart, also shows his maturity and mental strength. For three straight weeks Donaldson had to hear his coaches publicly question the effort he was putting in. Obviously, some in the media, myself included, had to criticize Donaldson for the first time since he became a Mountaineer during his rough stretch.
Instead of letting it get to him and ruin his promising career, Donaldson answered the call and showed what he’s really made of, both as player and also as a person.
Jahiem White Has Arrived
Donaldson may be producing like a top running back again, but he’s far from the only one moving the ball for the WVU offense.
Freshman Jahiem White had his best game since committing to be part of West Virginia’s 2023 class. He racked up 146 yards for a staggering average of 9.1 yards per touch. White has had some brief moments throughout the season, but that night against BYU may forever be remembered as the game Jahiem White was fully unleashed.
A shiftier and smaller back than Donaldson, or any of the other backs on the roster for that matter, White offers the Mountaineers a different dimension on offense. White may very well now be the lightning to Donaldson’s thunder.
Watch White talk to the WVU media for the first time below.
The Defense Still Has “It” in Them
Most of West Virginia’s six wins have been thanks to the defense stepping up while the offense dealt with injuries. However, Garrett Greene returning to ignite a spark to the offense ironically led to the defense struggling. And the defense can be predominantly blamed for a bad loss to Houston and blowing a game to Oklahoma State.
But with all of that said, the defense has now showed it can get back to its early season play. At UCF, the defense bended, but just did not break. Against BYU, the defense was not to be denied.
The defense matched the offense, leading to West Virginia’s most complete showing in awhile. This is especially true of the defensive line and linebackers, allowing only 67 rushing yards all night.
Yes, BYU did have a backup under center, but the defense deserves recognized for getting to the quarterback and bringing an aggressive style that was lost for a couple of games.
Rodney Gallagher and Traylon Ray Keep Showing Talent
Along with White, Rodney Gallagher and Traylon Ray were the other top recruits in WVU’s 2023 class. And while they are still in search of a true break out game, they both showed more signs of being impact players as freshmen against BYU.
Gallagher caught one ball for 14 yards, but also added three runs for 21 yards. Ray recorded three receptions for 42 yards, making one big catch that set up the first touchdown of the game.
More could be said about the BYU win, but more doesn’t really need to be said at this point. West Virginia has now not only locked up some type of postseason opportunity for a program that fell far below expectations last year, but is also right back in the conference race.
The attention is now on sending Oklahoma out of the Big 12 on a losing note, beating the Sooners for the second straight season and keeping hope alive to advance to the Big 12 Championship Game.
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